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Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Top 10 Halloween Treats of All Time (and How to Make Them — The Easy Way!)

published Oct 16, 2020
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Even though it looks very different this year, Halloween is here — and secretly, I think it’s the most amazing time for food-lovers and their kids. Why? You get to play with your food!

Our collective digital feeds are filled at present with cute spider sandwiches and bat-wing cookies, but this is not a modern phenomenon. For nearly a century, there has been pressure on parents to rise to the occasion of Halloween. Women’s magazines shaped modern Halloween treats long before Pinterest and Instagram, helping parents make Halloween treats that satisfied children’s desires to be grossed-out, tickled-silly, and, most of all, delighted with this darkly magical holiday.

We took a look back at nearly 100 years of iconic Halloween treats and chose the top 10. If you’re ready to finally try to make one (or all!) yourself, you can’t go wrong with any of these picks. They’re all classic, they’re all easy, and they’re our favorite Halloween treats of all time. Get ready.

A Better Homes and Garden’s Halloween story from October 1950

A Hundred Years of Halloween Treats

The modern Halloween looks different now from a hundred years ago, but themes, ingredients, and ideas appear time and time again. Popcorn, apples, chocolate treats, and even candied eyes date as far back as the 1880s. Children of the 1980s and ’90s, who are now becoming parents and are nostalgic for the treats of their own youth (particularly crescent-wrapped mummy hot dogs and graveyard dirt cake pudding cups), might not realize that those same treats were popularized by the women’s magazines their grandmothers looked to for inspiration.

Nancy Hopkins, who has been shaping the food and entertaining of Better Homes and Gardens for the last 21 years, told me that Halloween is the second-most successful holiday for the magazine, after Christmas. BHG is one of the magazines that has almost always included cute and easy Halloween treats, beginning in the 1940s and continuing today.

“When I first started we did huge Halloween sets, building whole rooms, elaborate tablescapes, and the like,” Nancy tells me.

The concepts are not so elaborate in our time-strapped present. “The meaning of ease changes from time to time, but Halloween is one day that is purely fun and it doesn’t take itself too serious,” says Nancy. “Simplicity is key — not everything has to be from scratch.”

Nancy’s favorite Halloween treat from issues past? “I am surprisingly not a sweets person, but I adore sweet and savory. Serving snack mixes for parties that are a combination of salty pretzels and crackers and sweets like chocolate and raisins is a brilliant way to please everyone, including me!”

Like BHG, Good Housekeeping, a women’s magazine that dates back to 1885, also encouraged our grandmothers and mothers to spend time creating spooky fun at home for children and for entertaining alike. We asked Susan Westmoreland, the food director at GH, for memories of her favorite Halloween treats from years past. “We did a Halloween bark that was really colorful and really fun. Especially because kids can break off pieces. It’s really graphic and colorful — and anyone can make it,” she says.

It was Susan who also called out the grand mistress of the modern Halloween: Martha Stewart. It was Martha Stewart and her 1990 launch of Martha Stewart Living who brought Halloween food back from the inner craft sections of women’s magazines to the covers, and set the stage for the cutesy treats we see today.

“The revival of Halloween came from Martha,” says Susan. “She gave people license to have fun with Halloween — even adults. She did so much to change the landscape of food crafts.”

And now that Pinterest has enabled us all to dress up like a Martha Stewart editor, we were curious about the most popular Halloween treats right now. We talked to Amanda Switzer at Pinterest, who confirmed our hunch that the classics still reign.

“Our most popular Halloween recipes this year include those iconic mummy dogs, Halloween pretzels, graveyard party dip, and broomstick pretzels.”

From costumes to crafts, while Halloween recipes themselves have moved from short stories in the center of magazines (most evident during the 1950s to the 1960s) to ones that riff off of freshly popular consumer packaged foods (think: Chex party mixes and Pillsbury crescent dogs from the 1970s and ’80s) and later to the cover of magazines and now to Pinterest and Instagram, the motivations behind them have almost never changed: to inspire home cooks to have holiday fun in the kitchen when the stakes are low and the rewards are high.

After all, the memories made of transformation, play, and delight when creating witches’ hats or brooms or spooky mummy dogs will only encourage children to think of the kitchen as a place they want to be — even after all the candy is gone.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Top 10 Halloween Treats of All Time

If you’re curious why we chose these particular 10 treats: Almost every recipe here has appeared in one women’s magazine or another from the 1950s on and still thrives today on Pinterest and Instagram. Not just because they are spooky, goofy, and fun activities that parents can do with their kids, but also more importantly because they taste great and are adorable enough to be included on our own holiday tables.

So, are you ready to have some fun with your food? Click on any of these to go to the full recipe at our sister site Kitchn and see the ingredients and instructions. Happy Halloween!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Mummy Hot Dogs

The only thing better than a sausage wrapped in tender pastry dough is one that looks like a spooky mummy! Wrap any hot dog or veggie dog in strips of store-bought crescent roll dough.

Get the recipe: Mummy Hot Dogs

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

2. Dracula Teeth Apple Halloween Snack

Apple slices and mini marshmallows are held together with nut butter to make a vampire-inspired grin that walks the line of treat and snack.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Cheese Ghost Mini Pizzas

A quick combination of English muffins, pizza sauce, and sliced mozzarella cheese come together for a festive snack or dinner.

Get the recipe: Cheese Ghost Mini Pizzas

4. Frankenstein Finger Halloween Pretzel Treats

These are easy treats — just melt some white chocolate with food coloring, and dip away with your pretzel rods. 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Monster Munch Party Mix

This Monster Munch gets its name from the witches’ fingers (Bugles!), broken brooms (pretzel sticks), and edible eye balls — and it is equally loved by kids and adult alike.

Get the recipe: Monster Munch Party Mix

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

6. Graveyard Chocolate Dirt Pudding Cake

Now here’s a favorite: Instant pudding with Milano cookie gravestones, plus candy corn pumpkins and gummy worms of course.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

7. Witches’ Broomstick Halloween Pretzel Treats

These are made just of peanut butter cups and pretzels — one of the most delicious combinations we know.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

8. Popcorn Mummy Hand

We’re putting a little modern twist on these, calling for cheesy puffed corn, not only because it’s easier and safer for the littlest kids, but it also lasts a little longer than fresh-popped popcorn in the gloves. But we kept the candy corn nails — the essential finishing touch for this classic treat.

Get the recipe: Popcorn Mummy Hand

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

9. Witches’ Hats Halloween Cookies

You hardly need a recipe for these classic treats, in which chocolate cookies are transformed into witches’ hats with the help of Hershey’s Kiss candies.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

10. Easy Halloween Chocolate Boo Bark

Fold crispy rice cereal into melted chocolate and then top this bark with your favorite sprinkles, candies, and edible eyeballs for a spooky treat everyone will love.

This post originally appeared on Kitchn. See it there: The Top 10 Halloween Treats of All Time (and How to Make Them — The Easy Way!)