From entire supermarket aisles to office reception desks, the sweet stuff is everywhere. Take one look at the labels, however, and it ain’t so sweet: You’re sure to find some pretty spooky ingredients. While we think it’s totally cool to enjoy some candy every once in a while, if you’re hoping to avoid artificial ingredients completely, try these healthier homemade versions instead.
Remember that most of the recipes on this list don’t scream health food (they are sweets, after all), but these recipes—from DIY Snickers bars to Twizzlers—are better for you than the store-bought versions since most are free of preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial dyes. Plus, dark chocolateis in fact good for us with all those antioxidant flavonoids (jackpot!).
These treats look just like the real thing and are an easy snack to make with just four ingredients. The inside of the cup is filled with crunchy graham crackers and smooth peanut butter, which is all coated in milk chocolate for the perfect Halloween treat. And as far as making them? Well, that couldn’t get any easier.
This Snickers makeover is full of protein and fiber but still actually tastes like a candy bar. The base of the bar combines natural peanut butter, oat flour (pulse oats in a food processor or coffee grinder to make a DIY version), and vanilla protein powder. The second layer also features protein powder as well as peanut flour and a homemade caramel sauce. Dip the bars in melted dark chocolate and just try not to eat them all at once.
While this do-over does include a couple days’ worth of sugar, it’s still a bit healthier than the original version, which features hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. To achieve the fluffy consistency of a 3 Musketeers bar, this recipe uses chocolate and marshmallow cream. For a recipe that’s a touch healthier, choose dark instead of milk chocolate to coat the nougat.
Of the candy copycats on this list, these Almond Joy imposters look most like the original. They’re fairly simple to make too. Toss unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla extract into a food processor until it becomes a thick paste. Here’s the fun part: Shape the coconut mixture into small rectangles and place an almond on top of each bar. Freeze them for a bit, then dunk ’em into a pool of melted dark chocolate.
Making this candy bar is a hands-on process. Once you’ve molded the coconut bars, allow them to set in the freezer before dunking in chocolate. Feel free to decrease the amount of powdered sugar and liquid sweetener, since shredded coconut (even the kind without added sugars) has a slightly sweet flavor on its own.
This super-healthy recipe replacement is low on ingredients but still packed full of flavor. While the caramel portion of the recipe does contain a hefty amount of butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup, the treat on the whole definitely beats out the store-bought version. For a healthier sweet fix, try a caramel recipe made of dates, sunflower seed butter (or any other nut butter), and vanilla extract.
These patties aren’t just made of powdered sugar and peppermint flavoring—they actually contain some pretty unexpected ingredients. Mix up dried coconut, cashews, coconut oil, plus honey and peppermint oil, to make up the base. For a spicy, grown-up remix, add a smidge of cinnamon and cayenne to the chocolate coating.
These can’t-keep-your-hands-off-’em candies are sweet, crunchy, and so much better for you than the original toffee bars. (Did we mention there are only five ingredients?) The only challenge your faced with is not eating every single bar in one sitting.
This candy reconstruction is one of the easiest on the list (kitchen newbies, rejoice!). And it’s gluten- and dairy-free, so good for pretty much anyone. To replicate the crunchy wafer layers without all the sugar and butter, this recipe uses Rice Chex cereal, then spreads a mixture of cashews, agave, coconut oil, and vanilla between the wafers for a gooey finish. Complete your masterpiece by dunking each piece in dark chocolate.
To remake a Crunch bar the healthy way, this recipe uses puffed quinoa. The remaining ingredients include coconut oil, cocoa powder, and almond butter (plus vanilla and maple syrup for flavor). And if your kitchen is missing a mini loaf pan, use a baking sheet or cake pan instead, then slice with a greased knife once the chocolate mixture has set.
Peanut butter M&Ms are sinfully good, but this homemade recipe does a good job of removing some of the stomachache when you can’t stop at just one handful. The filling incorporates oats, dates, peanut butter, almonds, and peanuts (instead of preservatives, sugar, and peanut butter). The faux-Ms are simply dipped in chocolate, with no artificially colored candy coating. Don’t worry about making perfect little spheres… we won’t tell anyone if your M&Ms look more like golf balls.
Buttery caramel slathered in soft milk chocolate—it doesn’t get much better than that. This recipe gives the beloved candy a healthy makeover by combining dates, peanut butter, coconut oil, and chia seeds for the caramel filling. Roll the cooled “caramel” into small balls and coat them in chocolate (do you see a trend here?). For easier nibbling and less mess, pop a toothpick in each dud.
Ditch the store-bought gummies for a healthier version that uses grass-fed gelatin (regular gelatin works too), honey, and zero artificial dyes (the fruit provides the color naturally). Feel free to get fancy with small cookie cutters, candy molds, or ice cube trays for fun shapes, or simply cut the DIY fruit snacks into squares.
These grown-up Tootsies are less sweet but more chocolaty than the original nougaty tubes. All it takes is a little sifting, stirring, rolling, and slicing to create this old-school candy from scratch. Eat them as is, or wrap in parchment paper (then twist both ends) for a real Tootsie Roll experience.
Originally published October 2013. Updated October 2016.