A Foreigner with Unusual Love for Finnish Salmiakki (black salty licorice)

I have an embarrassing confession to make. As my silky smooth flight – with Finn Air via Toronto – was approximately two hours away from landing in Helsinki, I was overcome by an insatiable craving. My upcoming itinerary in Finland would catapult me into a nonstop cycle of adventure activities including kayaking, boating, horseback riding, cycling and hiking; however, it wasn’t the adrenaline rush activities that were consuming my mind. What I couldn’t get out of my head was this mad craving (salivating Pavlovian dogs had nothing on me) desire to get my hands (okay, more so my mouth) on Salmiakki.

Foreigners taste testing Finnish Salmiakki products in our hotel room in Helsinki, Finland
Foreigners taste testing Finnish Salmiakki products in our hotel room in Helsinki, Finland

Fun Facts About Salmiakki

Oh, salmiakki, the “delightful” Finnish candy that has everyone talking. Here are some “fun” facts about this “unique” treat:

  1. Salmiakki is made by adding ammonium chloride to licorice candy, because why not ruin perfectly good candy with a chemical that’s also used in fertilizer and cleaning products?
  2. Salmiakki is a popular treat in Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands, because clearly those countries have nothing better to offer in terms of sweets.
  3. In Finland, salmiakki is often used as a flavoring in other foods and drinks, because apparently, nothing tastes better than the flavor of salty cough medicine in your ice cream or chocolate.
  4. Some people describe the taste of salmiakki as similar to that of cough medicine, because who doesn’t love the taste of medicine when they’re trying to satisfy their sweet tooth?
  5. Salmiakki is often used as a natural remedy for sore throats and coughs, because clearly, swallowing a spoonful of sugar or honey is just too mainstream.
  6. Salmiakki is sometimes used as a prank in Finland, where unsuspecting foreigners are offered the candy without any warning of its unusual taste, because nothing says “welcome to our country” like tricking people into eating something that tastes like salty poison.
  7. Salmiakki is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, because apparently, putting your health at risk for the sake of trying a “delightful” candy is totally worth it.

So, there you have it. Salmiakki, the candy that’s sure to leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth and a puzzled expression on your face.

Canadian who loves Salmiakki!

Fazer Salmiakki ice cream, milk chocolate, candy and licorice
Fazer Salmiakki ice cream, milk chocolate, candy and licorice

Salmiakki? What the heck is that?

It’s licorice descended from the depths of heaven Finland. Now, I know exactly what pasta lovers mean when they talk about visiting Italy and upon returning home proclaiming all packaged store bought pasta tastes like cardboard. That’s the way I now feel about ‘normal’ licorice. Anyhow, I’ve been avoiding the question โ€“ what exactly is this stuff? Salmiakki, is an extremely astringent black salty licorice that is adored in Finland (and other Nordic countries) that literally comes in all shapes, sizes and range of products. Although it is most common in candy form you can also eat Salmiakki chocolate, gobble Salmiakki ice cream and down shots of Salmiakki infused alcohol to your heart’s content.

Having first sampled Salmiakki one year ago it was love at first bite. I ate as much as I could while briefly in Finland and brought home a few packs โ€“ to our then โ€“ base in Chiang Mai, Thailand. However, those lasted mere days and then I ran out. And I waited and waited and waited some more hoping to find a pack of this magical Finnish licorice in some kind of specialty import store as I continued my travels in Asia. No luck. One year without a morsel of it. Not even a bite. Enough to drive a sane man crazy.

I must preface that my reaction to this candy is extremely unusual for foreigners trying it for the first time. Audrey, couldn’t spit it out fast enough. The Super Salmiakki candy she first popped into her mouth, apparently deriving its name because of its potency, instead could have easily been ‘super’ for its velocity that it projectiled out of her mouth. It’s the kind of polarizing food item that you either absolutely love or absolutely loathe. There is no sitting on the fence with this one.

