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25 food gifts from small businesses, from popcorn to pickles

Because — let’s be real — the best gifts are edible.
TODAY Illustration

They say that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but this idiom applies to practically anyone with a penchant for food. To show your love for the self-proclaimed gourmand in your life, we’ve rounded up 25 gifts of gastronomy that will satisfy any type of craving. From desserts and snacks to meats and condiments, these sweet treats and memorable eats are the perfect ways to ring in the holidays. And best of all, they’re all sourced from small businesses around the country. Check out our favorites below, including over a dozen you may have seen on TODAY.

Lusty Monk Mustards

If you prefer your mustard on the spicier side, look no further than Asheville, North Carolina-based Lusty Monk. The company specializes in a “no-nonsense, full-on, front-of-the-line, off-the-chart, step-aside” trio (original, chipotle and honey) of stone-ground, small-batch mustards that will have your nose running but also have you running back for more. Add them as a finishing touch to sandwiches or mix them into potato salad or deviled eggs. It will become the refrigerator staple that you or a lucky friend never knew they needed in their life. 

Mouth Party Caramels 

The party don’t stop till these walk in. Not your grandma’s go-to, gold-wrapped hard caramels, Mouth Party specializes in an exciting array of soft, buttery, slow-cooked gourmet chews, both traditional and inspired (there is one variety with Old Bay!), that you’ll want to scatter in candy dishes throughout your home. In fact, their five-ingredient recipe has spanned four generations, so it’s sure to be a certifiable hit among any connoisseurs of sugar. 

Tia Lupita Hot Sauce 

Tia Lupita owner Hector Saldivar had a mission to share his beloved mother’s hot sauce with the world after she would send him bottles from Mexico. The taste of home became an instant hit with his friends in San Francisco, so he knew it would have mass appeal if packaged and distributed to the rest of the country. And Saldivar’s instincts were spot on: The brand now boasts an impressive line of hot sauces, salsas and grain-free tortilla chips, with the O.G. red jalapeño blend sitting front and center. One of our personal favorites is the chipotle variety, which offers a smokier, sweeter departure from the typical condiments you find on the market.

Flannery Beef Dry-Aged Steaks

Father-daughter duo Bryan and Katie Flannery have preserved the meat-butchering traditions of their family patriarch, Bryan Sr., offering custom cuts of premium dry-aged beef, from rib-eyes and porterhouses to mini tomahawks and strips. They also sell a fantastic array of gift boxes and other proteins like lamb and pork so that the carnivore in your life can fire up the grill and enjoy the taste of variety this holiday season.

The Real Dill Gourmet Pickles

There is nothing more satisfying than the crunch of a juicy pickle, and Denver-based The Real Dill wows with a trio of innovative and unique flavors: Jalapeño Honey, Caraway Garlic and Habanero Horseradish. You can, of course, use them to top meat or chop up for a winter salad, but we prefer to eat them straight out of the jar. And if you become an instant fan of the company’s recipes (which is inevitable), you’ll really love its uber-popular bloody mary mix that pairs perfectly with — you guessed it — one of its gourmet pickles. The cucumber-forward bottles will also be sold in a variety pack (original, extra spicy and harvest), just in time to add vodka and tune out the in-laws. 

JoJo’s Cookie Company Cookies

Petoskey, Michigan-based JoJo’s Cookie Company whips up the cookie of our dreams: soft, chewy and typically stuffed with something fun and decadent like caramel, candy bars and cream cheese frosting. But its seasonal line of cinnamon roll and hot cocoa cookies have elevated the brand’s status from adorable small business to needs-to-be-in every-grocery-store-in-the-country. It’ll also toss in a special gift message so that recipients won’t feel like they’re taking part in another year of office Secret Santa.

Steel City Salt Co. Salts

Any self-proclaimed basic who can’t get enough pumpkin spice will rejoice after stumbling across Steel City Salt Company. The Pittsburgh-based purveyor of salts, spices, rubs and blends has made a name for itself by selling an uber-popular pierogi salt with onion, garlic, chive and dill, but its pumpkin pie spiced sugar is all the rage during the holiday months. Sprinkle it into morning oatmeal or use it to line the glass of your favorite autumnal beverage like a spiked cider or apple martini — there is no wrong way to use it. Be sure to check out the brand’s impressive array of thematic gift boxes, as well, which make great last-minute stocking stuffers.

