Homemade Hard Candy is easy to make and really easy to customize to whatever flavor and color you want! This hard candy recipe will become a favorite in your family.
Basic Hard Candy Recipe
How pretty is this candy? I like that it looks like broken glass.
The first time I made it, I didn’t realize how simple this type of candy is to make, it’s just a little time consuming, much like this rock candy recipe.
Only six ingredients and really, the food coloring & powdered sugar dusting at the end are optional.
Why you’ll love this old-fashioned hard candy
So much fun – You get to pick colors, flavors, AND smash it up at the end to make the small pieces.
Holiday season – It’s perfect to make as gifts in little jars around Christmas time.
Customizable – You can easily adjust how much flavoring oil your candy has and you could color coordinate for a holiday, party, or shower.
What is hard candy?
Hard candy is a boiled sweet made of sugar that is usually brightly colored and made to slowly dissolve in your mouth (think Jolly Ranchers).
You can color it with food coloring and use your favorite flavor oils or extracts to get the combo you’re after.
Things you’ll need
- Candy Thermometer – You NEED a candy thermometer to make this hard candy. Not optional.
- Lipped Baking Pan (Jelly Roll Pan) – You also need a pan with a lip. You’ll pour the hot mixture onto the pan to cool and without a lip…you’ll have a mess.
- Silicone Baking Mats – It’ll make your life easier to line the baking pans with silicone baking mats. It’s easy to peel the cooled candy off of.
- Flavor Oils or Flavor Extracts – Like I said, you can likely find individual flavor extracts at your grocery store, but this set has some unique ones – crisp champagne, butter rum, or cinnamon candy, anyone?
- Food coloring – I always recommend this color performance kit. It has a really helpful color chart that makes mixing whatever color you want really easy.
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card.
- Sugar – White, granulated sugar. This is candy, after all.
- Light Corn Syrup – Karo syrup is used for a light sweet flavor, in sauces and jams and such. It is made with real vanilla.
- Water – cold water, just from the tap.
- Extract or Oil Flavoring – We used strawberry and lemon in this batch but there are many possibilities. Oils will be more potent that extracts but use what you can find.
- Food Coloring – Not necessary, but candy just isn’t as pretty without it.
- Powdered Sugar – Sometimes called icing sugar or confectioners’ sugar. You’ll dust the finished candy with powdered sugar to prevent it from sticking.
How to make Homemade Hard Candy
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
Making homemade hard candy is probably easier than you think!
- STEP ONE: First, you’ll combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan and stir continuously over medium heat until dissolved.
- STEP TWO: Then, you use a candy thermometer to make sure the temperature gets to 295 degrees F (hard crack stage), which takes about 35-45 minutes.
- STEP THREE: Once it hits temperature, you remove from heat, add whichever coloring and extracts you’re using to the sugar mixture, stir it up, then pour it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat to cool.
- STEP FOUR: Once it’s cooled, use a mallet to break it up into whichever size pieces you want. Sprinkle in powdered sugar & you’re done. Easy!
What to serve with Homemade Hard Candy
Tips & Suggestions ⭐️
- Each batch makes a cookie sheet worth of candy, which you break up into whatever size pieces you want. So, it makes a lot.
- Oil flavoring will be more potent that extracts.
- Use caution when adding the oil to the pot, the steam will be strong.
- You can use candy molds or suckers with this recipe as well.
How much flavoring for hard candy?
You can use whichever flavor you like for this hard candy recipe and how much flavor you use is also customizable.
It’s best to use a highly concentrated candy oil that can stand up to the heat without losing flavor. You’ll typically use a teaspoon of flavoring if it’s super-strength, or one Tablespoon if it’s “regular” strength.
Extracts are somewhat easier to find and will work, they just aren’t as potent.
Possible Flavor/Color Combos 🍓🍋🍊🍒
- Strawberry oil (1 teaspoon) with red food coloring.
- Lemon oil (1 teaspoon) with yellow food coloring.
- Orange oil (1 teaspoon) with orange food coloring.
- Spearmint or wintergreen oil (1/2-1 teaspoon) with green food coloring.
Hard candies can last up to one year if they’re stored properly. Keep it in a cool, dry place away from humidity and heat. The coating of powdered sugar at the end of the recipe helps to keep hard candies from absorbing moisture from the air.
Hard candy doesn’t have an expiration date but it does get less desirable the older it gets. It can get sticky or chewy when affected by humidity or fluctuating temperatures so it is best to enjoy it as soon as possible.
Yes, you can use silicone molds to make hard candy or lollipops, as long as they are heat safe (some aren’t!). Make sure you check the labels – they should be heat safe to 350+ degrees. This set would work for fun shapes and this set would work for suckers.
Yes, most molds double for chocolate or hard candy, just double check that they’re heat safe.
Yes, you can easily substitute oils and extracts in this recipe and most others. Since flavoring oils are so much more concentrated, you only need a few drops in place of a teaspoon of extract.
Yes, hard candy is vegan and cruelty-free because is is made with no animal by-products.
Need more candy recipes? Try these:
- Homemade Chocolate Nonpareils (Sno Caps!)
- Gummy Bears
- Homemade Twix
- Potato Candy
- Easy Peanut Brittle
Click here to view my entire collection of candy recipes.
Originally published December 31, 2012.