Taffy Tales: The Origin of Salt Water Taffy

National Salt Water Taffy Day is May 23


(Photo Credit: Image by Larry White on Pixabay)

Colorful Salt Water Taffy!

National Salt Water Taffy day is an annual celebration on May 23 dedicated to the sweet and salty treat loved by those on the Atlantic coast! This day can be used to reminisce on the fond memories that come with the delicious taffy. While salt water taffy have been a global sensation for years now, the origin of their name remains a captivating mystery to many and simply accepted by others.

How did Salt Water Taffy get its iconic name?

Despite its title, salt water is not an ingredient in the taffy! However, it does relate heavily to how its name came to be! Similar to other foods, salt water taffy doesn’t have a traceable origin as to how it came to be, however, we do have many theories!

According to legend, the name came to be when a flood hit Atlantic City in the late 1800s. This flood contaminated many places that lined the beach, including a taffy shop owned by a well-loved man named David Bradley. This flood saturated the store’s treats with the taste of salt water, topping them with seafoam. Despite this devastating mishap, Mr. Bradley tried to make the most out of it. In some versions of the story, Mr. Bradley decided that he didn’t want to discard the salted taffies, instead, he gave them the name “salt water taffy” and marketed them as a new treat! Intrigued by its clever name, many tourists came to marvel at the taste of the salted candy.

In other versions of the story, a young girl entered the store shortly after the flood and asked if they had any taffy for sale. Jokingly, Mr. Bradley replied, “All we have is salt water taffy.” In one account of the story, the man turned her away but kept the name in the back of his mind. In others, she tasted the snack and proudly went back to the beach to show others. While in the back of the shop, Bradley’s mother overheard the conversation and mentioned that she loved the name, as a result making it stick!

Alternatively, many people believe that salt water taffy got its name due to the fact that it was made and sold next to the Atlantic Ocean. Although this theory isn’t as exciting as the others, it is equally as plausible.

How do you make salt water taffy?

Making your own taffy can be easier than imagined! With a few ingredients and a lot of patience, you can actually make your own salt water taffy at home! Although there are many recipes out there, here is a favored recipe for old-fashioned salt water taffy that was popularized by the brand Taffy Town:

Appliances needed:

Saucepan (Pro tip: you can substitute this with a large pot!)
Candy thermometer
Greased pan/sheet
Wax paper (Pro tip: you can substitute this with an airtight storage container!)

Ingredients Needed:

3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter (Pro tip: you can substitute this with solid vegetable oil!)
1 tablespoon salt
2-4 teaspoons of your flavor of choice
2-4 drops of gel food coloring(s)


Firstly, combine two tablespoons of cornstarch and three cups of sugar in a large saucepan. Next, add two cups of light corn syrup, 3/4 cups of water, four tablespoons of butter, and one tablespoon of salt. Make sure that there is still enough space in the pan for boiling and mixing the substance. Afterward, stir over high heat and boil the mixture for three minutes. (Pro Tip: Make sure that there is enough space between you and the candy mixture, during this stage, it is prone to produce foam and rise very quickly.)

Secondly, turn down the heat to medium-high. Submerge the candy thermometer half way into the syrup and continue to boil the mixture until temperature reaches between 242°(high altitude) and 252° (sea level).

Next, wait until the syrup reaches the correct temperature then turn off the heat and pour brew into a greased pan to let it cool. After it has cooled enough to touch, stir in 2-4 drops of gel food coloring(s). (Pro Tip: If you want a distinct taste for each of your taffies, cook mixtures in separate pans so you won’t mix them up!)

At this stage, start the pulling process! To start this process, you pull apart the mixture and fold repeatedly until the candy is difficult to pull apart. At this point, the candy should be shiny and opaque.

Finally, roll the blend into a stick-like mass, then begin to cut candy into bite-sized pieces and enjoy! (Pro tip: Storing leftover candy in wax paper or a storage container keeps them from drying out quickly!)

But in case you don’t want to make the taffy, there are many places where you can buy it!

Various flavors of Salt Water Taffy. (Bob Snow, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Where can I get salt water taffy?

If you live in New Jersey, there are many places you can go to get salt water taffy! Here are a few recommendations:

James’ Original Salt Water Taffy, in Tropicana, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy & Fudge 1898, in Ocean City, New Jersey
Fralinger’s Original Salt, in Washington Street Mall, Cape May, NJ
James Candy Company, in Atlantic City, NJ

So, as National Salt Water Taffy Day comes to an end, consider trusting your sweet tooth and indulge in this sweet snack! Whether you buy them, make them at home, or simply enjoy them from afar, let the nostalgia of salt water taffy sooth you like the calming sound of beach waves while you honor New Jersey’s most iconic snack, salt water taffies.