La Fundidora Salsas and Cooking Sauces

The beauty of La Fundidora salsa is its versatility. Practically any of the brand’s five jars can be used on hamburgers, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs and even pizza. The company even incorporates ingredients like tomatillos, serrano chiles, charred jalapeño and mora chiles that allow them to stand apart from the basic, preservative-laden jars you find in grocery stores. And the freshness is unparalleled, thanks to the company’s commitment to making only small-batch, traditional products by hand using only ethically sourced ingredients with zero additives. For those with dietary restrictions, it’s a product you can feel good about. Don’t miss their cooking sauce trio, as well, with flavors like pastor, chipotle and spicy plum to really up the ante with any Mexican cooking.

Nguyen Coffee Supply Coffee

For many people, coffee is life. And if that person is you or a very special loved one, you can change their life by gifting them coffee from female-owned Nguyen Coffee Supply. The sustainable coffee company prides itself on hand-picked and washed beans from Vietnam that are freshly roasted in Brooklyn without added flavors or oils. The result is a bold, well-balanced robusta that can be brewed to any liking: as a cold brew, pour over, French press, drip or no-frills shot of espresso.

Heather’s Gourmet Caramel Apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away — and nobody has ever said it can’t be covered in caramel. Heather’s Gourmet has perfected the classic carnival dessert, which they also offer in the form of six and 12-month subscription boxes so that lucky recipients can sample multiple flavors. While its standard caramel is divine, some of the brand’s more innovative toppings include Butterfinger, coconut almond dark chocolate, peanut butter M&M’s and white chocolate cinnamon sugar.

Route 11 Chip Potato Chips 

Kettle-cooked chips reign supreme when it comes to fried potatoes, thanks to their craveworthy crunch and harmonious balance of oil and salt. But some brands offer a product that is almost too aggressive and even dangerous to the gums and roof of the mouth, making the eating experience less enjoyable as you gnaw your way through spuds that are, for lack of a better term, too sharp. Route 11 chips are the exception by producing a flawlessly palatable snack utilizing only the most natural of ingredients and most time-intensive of cooking processes. In fact, they trademarked the term “unhurried potatoes” to allude to their small-batch production facility that focuses more on consistent quality instead of quick mass production. Flavor standouts include Dill Pickle and Sour Cream and Chive, which can be purchased in three-pound tins for any outdoor winter soiree. 

Graeter’s Ice Cream 

If you’re from Ohio, you know all about Graeter’s, the 150 year-old family-owned ice cream shop that serves up decadently creamy scoops in shops and freezer aisles year-round. While its signature and most popular flavor, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, is deserving of all the fanfare and accolades with fresh Oregon-grown black raspberries, I was beyond impressed with the brand’s simple Madagascar Vanilla Bean. Made with ground vanilla beans and pure vanilla extract, the flavor is, as Graeter’s says, “anything but plain,” and a perfect base to whatever festive topping your heart or stomach desires. Be sure to also look out for three seasonal offerings —cinnamon, peppermint stick and eggnog — to serve at a Secret Santa gift exchange or Hanukkah gathering.

The Hampton Popcorn Company Popcorn

Boring, mass produced popcorn tins, be gone! The Hampton Popcorn Company has revolutionized the popcorn tin game by boasting an impressive array of artisanal crunchy treats in packages that are completely customizable. It also offers a variety of unique flavors like blue raspberry and grape, in addition to classics like butter, caramel and white cheddar, so that the true popcorn enthusiast can appreciate more of a creative departure from the norm.

Immune-Schein Ginger Elixirs

The holiday season may bring an abundance of pesky germs and illnesses that can ruin any family get-together, but Immune-Schein’s ginger elixirs can help to keep any immune system strong with potent and flavorful ginger-based elixirs in flavors like golden turmeric, black elderberry and ceylon cinnamon. Sip them straight, use them as a base for cocktails or mix them into salad dressings for a spicier foray into more health-minded eating and drinking.

Michele’s Granola 

Michele’s Granola prides itself on hand-packing every batch of its delicious homemade granola, following through on a mission to support local food production and employment. In addition to a collection of innovative flavors like lemon pistachio, cherry chocolate and ginger hemp, the brand releases limited-edition varieties like cranberry pecan, salted maple pecan and pumpkin spice. But what I really can’t stop eating is their maple pecan oat and nut butter, a spreadable granola that can be put on toast, pancakes or whatever morning carb you fancy to start your day.

