Ahh… summertime! If you’ve ever spent time by an ocean, you’ve probably enjoyed walks on the beach, swimming in the surf, shopping along the boardwalk and, of course, eating sweet, sticky taffy!

Salt water taffy is a tasty treat that’s right at home in shops all along coastlines everywhere. If you’ve ever had a mouthful of seawater, though, you probably know that salt water taffy is sweet and doesn’t taste anything like seawater. What’s up with that?

Salt water taffy was born along the boardwalks of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the late 19th century. It quickly became a popular souvenir with visitors and eventually spread to many other coastal towns.

Although taffy recipes vary from one candymaker to another, the most common ingredients in taffy are sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, water, butter, salt, food coloring and flavorings. You may have noticed that the list of ingredients includes both salt and water.

However, salt water taffy doesn’t actually contain seawater. So how did it get its name?

No one knows for sure how salt water taffy got its name, but one legend holds that it came from David Bradley, who owned a candy store in the late 19th century.

The story goes that Bradley’s candy store became flooded during a major storm in 1883. His entire stock of taffy became soaked with seawater from the Atlantic Ocean, so he began to call it “salt water taffy” as a joke.

If you’ve ever seen taffy being made, you probably were fascinated by watching the taffy being pulled by a special machine. The pulling process is a critical part of making taffy.

Without pulling, taffy would be very hard. Pulling taffy aerates it by capturing tons of tiny air bubbles within the taffy. These air bubbles make the taffy softer and chewy.

Before special taffy-pulling machines were invented, candymakers would pull taffy with a simple hook attached to the wall. They would place a huge glob of taffy (10 to 25 pounds or more!) on the hook and then pull it five or six feet before folding it back on itself and throwing it back over the hook.

They would repeat this process — it was quite a workout! — over and over again until the taffy became soft and chewy.

No one knows for sure how many different flavors of taffy have been made. Since you can make taffy in just about any flavor, the answer would have to be in the hundreds.

An online search for taffy will lead you to online stores with more than 150 different flavors of taffy, including gooseberry, jalapeno, chocolate marshmallow and cantaloupe!


38 Join the Discussion

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    • We’re so happy to hear that you all learned something new from today’s Wonder and that you enjoyed the video, Kerrick Elementary 2nd/EBD classroom! Are you all big fans of taffy? What are your favorite flavors? Do you have memories of eating salt water taffy at the boardwalk or the beach? :-)

  1. Think about this: some people out there never tasted taffy! I live all the way in Lebanon and I’ve yet to experience so much joys in life. lol; send me a bag of free taffy perhaps? <3

    • We wish we could send each of our Wonder Friends a big bag of yummy taffy, Ali! What are some of your favorite Lebanese sweet treats? We’d love to hear about them! :-)

  2. Making taffy looks so cool. I wonder what it is like to pull taffy because it looks so gooey. My favorite taffy flavor is cherry. One day I would like to work at a taffy store.

    Maddy M.

    • Working at a taffy store would be SO MUCH fun, Maddy, we agree! Can you imagine getting to sample all the delicious flavors of taffy and seeing big smiles on the happy faces of all the people who visited the store? :-)

  3. Some of our favorites are strawberry, peppermint, grape, apple, orange, licorice, and blue raspberry!! Of course, the list goes on and on… :)

    Some of our favorite places to eat taffy are the beach, but especially in Gatlinburg, TN. (We live in Louisville, KY so many of us have gone on vacation to Gatlinburg).

    Thanks for the great questions and response! We love going back and reading what you replied.

    • Those are YUMMY flavors of taffy, Kerrick Elementary School 2nd/EBD classroom! We think it would be a lot of fun to visit Gatlinburg! We bet it is BEAUTIFUL to be in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee when the leaves are changing colors! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving another GREAT comment! :-)

  4. Is taffy the American equivalent of candy rock which is traditionally sold at seaside resorts in the UK, as it sounds very similar?

    • Hi, William! Thanks for this great comment!

