Fudge is the quintessential homemade holiday candy
Is it even Christmas without homemade fudge…?
Making Christmas fudge for gatherings or packaging it with other treats for gift-giving is an extremely popular tradition in the US.
This sweet, dense and chewy confection is usually made from the simplest ingredients: butter, sugar and cream. And while we might think of fudge as synonymous with chocolate (in fact, the original recipe for fudge required chocolate), it’s actually an optional ingredient.
In fact, fudge can come in an array of flavors, from vanilla or almond fudge, to cherry fudge, white chocolate, or the ever-epic peanut butter fudge. Some recipes also call for nuts or marshmallows to add flavor and texture.
Making fudge can be hard — or surprisingly easy!
The traditional fudge recipe can be challenging — and several of the recipes below, including Hershey’s most highly requested fudge recipe, are made the old-school way. If you want to try your hand at making fudge in this classic style, we have tips below to help ease that process!
If you’re more familiar with the no-fail recipes that include sweetened condensed milk or marshmallow creme, we have those recipes for you, too!
However you slice it, fudge can be a fun kitchen challenge or it can be relatively easy and fool-proof — but it’s always delicious. It’s no wonder this candy is a year-round favorite, as well as a popular holiday gift or dessert.
A collection of fudge recipes — plus fudge how-tos
Not only have we found 14 old-fashioned fudge recipes (some so famous, your grandmother probably had them tucked away in her recipe box!), but we’ve also collected the best tricks and troubleshooting tips that have stood the test of time for generations so you can make perfect fudge, every time.
We encourage you to try one of these recipes — or, even better, try them all!
How to make homemade traditional fudge step-by-step: Tips & tricks
The magic of fudge is in the crystals!
Every single step of making fudge is controlling for the size of the sugar crystals so you end up with the creamiest, smoothest possible candy product.
The basic cooked fudge-making technique is simple, but does require some patience, attention to detail, and careful observation. The margin for error is slim, which is why the process can seem intimidating.
Old-fashioned fudge in 6 steps, using the traditional method
Here are the 6 basic steps for making traditional fudge, as well as pro tips to help ensure your success.
Step 1: Prepping to make fudge
As with any candy or baking recipe, the process is precise. So read the recipe carefully before you even begin — and follow it strictly. Since perfect timing is of the essence when making fudge, we recommend measuring out all of your ingredients before you move on to making the recipe so they are right at hand when you need them.
This prep step includes preparing the baking pan you pour the completed fudge into (see Step 6 for instructions) — you will want to have the pan ready to go the moment you finish beating the fudge.
Step 2: Combine fudge ingredients
With a wooden spoon, stir the fudge ingredients completely and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Combine the fudge recipe ingredients in a heavy, tall-sided saucepan (ideally sturdy stainless steel if you have it) with enough capacity for at least twice the volume of your recipe so you don’t risk a boil-over.
With a wooden spoon, constantly stir the fudge mixture until it comes to a boil, scraping the sides of the pan and making sure all of the sugar is incorporated.
Once the fudge is boiling, brush the inside of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals stuck to the sides. (You can also put a lid on the pan once the fudge is boiling for a couple minutes and the condensation that forms will wash away any remaining sugar crystals.)
Sugar crystals that fall from the pan sides into the mixture as it heats up will cause it to crystallize too soon and disrupt the creamy texture you’re going for — in other words, the dreaded grainy fudge. To further avoid premature crystallization, DO NOT STIR anymore once the sugar is dissolved and the fudge is boiling.
Step 3: Cook fudge mixture
Cook the candy mixture until it reaches 237-239F, which, in candy-making, is known as the soft ball stage. It is highly recommended that you use a candy thermometer to identify this critical point of peak temperature, since the smoothest fudge requires so much precision.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer on hand, turn off the heat when your mixture gets to the point where, when you drop a pinch of it into cold water, it will form a squishy ball. Again, DO NOT STIR at any point during this step.
Step 4: Cooling the fudge
Turn off the heat and let the fudge slowly cool to 110F — no more, no less. It’s critical that you are attentive to this timing. If the fudge is too warm when you proceed to the next step, it will end up grainy. If it’s too cool, it will start to set up and you won’t be able to beat it. Once again, DO NOT STIR or otherwise disturb the fudge until it has cooled to 110F.
Step 5: Beat the fudge!
Once the fudge has cooled to the proper temperature, it will look glossy. Now you can stir the fudge — and vigorously! This step will develop the the small crystals that allow the fudge to set without having a grainy texture.
Note: You will be stirring for longer than you probably want to. It’s a workout. We recommend hand beating, however. It’s too easy to over beat the fudge if you use a mixer.
Once again, the timing for when you stop beating the fudge is critical. Basically, you want to stop as soon as the mixture stops looking glossy and begins to look dull, matte and opaque. Resist the urge to give it a couple more stirs at this point because you risk the fudge setting up hard before you get it into the pan! (No pressure.)
If the fudge does set up, try stirring in a spoonful of hot water to see if you can loosen it back up enough to pour.
Step 6: Smooth fudge into a baking pan
Smooth fudge into a prepared baking pan. This can be a buttered or parchment lined pan. Our favorite method is to make a foil sling — that way once the fudge is set, you can lift it cleanly out of the pan.
Simply take aluminum foil and form it around the bottom of the baking pan, then set that form into the pan itself. Make sure the ends are a little longer than edge of the pan, so you can use them as handles to lift out the fudge, then lightly butter the foil-lined pan.
Be careful as you spread the fudge into the pan — it will still be hot! Unlike, say, a cake batter, don’t try to scrape all of the fudge out of the saucepan. Those bits are potentially grainier and will disrupt the smooth texture you’ve been working so hard for. You’ll just have to settle for licking the spoon — a hardship, we know!
After the fudge is in the pan, take a sharp knife and lightly score the top with the cut lines you’ll want to use once the fudge is completely cooled — it will be easier to cut clean squares.
Once the fudge is completely cooled, remove from the baking pan and cut into squares. Store as directed by the recipe.
Our ultimate list of delicious vintage Christmas fudge
Try some new (old) fudge recipes this year!