Basic Fudge Recipes: Mastering Old-Fashioned Candy

Let’s talk about fudge. This old-fashioned candy isn’t around much anymore, but we haven’t forgotten about it. Penny candy shops sell fudge. Chocolatiers make it still, and across New England, you can pop into little stores and find it.

The soft, sweet confection is traditionally made with butter, sugar, and dairy. Heated to the soft-ball stage, it’s beaten to a spreadable texture that firms up as it cools. While very sugary, good fudge is flavorful and creamy.

There are a few techniques for making good fudge. Today we’re going to cover two basic methods: stovetop and microwave. Microwaving fudge is quick and easy, while the traditional stovetop method is slightly more complicated (but fun to master!).

Both yield delicious results, so I recommend trying each and deciding which method you prefer. I’ll show you three simple recipes today (chocolate, eggnog, and peanut butter). These recipes are excellent building blocks for mastering the technique of making fudge and then experimenting from there. I’ll give you some ideas for changing up the flavor and jazzing up the toppings.

Fudge is a fantastic edible gift for the holidays. It’s nostalgic, sweet, and keeps well. So get out your gift list and let’s get cooking!

Recipe 1: Microwave Chocolate Fudge

Chocolate is the most classic version of fudge. This easy recipe is made in the microwave instead of on the stovetop, so really all you have to do is measure and stir. How’s that for instant candy gratification?

You’ll need:
2 cups chocolate chips
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stopping to stir occasionally, until the chocolate is smooth.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Note on microwaving chocolate: To avoid scorching the chocolate, microwave it in short bursts (30 to 45 second intervals) at half power, stopping between each interval to stir the chocolate.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Add the condensed milk to the chocolate and stir until smooth. The mixture will thicken slightly

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Cut the butter into small chunks and scatter it on top of the chocolate mixture. Microwave until the butter is melted, then stir to combine.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Add the vanilla and stir until smooth.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Pour the fudge into a foil- or parchment-lined 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. You can also butter the pan instead of lining it, but if you’re planning on gifting the fudge, lining the pan makes it easier to lift the candy out neatly to slice it.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Let the fudge cool and firm up for several hours, or overnight. Slice, and then enjoy! Note how gorgeous and silky smooth the texture is.

Recipe 2: Stovetop Eggnog Fudge

Stovetop fudge is trickier than microwave fudge, but don’t be intimidated. You’ll be heating your fudge to the soft-ball stage, so most recipes will suggest you use a candy thermometer to measure your progress. I rarely use a candy thermometer, so know that it can be done without fancy equipment.

You’ll need:
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon eggnog flavor
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped white chocolate

For this excellent and festive eggnog fudge recipe, you’ll start by combining butter, sugar, heavy cream, nutmeg, salt, eggnog flavor, and corn syrup in a tall, heavy saucepan.

Stir the ingredients as they melt together and bring the mixture to a boil. Now stop stirring! If you stir once the sugar is melted, you’ll encourage crystallization, which will make your fudge grainy instead of smooth.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Allow the mixture to reach the soft-ball stage. You can test this either by using a candy thermometer (235°F to 240°F) or dropping a teaspoon of the hot mixture into a glass of ice water: It will form a soft ball when it’s ready. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

As soon as you’ve reached the soft-ball stage, pull your fudge off the heat and add white chocolate, a few handfuls at a time, stirring as you go.

An important note: Many recipes will tell you to cool your fudge down after reaching the soft-ball stage before stirring it. Our recipe cuts out some time by stirring right away, but I promise it works just as nicely!

As soon as the mixture is smooth, stop stirring immediately and pour the fudge into a greased 9″ square pan (or line the pan with foil or parchment).

If you want to make your fudge a little more fancy, add some toppings while it’s still hot. I used crushed peppermint candy here in a nod to the holidays, but you could try cacao nibs, sprinkles, chopped nuts, or anything else you can think of.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Recipe 3: Stovetop Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut butter lovers, rejoice. This decadent and creamy candy is nutty, sweet, and pretty much irresistible (if the empty pan in my kitchen is any indication!).

This stovetop recipe is very similar to the technique used for the eggnog fudge. It doesn’t have any corn syrup, if you’re averse to that ingredient, and it uses evaporated milk or light cream for the dairy.

Our recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar. I used 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of turbinado sugar. Turbinado sugar has lovely, caramelized notes that pair wonderfully with peanut butter, and gives the fudge a richer and fuller taste. Try it if you like!

You’ll need:
1 cup evaporated milk or light cream
2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 1/3 cups peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Add all the ingredients, except for the marshmallows, peanut butter, and vanilla, to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Once the mixture is boiling, stop stirring and allow it to come to the soft-ball stage, just as you did in the eggnog recipe.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Once the fudge reaches the soft-ball stage, remove it from the heat and stir in the marshmallows, peanut butter, and vanilla.