Anyhow, you must be wondering at this point โ€“ did I get my fix? Well, let me tell you something straight up. I’ve got my priorities in order. After a long Transatlantic flight I freshened up, brushed my teeth and put a comb through my hair. Okay, who is kidding who, I did none of that. I rushed into the nearest convenience store in the Helsinki International Airport, located a package of Fazer Salmiakki mixed bag, and proceeded to empty the bag on the bus ride into the city center.

a video of us taste testing Salmiakki products in our hotel room in Helsinki, Finland

How can you experience Salmiakki products for the first time?

Here is a list of all the Salmiakki products I’ve taste tested:

Salmiakki Kiosk located in Helsinki, Finland
Salmiakki Kiosk located in Helsinki, Finland

Super Salmiakki: The cream of the Salmiakki crop. This potent form of Salmiakki is exceptionally salty and comes in candy form.

Salmiakki Mix Bag: All shapes and sizes of Salmiakki ranging from larger pieces that are more chewy to those that are smaller and harder.

Salmiakki in a small box: This is your best bet for when you get a craving driving, biking or walking as it comes in pocket-sized form.

Salmiakki Ice Cream: One of my personal favorites! This diamond shaped ice cream is the best of both worlds as you get the strong salmiakki taste in tandem with the sweet creaminess of ice cream.

Foreigners taste testing Salmiakki for the first time (priceless reactions)

Salmiakki Milk Chocolate: My absolute favorite. Imagine a delicious rich European milk chocolate bar infused with Salmiakki.

Salmiakki Liqueur (Finnish: Salmiakkikossu): essentially vodka with Salmiakki flavoring. Great for doing shots ๐Ÿ˜‰

I highly recommend the local Finnish brand Fazer (pronounced properly as Fat-Zer) which is known for its creamy European style milk chocolate bars. Fazer does it all โ€“ Salmiakki candies, chocolate bars and ice cream bars โ€“ and in my opinion is consistently the best tasting of any brand I’ve yet to try for Salmiakki products.

What Else Can You Try With Salmiakki?

  1. Salmiakki candy – a salty black licorice candy that is popular in Finland.
  2. Salmiakki chocolate – a chocolate bar with a salty and slightly bitter taste, similar to dark chocolate.
  3. Salmiakki ice cream – a creamy ice cream with a salty licorice flavor.
  4. Salmiakki cake – a cake flavored with salmiakki, often topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.
  5. Salmiakki liqueur – a strong alcoholic drink with a salty licorice flavor.
  6. Salmiakki vodka – a type of vodka that is flavored with salmiakki.
  7. Salmiakki gin – a type of gin that is flavored with salmiakki.
  8. Salmiakki beer – a type of beer with a salty and slightly bitter flavor.
  9. Salmiakki soda – a soft drink with a salty and sweet taste.
  10. Salmiakki chips – potato chips flavored with salmiakki.
  11. Salmiakki popcorn – popcorn with a salty licorice flavor.
  12. Salmiakki peanuts – roasted peanuts with a salty licorice coating.
  13. Salmiakki licorice – a type of licorice candy with a salty flavor.
  14. Salmiakki mints – small, round mints with a salty and refreshing taste.
  15. Salmiakki gum – chewing gum with a salty and slightly bitter flavor.

If You Like Salmiakki Hear Other Other Finnish Snacks To Try!

Hey there! If you’re a fan of salmiakki and looking for some other Finnish treats to try, I’ve got a few recommendations for you:

