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Easy Homemade Hard Candy – old fashioned recipe

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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.

overhead shot of red, green, & yellow hard candy on a plate.

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.

overhead shot of red hard candy in a glass dish.

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.

Ingredients

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.
overhead shot of labeled ingredients laid out to make hard tack candy.

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!

  1. STEP ONE: First, you’ll combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan and stir continuously over medium heat until dissolved.
  2. 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.
sugar boiling in a pot with a candy thermometer
  1. 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.
  1. 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

Serve this homemade hard candy on a holiday treat table with Christmas Oreo Bon Bons, Christmas Crack, Cinnamon Sugar Candied Almonds, and Easy Peanut Butter Fudge.

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.
green, red, and yellow hard candy pieces in glass jars.

FAQs

How do you store candy?

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.

Can hard candy go bad?

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.

Can you use silicone molds for hard candy?

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.

Can you use chocolate molds for hard candy?

Yes, most molds double for chocolate or hard candy, just double check that they’re heat safe.

Can you use extract instead of oil in hard candy?

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.

Is hard candy cruelty free/vegan?

Yes, hard candy is vegan and cruelty-free because is is made with no animal by-products.

overhead shot of green, yellow, and red hard candy.

Need more candy recipes? Try these:

Click here to view my entire collection of candy recipes.

overhead shot of red, green, & yellow hard candy on a plate.

Homemade Hard Candy

Melissa Williams | Persnickety Plates
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.
4.59 from 17 votes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 20 servings
Calories 209 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 3 ¾ cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cups light corn syrup Karo syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon oil flavoring
  • food coloring 7-10 drops, depending
  • powered sugar for dusting

Instructions
 

  • Line cookie sheets (it's best to use cookie sheets that have a lip) with silicone liners, parchment paper, or aluminum foil. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and set aside.
  • Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan and continuously stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Once dissolved, insert a candy thermometer to the pan (it should rest about an inch from the bottom of the pan) and continue to cook, without stirring, until the thermometer reaches 295°F. It should take around 35-45 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and add food coloring and oil/extract. Eyeball the coloring to get the color you want.
  • Pour mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and allow it to cool completely (approximately 30 minutes).
  • Once cooled, lay parchment/wax paper over the candy and gently tap with a hammer/meat tenderizer/mallet to break into pieces.
  • Sprinkle candy with powdered sugar & toss to coat.
  • Repeat process for each flavor/color you’re making.

Video

Notes

  • 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.
  • Do not lean over the pot as you add the oil. The steam will be strong.
  • You can use candy molds or suckers with this recipe as well.
  • Up to 1 teaspoon of the oils can be used, depending on how strong you want the flavor. Extract flavors will be much milder so you’ll need to use more (1 Tablespoon).
Possible 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 209kcalCarbohydrates: 54gSodium: 15mgSugar: 54gCalcium: 3mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Tried this recipe? Tag me!Mention @melissa_pplates or tag #persnicketyplates!

Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying/pasting and/or screenshots of full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited. Content and photographs are copyright protected.

Originally published December 31, 2012.

overhead shot of candy dish with homemade hard candy

collage of homemade hard candy making



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  1. Emily Dicks says

    I love how pretty the colors turned out, stopping by from Wednesday Whatsits 🙂

  2. Donna says

    We lightly greased a cookie sheet, no powdered sugar used and rather than breaking with a hammer, just lift one end of candy with a knife, it will easily snap into pieces.

  3. Tracey says

    You really need to get to 300 degrees on the candy thermometer and use Loann oils instead of extracts

    • Melissa Williams says

      I haven’t had problems at 290 or with the extracts, but I’ll have to try the oils. I have heard good things.

  4. Jan says

    have you ever molded this recipe into lollipops?

    • Melissa Williams says

      I have not, but that sounds fun & I think it would work! Let me know if you try.

  5. Deborah says

    Burned before it got to 290 not happy I never left it

    • Melissa Williams says

      Hi Deborah – it sounds like you had your heat up too high. Medium heat and stir constantly, if you try again. I haven’t burned this, but many batches of caramel & I know it’s frustrating.

    • Kelly says

      5 stars
      Hi – do we stir it or not? Your recipe states, “…continue to cook, without stirring, until the thermometer reaches 290 degrees….”

    • Melissa Williams says

      You do not stir it while it’s coming to temperature.

  6. Wayne says

    I would like to make a hard candy from real coffee and I just can’t find it anywhere. Would you please help me with this? I know a lot of people that would really like to have a coffee hard candy from real coffee.

    • Melissa Williams says

      Hi Wayne, I have not tested any coffee recipes, but thanks for the idea 🙂

  7. JENNI says

    Candy is beautiful, but ours didn’t taste like strawberry. We used a tablespoon of extract. Any ideas? I have other flavors to try, but don’t want to overdue the flavor

    • Melissa Williams says

      Which brand did you use? They’re not all created equal. I like LorAnn.

  8. Casie says

    5 stars
    Yes I am gona try this for the first time and I wana know where I can find the other colors u mentioned? I got a ton of LorAnn flavors and I wana be able to make all kinda cool colors to go with the flavors.

    • Melissa Williams says

      If you already have the flavors, you just need food coloring. I link some on Amazon above but any market should have some 🙂

  9. Casie says

    Oh and I also forgot to ask what else I can use for the bottom of my cookie sheet? Can I just use the powder sugar? I don’t have anything to put underneath it. Thanks

    • Melissa Williams says

      How about foil? You want something to help you with cleanup 🙂

    • Casie says

      Ok thank u! I appreciate the feed back. Do u think it would be ok to use gel food coloring? I’ve never used that kind but but husband could not find any.

    • Melissa Williams says

      I haven’t used gel in this, but I think it will work fine.

    • Bernie says

      Don’t use foil it will stick, just use powdered sugar on your pan before spreading. Please be extra careful because it is very hot!!!

  10. Gina says

    I’m wondering if you can help me my daughter is in a cocktail competition and she had the idea to make this hard candy but she wants it to be clear with a silver backing so that when it’s broken it looks like broken glass. Is there a way that it can be clear because I know a lot of the times it turns out to be an amber color without any food coloring. Any advice would be much appreciated!

  11. Mary Lane says

    3 stars
    I love the flavor I think another way to test if it is ready is to put a little bit (1/2teeaspoon) into a bowl of COLD Water and if it makes like a tear drop with a string on the end it is ready

    • Melissa Williams says

      I’m a lil confused about the “love the flavor” but only 3 stars comment 🤔

  12. Michaelle Tuckus says

    Hello, I just made my first two batches last night and the one i flavored with strawberry extract tasted really good but a little weak so now I know Use more since it was the extract, but the one I made with LorAnn apple, and cinnamon oils and it tasted horrible and because I used green food coloring it was hard to tell if it was just burnt or just too much oil? So Im trying this again but before i do I wanted to know about mixing the flavor oils or extracts together to make a new one for example by boyfriend wants me to mix the maple and the coconut extracts should this work and also how much do I use of each? should it be equal parts 2 tsp. maple and 2 tsp. coconut? if you can please help I would love to try this combo and others

    • Melissa Williams says

      Are you using the super strength oils? I know a little bit goes a LONG way so start small. I haven’t tested those particular flavors to tell you the ratios.

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