Campbell’s 2023 “State of the Sides” Report surveyed 5,000 Americans, finding that a solid majority prefer Thanksgiving sides to the entree, listing stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and (of course) green bean casserole as their favorites.
As the report notes, it’s the side dishes where your family’s heritage and traditions shine through, and extremely fancy, James Beard-nominated chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix took that notion to heart when crafting his latest offering, the limited-edition Holiday Sides Truffle Collection. The box of six chocolates (did I mention they are extremely fancy?) is priced at $35 and available to order online.
By now you may be wondering why Campbell’s, fine purveyor of Goldfish crackers and condensed soups, is mentioned in the same article with a review of chocolate truffles. Well, maybe you should sit down. It’s because the sides Rix chose for chocolate truffle inspo are all casseroles containing Campbell’s soup.
Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Celery, Cream of Chicken and Cheddar condensed soup infusions all make an appearance in the descriptions. I can scarcely wait to try them, but for you, dear reader, I will hold my soupy horses so we can talk over the flavors and take a peek inside.
Even though they look spectacular in the official photo, I didn’t expect them to look this dreamy in real life. No wonder this brand is one of Oprah’s favorite things.
As shown, from top to bottom and left to right: Apple, Fennel, and Herb Stuffing; Hot Honey Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Green Bean Casserole; Jalapeño Cheddar Mac & Cheese; Everything Bagel Mashed Potatoes; and Baked Corn Casserole. Each one has layers of flavors in the coating and filling, and each is infused in some way with, yes, soup.
Pictured is a plain black samples package, but the ones consumers receive when ordering online is boldly minimalist, with the iconic red and white colorblock of Campbell’s soup cans.
Getting to taste something this beautifully decorated feels like an incredible luxury, until the words “cream of mushroom” come to mind. Is it possible this is something more than an elaborate joke?
How do they taste?
I’m frankly terrified of the Cream of Chicken-infused truffle, so let’s work up to it and try the Apple, Fennel, and Herb Stuffing first. This one is described as a “roasted apples, fennel, and Cream of Celery condensed soup bread pudding blond chocolate bonbon.” It is … a revelation. The apples and fennel taste completely natural, balanced but easily identifiable, and there is a breath of celery at the end. True apple in particular is difficult to capture in candy form, but this one is stunningly effective.
Next, Hot Honey Mashed Sweet Potatoes: “sweet potatoes, thyme, local Memphis hot honey, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and milk in a chocolate bonbon.” It’s not very spicy, and the thyme is a scent rather than a taste, but the sweet potato flavor in an absolutely smooth chocolate filling is a real delight. I spend a moment trying to place the umami note and realize it’s cream of mushroom. I know that sounds beyond awful, but somehow, it isn’t.
I’m feeling brave, or maybe foolhardy. Let’s try the Baked Corn Casserole, which promises “cornbread, sweet corn and Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup in a white chocolate bonbon.” Thankfully, the chicken soup appears only as a welcome salty note in an otherwise delicately buttery sweet corn experience. There’s just a tad of masa-like texture to this adventuresome filling.
As a devotee of baked brie with honey or praline, I’m really looking forward to trying the Jalapeño Cheddar Mac & Cheese, featuring “Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup, triple cream Brie, and jalapeño-infused white chocolate ganache in a blond chocolate bonbon.” When I slice this one, the scent of cheese fills the air, and you can see a little truffled-out blob of cheddar.
I admit hesitation, and this one might not be for everyone, but the brie, cheddar and jalapeño each come through with bells on, and they are singing my favorite song. White chocolate was the right choice for the coating.
Next is Everything Bagel Mashed Potatoes, which I am surprised to see has a soft, translucent filling. “Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup caramel coated in a dark chocolate bonbon with everything bagel seasoning,” says the description, and I’m a bit worried about what chocolate will do to cheddar and vice versa. The sesame comes through, but the cheddar is just a little bit of a salty tang in an otherwise just plain fantastic chocolate caramel.
I saved the Green Bean Casserole for last. I’ve had real tussles with candied green bean and onion flavors before, and I lost. This time, let’s call it a draw. This is the most unusual of the flavors, with a distinct leafy green aspect, and the earthiness of the mushroom is more forward than it was in the sweet potato flavor. It is a chocolate truffle, but very surprising and complex, and I really appreciate that they didn’t pull the punch.
I absolutely adored this collection. I love the saturated colors, the sophisticated twist in their shape, and flavors that are natural and delicious, but challenging. A lot of such novelty savory candies are just a fun prank, either phoning in a non-flavor, or leaning into a hilariously terrible one. These are a real achievement, making an effort to include every promised component in a coherent package, like a bite-sized episode of “Chopped” where the viewer gets to taste.
The chocolate coatings are delicate in spots, but sturdy enough that you can cut each into little pieces so that everyone gets a chance to savor, and if you have a big table, you could consider getting the 12-piece Soul Food Collection instead. The Thanksgiving Sides Collection is only available while supplies last, but the memories of such an ambitiously flavorful holiday adventure will last a lot longer than that.