1. Bamba (Israel)
These peanut buttery puffs are the Israeli equivalent of American Cheez Doodles, but far superior in both flavor and texture.
Para bailar la bamba, buy them here!
BE WARNED: Sinfully addictive. Try at your peril.
As if improving on perfection were possible, Bamba also comes filled with hazelnut cream.
Get a taste of the Holy Land here.
2. Takis (Mexico)
The rhyming prodigies of Y.N.RichKids were so enthused by these itty-bitty corn taquitos that they recorded what is now considered the snack anthem of 2012 — an ode to Takis and their American brethren, Hot Cheetos.
Flavors include Fuego Hot Chili Pepper and Lime (the most popular), Guacamole, Salsa Brava, Crunchy Fajita, and Nitro.
Buy them on Amazon (or at your local bodega).
3. Canasta (Mexico)
Why bother drinking eggnog when you can eat eggnog-filled baskets of chocolate? VIVA MEXICO.
4. McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes (U.K., Ireland)
McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes are an indulgent trifecta of layered spongy cake, orange-flavored jelly, and chocolate.
They also prove how seriously the Brits take their biscuits. In a controversial court case about whether Jaffa Cakes were taxable biscuits or tax-exempt cakes, courts ruled in favor of “cakeyness.” Still, the Cake vs. Biscuit battle rages on.
Decide for yourself by picking some up here.
5. Gulab Jamun (Indian Subcontinent)
These deep-fried milk dumplings are a traditional dessert in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal (where it is called Lalmohan) and are essentially spiced doughnut holes soaked in rose-scented syrup, or “gulab” in Persian.
Get your nom on here.
6. So Much Pocky, So Little Time (Japan)
These Japanese biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate and countless other flavored coatings may have the most passionate and international fan base of all snack foods. From Pocky fangirl videos to DIY Pocky project tutorials, this self-styled “first designer chocolate” snack has inspired some impressive Pockyphilic enthusiasm across the globe.
7. Biltong (South Africa)
Spiced, salted, and dried (rather than smoked, like American jerky), biltong is an iconic South African snack dating back to the 17th century, when Dutch settlers made the Great Trek north from Capetown. Countries with significant South African populations have taken to this jerky alternative, including the U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and even South Korea.
While beef biltong is by far the most popular, South Africans are down to munch on strips of any animal they can get their hands on. Ostrich, kudu, or springbok, anyone? If you’re game, get it here.
8. Kinder Surprise (Italy)
We would be remiss to exclude the doggedly hunted and controversial Kinder Surprise Eggs. The thrill of cracking the chocolate egg to discover a tiny mystery toy (the SURPRISE!) has inspired rabid fandom in dozens of countries.
BUT: Keep out of reach of Americans.
Considered a choking hazard by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Kinder Surprise is banned in the U.S. for containing “non-nutritive” ingredients. You can be fined $2,500 per egg for attempting to smuggle them across the border, but online vendors seem to dubiously evade the ban (purchase at your own risk).
9. Koala’s March Creme-Filled Cookies (Japan)
Until these bite-sized cookies made their way from Japan to the U.S. in 1984, no one knew koalas had such rich inner lives. Explore the many faces of this adorable marsupial, in chocolate and strawberry varieties, by buying them here.
Almost as cute as this little guy (but edible).
10. Twisties (Australia)
These Cheetos doppelgängers may look familiar, but have you seen flavors like BBQ Curry Dude, Yo! Chicken, Duh Tomato, Spicy Sausage, and Honey BBQ Wings? Originally from Australia, Twisties are now wildly popular in New Zealand, Singapore, Fiji, Malaysia, Malta, and Mauritius, among other exotic locales.
11. Iwashi Senbei (Japan)
Buttered popcorn may be synonymous with movie time in the U.S., but in Japan, sardines are the go-to movie snack. Whole mini fish are baked in soy sauce and sugar — bones and all — and then doused in sesame seeds to create this sweet and salty cracker.
They are sure to smell pretty fishy, so burden your fellow moviegoers if you dare.
12. Smash! (Norway)
These chocolate-covered cone-shaped corn chips may be the most audacious thing ever to come from the otherwise innocuous Norwegians. Ever struck by the impulse to dunk Bugles in melted chocolate? Release the shame, avoid the hassle, and buy a bag here.
13. Hitt (Iceland)
With five major candy factories supplying just 319,000 residents, Icelanders aren’t messing around when it comes to their candy — or “nammi” in Icelandic. The most distinctive Icelandic trend is the combination of licorice and chocolate, in endless permutations. This chocolate-covered salty licorice stick atop a caramel base is one of Iceland’s best-kept sweet and salty secrets.
14. Phool Makhana (East Asia)
Lotus seeds are used throughout East Asia for both culinary and medicinal purposes, but they’re best snacked on when popped and seasoned, or dried in sugar syrup.
Buy the Indian variety here.
15. Filipinos (Spain)
Filipinos (the cookie, not the people) are available as light biscuits covered in milk or dark chocolate, or dark biscuits covered in white chocolate — a color contrast that opened lingering wounds dating back to Spanish colonial rule. The Spanish snack’s controversial name led Philippine government officials to file a diplomatic protest with the Spanish government, Nabisco Iberia, and the European Commission in 1999, demanding the cookies be taken off the market until renamed.
Despite the outrage, they remain as popular as ever in Spain and around the world.
If you can stomach the slur, get some here.
16. Speculoos Paste (Belgium)
Speculoos paste may sound like a strange ointment or crafting material, but do not be deterred. It is literally a SHMEAR MADE OUT OF COOKIES — gingersnappy Belgian biscuits crushed into a creamy paste to be smothered on…well…EVERYTHING.
Buy a jar here. Note: Spoon not included. (You’ll want one.)