      Although “candy rock” is a beach and resort treat like salt water taffy is, it doesn’t appear to be the same type of candy as taffy. We do think it is AWESOME, though, to learn how candy rock is made! It takes some true skill to form the candy into letters and shapes and then wrap all those layers of color around! Our American taffy might be closer to what you might know as Barratt Nougat or maybe even a chewy version of toffee with lots of air whipped in! :-)

      For our Wonder Friends who might like to learn about the “candy rock” in William’s comment, you can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_%28confectionery%29.

  5. I think this wonder was stupendous! I had no idea that David Bradley’s candy store got flooded and he started calling it salt water taffy. I also didn’t know that before special taffy machines were made, people used hooks attached to walls! That sounds like a lot of hard work! Do you know who invented the machine that people use today? I had some background knowledge about this topic because when I went to Harbor Springs, Michigan, I went to a salt water taffy store and purchased some. I wasn’t sure what aerate meant, so I had to use context clues and I figured out that it means soften. I also have a personal connection with this wonder because salt water taffy is one of my favorite candies and my family and I have them while watching movies. I am going to think about this the next time I have salt water taffy. I never really thought about salt water taffy and Wonderopolis has opened my mind to it.

    • What a MOST AMAZING comment you left for us, Olivia! Thank you for taking the time to describe your personal experiences about salt water taffy, as well as all the great things you learned from this Wonder of the Day®! We’re not certain who actually invented the modern salt water taffy pulling machine. Sounds like it’s time for us to do some more WONDERing! :-)

  6. Do you know any taffy flavor you like called cotton candy, bubble gum, pink vanilla, marshmallow, and all the other flavors?

    • Hi there Nick! If you’re lucky enough to be near Atlantic City, you can taste the original treat! However, salt water taffy is sold at most specialty grocery stores! We hope you’re able to get your hands on some soon! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  7. My grandmother’s name is Taffy. She was named that because of her very white, blonde hair. I think the original taffy candy flavor was white until they started making other flavors and adding food coloring. I love salt water taffy because of it’s sweet taste and because it makes me smile and think of my grandmother. I came here to find out the ingredients of salt water taffy and discover how it’s made. Thank you for helping me! ~Tracey from AZ

    • WOW, that is a very cool story, Tracey! It was very thoughtful of you to share it with all our Wonder Friends! It’s cool to be reminded of someone, like a grandmother, just be tasting, smelling or seeing something! We are glad that you learned something new about taffy and we are glad to learn something new about you, too! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • YUM, we enjoy candy, too, Aaronekia! We hope you save room for fruit and veggies, too, Wonder Friend! Candy is delicious, especially when it’s a treat! :)

    • Gee whiz, we feel so special, Wonder Friend Eli! We think you’re AWESOME and we LOVE WONDERing with you! We hope to see you soon for more fun-filled WONDERing! :)

  8. I learned a lot of stuff that I did not know about my favorite candy. I didn’t know that it originated on the board walk. You are awesome wonderopolis.

    • We’re so glad you learned all about salt water taffy, Ethan! What a delicious and WONDERful treat! Thanks for sharing your awesome comment, we’ll see you soon! :)

    • Hi Megan! We are so glad that you enjoyed the video! Thanks for WONDERing with us! Are you a fan of salt water taffy? :)

      • #yummy LOL i love salt water taffy but i did not know that salt water taffy had real salt water in them….. But they are still good

        • Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis, Isabela! From WONDERing about salt water taffy, we learned that although it contains salt and water, it’s not actually made with saltwater! We thought that was interesting! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Is taffy really made with salt water?
  • Why do you pull taffy?
  • How many flavors of taffy are there?

Wonder Gallery

salt water taffi_shutterstock_64680853Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to make your own homemade taffy? That’s right! You don’t need a fancy pulling machine.

With a few simple ingredients, you can make, pull and package your very own taffy. Just follow the directions at one of these sites:

As you make your homemade taffy, take a few pictures. We’d love to see you having fun making homemade taffy. Email us a picture if you can!


Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Cool Idea resource to see what happens to water and ice when a little salt gets thrown into the mix.


Wonder Categories/Tags



aerate  candy  pulling  salt  taffy  water 

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