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The Definitive Ranking of Winter Snacks, From "Eh" to "Oh, Yeah"

Which winter treat is worth its weight in snowflakes? Let our Extremely Scientific Ranking of winter snacks be your guide.

Sarah Burns

Peppermint Bark

Cold weather means it's snacky season — and lucky for all of us, there's a metric ton of baked goods and leftover stocking loot to be noshed. Think about it: the gift tins of treats, the packages of homemade goodies wrapped up in ribbons, the last of the stocking loot! With all the extras, leftovers, and test batches, it doesn’t matter if the holidays are just around the corner, or if there’s a fresh 365-day wait till next season — chances are, you're swamped in seasonal snacks.

To help you decide which winter snack to demolish first, we've devised an Extremely Scientific Ranking of winter treats. Let's start with the least-appealing but somehow most ubiquitous...

12. Roasted Chestnuts



These look like something you would find in the yard, and when they’re roasted — like the song says — on an open fire (probably hazardous, don’t try it), they smell like something burning on the lawn. If you venture to try them, you’ll find they’re actually kind of sweet, if you can get past their weird texture. If you’re known as the person who's into all the cool-weird, retro stuff, you might feel the pressure to pretend to like these. But chestnuts don’t pretend to be anything they’re not, and neither should you.

11. Gingerbread



Traditionally used as a substrate for charmingly decorated baked men and the construction of small buildings. As such, gingerbread is unusually hard for a cookie, and it crumbles everywhere, shedding festive crumbs with each tooth-testing bite. If you claim gingerbread is your favorite cookie, you’re probably a bit of a romantic who puts their tree up on Thanksgiving, watches the entire Hallmark holiday collection by mid-November, and thinks it should always snow on Christmas Day. 

10. Panettone



Don’t dare call it a fruitcake; this is a fruit bread, thank you very much. Also, it’s Italian and they seem to know a thing or two about food. Every winter, boxes of these things can be found at the end of the aisles in supermarkets all over the country. This sweet bread is usually made with almonds, candied fruits; they can get very dry, so it’s common to enjoy it with brandy, dessert wine, coffee, or hot cocoa. If you give or receive this as a gift, you’re clearly very fancy, and/or Italian.

9. Eggnog



How can a drink be a snack? Eggnog is a thick concoction that needs no companion to be fulfilling – but a little nutmeg is nice. Love it or hate it, the chances of this seasonal favorite winding up in your fridge at least once a year are pretty high. So live it up, ’cause it’s the holidays! Or it’s going to be. Or it was. Whatever, as long as eggnog is still on the shelves, it’s still the holiday season, right? Eggnoggers, you really know how to party.

8. Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle


Crispy toffee and salty, roasted peanuts sound like the start of what could be a candy bar. There’s real potential with peanut brittle, but too often it’s way too sweet, and the toffee becomes a sticky mess, threatening every filling in your mouth. Come this time next year, will you have learned from this experience? Of course not. You’ll enthusiastically help yourself to a cronchy mess of the stuff like you do every year.

7. Christmas Tree Snack Cakes

Little Debbie Snack Cakes

Little Debbie

“They’re for the kid’s lunches”, you told yourself, putting the box in the cart, knowing full well that box of snack cakes will be joining your secret “parents only” stash on a high shelf, along with the peanut butter cups leftover from Halloween. Haters will point out there’s way better cakes, and of course there are, but this is a snack cake, and those people should just be quiet, and let people like what they like. We’re not talking gourmet here, but you pretty much always know what you’re getting with a snack cake. Chocolate is always superior, but the vanilla – coated in a sheet of fondant you can peel off and eat as a big wad of sugar paste –  isn't terrible, and the green sprinkle adds a nice crunch with a festive touch.

6. Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies


Sigh. Okay. Sure whatever. At least it’s a cookie, and it’s always nice to get a cookie. Even when that cookie is the most unimaginative of cookies, flavored only with sugar – and of course, vanilla. There are a few brilliant bakers out there with the talent to turn this boring baked good into something really special, but most of the time, consuming this cookie is like eating a sweet, blank canvas. 

5. Spiced Nuts

Spiced Nuts


A formidable snack, usually containing a random grab bag of different kinds of nuts. More expensive brands use more expensive nuts, but fans of this snack are really after just one thing: that sweet, salty, cinnamony, crispy coating. It’s a brilliant topping sprinkled over ice cream, or cheesecake, but is most popularly served by dumping it directly into your gaping mouth. 

4. Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Sweet and crunchy, loaded with chocolate and refreshing mint flavor, Peppermint Bark is a top notch holiday treat. Sure, it’s a little reminiscent of toothpaste, but whether homemade or store bought, the chocolate-mint combo is a winner. Adorned in holiday themed sprinkles, you can be sure this commonly gifted confection tastes as festive as it looks. If this is your favorite seasonal snack, you probably find that few people take you up on the offer to share, and the one that does seems genuinely surprised it’s “actually pretty good”. Try not to read into what that might say about your taste in things in general.

3. Different Flavors of Popcorn in a Big Metal Tin


This is the kind of snack gifted by the dozens by colleagues, acquaintances, and distant relatives — people you don’t know very well, but who still want to show they care. Real talk though: how do they get so much flavor into one tin? The caramel is always stick-to-your-teeth sweet, and the regular butter never disappoints, but let’s talk about that cheddar – what is that magic, neon orange dust, and where can one find it? 

2. Cheesecake Bites

Cheesecake Bites


It’s a cheesecake for one, wrapped up in a shell of chocolate. Sheer decadence? Perhaps. But it doesn’t need to be a holiday to enjoy the leftovers while they still last – if you're lucky enough to have them. Sharing is caring, and if there’s more than one, you’ll gladly make this a shared experience; otherwise you’re happy to revel in the luxury, because if anyone deserves to be treated to something nice, it's you.  

1. Hot Cocoa

Hot Cocoa


Versatile, easy to make, and surprisingly filling, hot cocoa tops of the list of winter snacks because whether it comes straight out of a packet, or is melted together by hand with real chocolate and cream – it’s still pretty great! Even a basic recipe can be jazzed up with a few simple ingredients, and there’s lots of room to experiment with different spices, marshmallows, and types of chocolate. Hot cocoa is the perfect treat for enjoying those moments of quiet, cozy calm we all associate with winter (even when winter is really mostly slush and cold wind and missing gloves).