Is There Actually Salt Water In Salt Water Taffy?

For many travelers, no trek to the East Coast is complete without savoring the sweet and sticky goodness of salt water taffy. Even its name conjures up white beaches and crystal blue waters. But does it actually contain salt water? 

The English language is a confusing thing. What people refer to as sweetbreads are actually the meat of the thymus gland or the pancreas and are neither sweet nor bready. Head cheese is not a dairy product at all — rather, it's the meat from a pig's head. Beavertails are flat slabs of fried bread covered in sugar, pork butt is actually the pig's shoulder, and Rocky Mountain oysters are the testicles of a bull. Think of how many surprised diners have been fooled by these misleadingly named foods. These deceptive monikers bring us back to the original question. Is salt water taffy made with salt water? 

The name salt water taffy was originally a joke

It turns out that the term "salt water taffy" is yet another instance of the English language not always being 100% truthful. Born in Atlantic City, today's salt water taffy is much like its late 19th-century predecessor, formed by mixing sugar, corn syrup, butter, cornstarch, flavoring, and coloring (via Britannica). Ironically, the recipe also asks for both salt and water, but not actual salt water. 

So how did it get such an inaccurate name? According to Bulk Candy Store, a candy shop owner discovered that his supply of taffy had become waterlogged following a flood in 1883. When a customer came in looking for taffy, he proclaimed that he had "salt water taffy" as a joke. The name stuck, and this soft, chewy candy has been known by its less-than-honest name from that moment on. So that's one more epicurean misnomer solved — and now, this rainbow-hued nugget of yumminess will never fool you again.