Jelly Beans

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

jelly beans, a traditional “penny candy,” became famous in the 1980s as U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s favorite candy treat. Yet this all-American candy traces its origins to distant lands. In the mid-nineteenth century, immigrants from the Near East introduced Americans to lokum or Turkish Delight, a delicate candy flavored with rose and bergamot. See lokum. Local candy makers learned the secret of boiling sugar with cornstarch to produce the particular texture, a soft and slightly sticky gel that melted easily on the tongue. The candy syrup was poured into a pan, allowed to harden, and cut into squares dusted with fine sugar.