  1. Fazer Mignon Chocolate Eggs – These chocolate eggs are filled with a variety of creamy flavors, including salmiakki. They’re a popular Easter treat in Finland and definitely worth a try.
  2. Fazer Tyrkisk Peber – This candy is similar to salmiakki, but it also has a spicy kick from the addition of chili pepper. If you’re into spicy and salty flavors, this candy is definitely worth a taste.
  3. Panda Soft Licorice – This brand of Finnish licorice comes in a variety of flavors, including salmiakki. It’s got a softer texture than traditional salmiakki candy, which some people prefer.
  4. Fazer Liqueur Fills – These are chocolate candies filled with a variety of liqueur flavors, including salmiakki liqueur. They’re a popular treat for adults, so be sure to indulge responsibly!
  5. Halva Finnish Licorice – This licorice candy has a sweeter taste than traditional salmiakki, but it still has a salty edge. It comes in a variety of flavors, including strawberry and raspberry, so you can mix things up a bit.
  6. Fazer Marianne – These are chocolate-covered mint candies that are popular in Finland. They have a crunchy center and a refreshing mint flavor.
  7. Sisu Pastilles – These are small, hard candies with a strong licorice flavor. They’re made with natural flavors and are perfect for freshening your breath.
  8. Fazer Dumle – These are soft, chewy toffee candies covered in milk chocolate. They’re a popular treat in Finland and come in a variety of flavors, including licorice and coffee.
  9. Fazer Geisha – These are chocolate-covered hazelnut truffles that are incredibly creamy and delicious. They’re one of Finland’s most popular candy exports.
  10. Salmiakki Koskenkorva – This is a popular Finnish liqueur made with salmiakki (salty licorice) flavoring. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but if you’re a fan of salmiakki, it’s worth a try!
  11. Kismet – This is a popular Finnish candy bar made with milk chocolate, toffee, and hazelnuts. It’s chewy, crunchy, and delicious.
  12. Fazer Pihlaja – This is a candy bar made with dark chocolate and pihlaja berries (also known as rowanberries). It has a slightly tart flavor that pairs well with the dark chocolate.
  13. Panda Raspberry Licorice – If you’re not a fan of the strong licorice flavor of traditional salmiakki candy, Panda Raspberry Licorice might be more your speed. It’s a soft and chewy candy with a sweet raspberry flavor.
  14. Tupla – This is a classic Finnish candy bar made with milk chocolate, toffee, and almonds. It’s been around since the 1960s and is still popular today.
  15. Fazer Skolekridt – These are chalk-shaped candies with a crunchy shell and a soft licorice filling. They’re a fun and unique treat to try.

You should be able to find these treats in Finland, but if you’re not in the country, some specialty stores might carry them. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Salmiakki, oh salmiakki, Some love you, some think you’re wacky. Your salty taste is quite unique, Some people think you’re quite a treat.

But others, oh they cannot stand, The taste of salt in candy land. To them you’re just a bitter pill, A flavor that they cannot thrill.

But those who love you, they’ll defend, Their favorite candy ’til the end. They’ll pop you in their mouths with glee, And savor every salty spree.

So salmiakki, you polarize, Some people love you, others despise. But no matter where you stand on taste, You’ll always have a special place.

In Finland, you’re a national treat, A candy that just can’t be beat. So love it or hate it, one thing’s for sure, Salmiakki, you’re quite the allure.

Now here is the part I’m most curious about โ€“ do you like licorice? Have you tried Salmiakki before? Would you eat it? On a dare? Let me know about your experiences in the comment section below.

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  1. says: Nancy Rojas

    Hi Audrey and Sam:

    Nice to meet you. I’m Nancy, I’m Mexican and just tried salmiakki for the first time! It was a great experience ! I’ve tasted the salmiakki mix of Fazer and It was great (for me). I loved the coin-shaped ones, very chewy and takes a while to dissolve in your mouth! It’s great because you feel the liquorice flavor!

    If you go to Denmark someday, you should try Heksehyl haxvral, it’s awesome too! I loved those !

  2. says: Aaron

    I am a licorice lover but have never heard of this until this post. The salmiakki icecream sounds very tasty indeed, something I will want to try now upon my travels to Europe.

  3. says: Juhani

    Just one minor correction. Although salmiakki is also known as “salty liquorice”, it’s not actually a kind of liquorice. Salmiakki is ammonium chloride. It’s made by mixing ammonia with hydrochloric acid. (Incidentally, the only chemistry experiment I remember from my school days in Finland involved mixing ammonia and hydrochloric acid and tasting the resulting white powder.)

    1. says: Jh

      Salmiakki candies, etc. are often flavored with real licorice root. It is not like American or Australia licorice but many salmiakki candies have a similar licorice flavor. There are almost an infinite variety in northern Europe; hard, soft, chewy, small, big shapes, etc.. If you are an adventurous eater and you like weird tastes then salmiakki is something you should try.