Pan’s Mushroom Jerky

Don’t forget the vegans in your life who will be tickled to receive an array of shiitake mushroom-based jerkies from Pan’s. The dense, fibrous texture also resembles meat, which means anyone will be satisfied noshing on an umami-packed bag in flavors like zesty Thai, teriyaki and applewood barbecue. Take them on a holiday morning hike or savor them throughout the day to hold you over until larger meals.

Firehook Crackers

If you prefer a thinner cracker as part of a winter-themed charcuterie board, Mediterranean-inspired Firehook Crackers are an entertaining must-have. These come in a selection of savory flavors like rosemary sea salt and garlic thyme to complement cheeses, cured meats and dips, but it’s the company’s new crispy graham offering that has everyone talking. Use them in place of your go-to graham cracker for a more artisanal (and scrumptious, frankly) take on the classic s’more while camping.

Pappy and Company Pappy Van Winkle Maple Syrup

Nothing pairs better with Christmas morning than homemade pancakes, and no stack is complete without a smattering of golden maple syrup. Pappy and Company touts a 23-year-old Bourbon barrel-aged variety that has quickly emerged as the brand’s crown jewel. Rich with notes of vanilla, caramel, butter and oak, the breakfast necessity is also stored in a wooden box so that it is easily giftable (and hidden from other family members who may want to steal a heavy pour).

Beth’s Farm Kitchen Condiments 

Butters and jams and chutneys, oh my! Those who enjoy dipping and spreading their way through cool weather temps and fireside functions will be grateful to receive a jar from Beth’s Farm Kitchen. The ethically minded company boasts an impressive array of holiday-themed condiments like apple butter, fig jam, hot plum chutney and even a cranberry horseradish relish. Serve them on that aforementioned charcuterie board or gift them as sets during the month of December for the fabulous foodie in your life who is always looking for the next best product.

Priester’s Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie

My, oh, my, the world loves pie. And there is, arguably, no better pecan pie on the market than this old-fashioned confection from Alabama-based Priester’s. The store has been turning out its signature offering, also available in chocolate, since 1935, making it a post-meal must-have for families all over the country. They’re also baked as minis so you can purchase a dozen and give them out as gifts to friends, co-workers, family members and romantic interests.

Jackson’s Sweet Potato Chips 

You may have seen the masterminds behind Jackson’s strike a deal on “Shark Tank,” but the business is so much more than a producer of craveworthy (and healthy!) sweet potato chips. Founders Megan and Scott Reamer developed the recipe to accommodate the very specific dietary needs of their son, Jackson, who was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. Cooked with avocado or coconut oils, the ingredient list is short, but the flavor packs a punch with choices like habanero ranch and spicy jalapeño.

KC Cattle Company Wagyu Beef Hot Dogs 

Veteran-owned and operated KC Cattle Company specializes in all types of premium meat cuts, but it’s the wagyu beef hot dog that has people barking — er, talking. These gourmet franks, which got a glowing review by Food & Wine magazine, are best served warm (and not charred!) during a winter barbecue, so as to not lose the signature umami flavor. Plop them on a bun with ketchup, dip them in a fancy mustard (like aforementioned Lusty Monk), or simply enjoy them on their own — they really don’t need anything except a plate and an appetite.

Alpine Chocolat Haus Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips

This may just be the most addictive sweet and salty treat on this entire list. Sold by the bucket, the no-frills Alpine Chocolate Haus chocolate-covered potato chip has developed a devout following of Michigan residents who travel far and wide to get their hands on the simple yet craveworthy concoction that uses Ruffles and the store’s signature milk and dark chocolates. Be sure to buy at least a four-ounce bag for yourself to prevent any trace of regret.

Leonardi Apiary and Gardens Honey

Boston-based chef Joseph Leonardi has a passion for plants, so it was no surprise that he started apiaries to house one of the most essential components of successful farming: bees. And what do bees produce? Honey, of course. But Leonardi isn’t just any ol’ honey producer. Instead, he has found a way to infuse it with flavors like chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, black truffle and elderberry. Spoon it directly from the jar for a boost in immunity or drizzle some over that Graeter’s vanilla ice cream for an even sweeter, more decadent treat.

Felt + Fat Plateware

You’re going to need dishware to serve these products and no plate, mug or bowl is more breathtaking than the collections from Philadelphia-based Felt and Fat. The confetti line, in particular, is a blast of rainbow-colored splatters and specks on white ceramic that will have any amateur cook or hostess smile as they set out the fruits of their labor (or the result of a food-focused shopping spree).