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What Is Sweet and Sour Candy?

By Kay Paddock
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sweet and sour candy can be either hard or chewy, and there is often a sour powder coating the outside of this type of candy. Underneath the powder, the center of the candy is usually sweet, or at least sweeter than the coating. Some types of candy are made in the opposite way, with a sweet coating on the outside and a sour candy underneath. Candy is generally one of the more popular types of sweet and sour foods, along with dishes made with some Chinese spices designed to give a sweet and sour flavor.

Acid levels in the candy typically determine the sourness of sweet and sour candy. Citric acid, which is the acid found in many fruits, including lemons and oranges, contributes to the sour taste in many types of sweet and sour candy, for instance. It is a weak acid, though it can break down the connective tissues in foods such as steaks to make them more tender. This is the reason some form of citric acid is almost always an ingredient in meat marinades. Citric acid is also commonly used in soft drinks to provide a refreshing bite that gives some types of soda a unique taste and quality.

The powdery coating on the outside of most sweet and sour candy is usually citric acid in powder form. How much citric acid is used will generally determine whether the candy is mildly sour or almost unbearably bitter. It is also often added as ingredient in the main part of the candy, particularly if most of the candy is also meant to be sour. Citric acid is usually the ingredient that makes candy sour, regardless of whether it is a chewy type of candy or a hard variety that is meant to be eaten slowly.

Sweet and sour candy can cause a variety of responses from those who eat it, including extreme dry mouth upon tasting the candy. Many non-candy foods, including the sweet and sour sauce used on a variety of Chinese dishes, also rely on the mix of sour and sweet, but with a result that is usually far less sour. Citric acid may still be used, though it is often used in the form of the actual fruit or fruit juice. Vinegar is a common ingredient in these types of sweet and sour foods, however, and often the one that provides the most tangy taste in these dishes.

Citric acid may be the most common ingredient for producing sweet and sour candy, but a variety of other acids can also be used instead of it or along with it. Ascorbic acid, phosphoric acid and lactic acid are examples of other sour ingredients. The acidic ingredients in sweet and sour candy raise the pH level of the candies, making some of the most sour varieties potentially damaging for the enamel of the teeth. A little baking soda in water used as a rinse or a snack of a low pH food such as milk or cheese can neutralize the acid, though someone who only eats sweet and sour candy occasionally is probably not going to suffer tooth damage from it. Experts generally agree that it is best to wait at least 30 minutes after eating very sour candy to brush one's teeth to avoid scratching the enamel, which may be temporarily softened by the acid.

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Discussion Comments

By Viranty — On Mar 16, 2014

Does anyone know how long sour candy has been around for? I'm assuming it's been a while, considering all the varieties. Who ever thought that adding citric acid to flavorless sweets would bring such amazing results?

By RoyalSpyder — On Mar 16, 2014

I used to eat sour candy all the time, but I've been having second thoughts. There's a fine line between what's acceptable and what's not. Candy such as lemonheads and neon gummy worms are less sour, and have more of a chewy tart taste, as Chmander said. On the other hand, sweets such as sour skittles and warheads just cross the line for me. If you're not careful, they can leave marks on your tongue, and are extremely acidic. I once put five warheads in my mouth at the same time, and that was a big mistake. Thankfully though, that was my first experience with them. I've learned my lesson.

By Chmander — On Mar 15, 2014

Has anyone noticed that sour candy has become a lot more popular nowadays? Though people still and have always loved chocolate, sour, tart candy has become more of a trend. I'll admit that I've never been too fond of chocolate. It gets rather messy in the summer, and it's hard to eat. On the other, whether chewy or hard, I prefer sour sweets. Speaking of which, has anyone tried the neon gummy worms? Though they aren't exactly what I'd call "sour", they're a perfect treat for anyone who wants something tart, yet at the same time, it won't make their lips pucker.

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