  4. says: Michelle

    Next time you desire a salmiakki, maybe you should stop by teleporti.com site. They have worldwide food shipped directly to you in a reasonable price. And if you don’t find it there, you can just request for it and a potential seller will send it to you, easy as that ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. says: Juha

    Hi Samuel,

    I love too salmiakki and I can buy it almoust everyday because I live in Finland. Salmiakki is the best candy in the world.

    And i love your videos from Helsinki. (Helsinki is my home city)

  6. says: Hanna

    Mmmm, salmiakki! Reading this post is pure torture for me, because I’m Finnish but living far away from these lovely candy’s. Why cant they sell proper candy here in Ecuador ๐Ÿ™

      1. says: Jh

        It’s starting to become available in major supermarkets in the US. I recently saw a German brand of salty cats in a supermarket in the international section. You can certainly buy them online too.

  7. I never used to like licorice except for one brand from a sweet store in Australia (Darrell Lea – I am not sure if this store is a worldwide chain or just in Australia). It was so soft and the taste was not too overpowering.

    I am going to have to get in on the salmiakki action! Perhaps I won’t like itโ€ฆbut with different types to try and everything, there is only one way to find out!

  8. says: todd

    Thanks for sharing. When I am in Finland, I definitely have to try Salmiakki. Finland is a beautiful country and look forward to visiting.

  9. says: Carmen

    This seems like it is to the Finnish what vegemite is to Australians! And seeing as I’m always trying to shove Vegemite down people’s gobs, I better try this when I go to Finland ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. says: Jani Lindroos

    Hello, greetings from Turku Finland. Just found Finland videos of yours and have a little “story” for unusual love of Salmiakki. I think its a kind of national treat for us finns, altough they eat those also in other nordic countries but in Finland salmiakki is huge, but for the “story”…

    My daughter, she is under two years old, and she loves the Salmiakki almost as much as her dad (me). Last friday she found my box of salmiakkis, and brought that to me and said “auttaa” (means help in finnish) and wanted me to open it. Okay, we got two or three bites, when i said no more and put the box away. After she realized that salmiakkis were that high on a shelf she could not reach them she cried and cried like 20 minutes until she calmed down ๐Ÿ˜€

    So im raising a little salmiakki lover here…


    p.s. i got one of my first drunks with salmiakkikossu as a teenager…

  11. I hate liquorice. The first time I tried it I was offered some by a colleague. I put it in my mouth and I didn’t know what hit me. I had to work really hard to keep it in there, nod my head politely, say thanks and walk out of the office to the bin in the corridor so I could spit it out.
    Salty liquorice sounds even worse, and the ice cream too! I’d probably react like the people in the video.

  12. Once in Chile, I was on night-shift at the telescope with a colleague from Belgium. I told them I’d be in Europe for a meeting in two weeks, and I was passing through southern Scandinavia after the conference. She told me to head into every 7-11 or convenience store in Stockholm and Kรธbenhavn to look for specific salt licorice. I answered the call, and upon return to Chile, I tried some: very different and definitely, an acquired taste ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Thanks for warming my Finnish heart ๐Ÿ™‚

    My current favourite is the cheaper looking red bag Halva branded salmiakki mix. Yes, there are two competing mixes from the same company and the crummier looking is definitely better. A smooth blend where maybe only the short sticks are a bit out of place.

    Need me to send you a bag? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. says: Leigh

    I haven’t been to Finland yet (but you’re making me want to visit, for sure). I have had the Icelandic version of this strong licorice, and I, too, adore it. I loved it with chocolate, and paired with ice cream sounds amazing.

    I suspect our love for it could be partly medicinal. Maybe our bodies need whatever alkaloids are in the licorice, and I believe some versions have anise as well.

    Whatever the case, I am now craving licorice with chocolate along with a trip to the north of Europe.

    1. says: Darren

      What is it called in Stefania? I have family in the Netherlands and remember trying a liquorice type sugar covered sweet. I cannot remember the name and it was a long time ago when I tried it.

      1. says: Stefania


        Dropjes …. is the general name, but you have many different types. ‘Zoute drop’ is very salty. ‘ Engelse drop’ is more sweeter with different types and colours. ‘Muntdrop’ are coins. ‘ Dubbelzout’ is double salted. These are just a few, but there are many more.