The marshmallows help to make it light, sweet, and creamy. Combined with the peanut butter, they give the fudge an ethereal texture and wonderful flavor.

You can use crunchy or creamy peanut butter, depending on the texture you want.

Basic fudge via @kingarthurflour

Once you stir the peanut butter and marshmallows in, pour the smooth fudge into a prepared pan and let it cool.

This recipe is a wonderful one to play around with. Fudge is a perfect candy to layer: Try spreading a layer of this fudge into a pan, letting it cool, then topping it with a layer of our easy microwave chocolate fudge. Give it to anyone who loves chocolate peanut butter cups, and prepare for an effusive outpouring of gratitude!

Now that you’re armed with three tried-and-true fudge recipes, let the candy-making commence!

comments

  1. Jennifer

    Does anyone have an old, old fashioned Opera fudge, or vanilla fudge without the white chocolate? I am so tired of fudge that has the texture of an overworked bowl of frosting. I am looking for a recipe where the vanilla fudge is light and opaque. Everyone swears by their recipe but it is not what I am looking for. Again, the fudge is light, not divinity, opera fudge.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I’m sorry, we don’t have an Opera Fudge recipe, Jennifer, but I did find quite a few recipes online. And perhaps someone in our community has a great recipe to share! Barb@KAF

    2. Anne

      I agree with your comment about so much fudge having “…the texture of an overworked bowl of frosting.” I grew up (50s and 60s) making fudge with my Mom, and the only variation was would there be walnuts in the fudge or not? Fudge meant chocolate fudge, made with sugar, butter, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, cream of tartar, and whole milk. It required patience because we had to cook to 234 degrees and then let it cool, no stirring, to 110 degrees, before beating in the butter and vanilla. Beat with a wooden spoon until gloss disappears and just before it seizes up spread it into a buttered pan. When perfectly made it had the slightest graininess, almost imperceptible, and a very very thin layer on top that was shiny. I forego the stuff called “fudge” at candy shops, as the texture/flavor is usually off, and, honestly I’ve never found any worth calling fudge except for that old recipe!

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Anne, my Mom made the same kind of fudge, and it was her Mom’s recipe. I always found it tricky to make and had so many failures that I finally gave up. Maybe it’s time to dig out the old recipe and try again. Barb@KAF

    4. Karhy

      I have made fudge for many years from the recipe that used to be on the Hershey cocoa can. I learned from my mom in the 50’s that the same recipe can be used without the cocoa to make a white fudge. It Is so good. Not familiar with opera fudge so I don’t know if this would be the same. The recipe is available online.

    5. Suzanne Gerard

      Look for a “penuche” recipe or use Hershey’s old fashioned fudge recipe without the cocoa and flavor it with vanilla. Some will add red and green chopped candied cherries for holiday color.
      Be sure you let it cool to lukewarm if you want it to be creamy and add butter and vanilla after removing from the heat. The chocolate fudge is very grainy when beaten while hot and is delicious crumbled over ice cream.

    6. Kathy W.

      I found a recipe for Opera Fudge for you. It was in the Better Homes and Gardens candy booklet.

      2 cups sugar
      1/2 cup milk
      1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream
      1 Tbsp. light-color corn syrup
      1Tbsp. butter
      1 tsp. vanilla

      1. Line 8x4x2 inch loaf pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil: set pan aside.
      2. Butter inside of 2-quart heavy saucepan. In saucepan, combine sugar, milk, half-and-half, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip candy thermometer to pan; reduce heat to medium low. Continue boiling at moderate, steady rate, stirring often, until thermometer registers 238 degrees F, soft-ball stage (25-35 minutes).
      3. Remove saucepan from heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and vanilla, but do not stir. Cool, without stirring, to 170 degrees F (about 30 minutes). Remove thermometer.
      4. Beat mixture vigorously with clean wooden spoon until fudge becomes thick and just starts to lose it gloss (about 5 minutes).
      5. Immediately spread fudge evenly in prepared pan. Score into squares while warm. When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan. Cut fudge into squares.

      I never made this, but the picture looks great. I also don’t like white chocolate. Happy candy making!

  2. Judith

    I grew up with my mother making lots of old fashion cooked peanut butter and chocolate fudge for Christmas. The only difference in mother’s recioe is she added the butter after the softball stage, then marshmellows, peanut butter, and vanilla. Then she would fill the sink half-way with cold water, submerge the pan in (just half of the pan was in the cold water). Then she would stir until the candy cracked and was shinny. She woul quickly pour into a prepared pan and wait for it to set up. She said her grandmother made this way also. Loved seeing this old wonderful recipe in print.

    Reply
  3. Carolyn

    This post has made me hungry for fudge! The notes for the peanut butter fudge state that it doesn’t have corn syrup, and while this is true, most marshmallows have corn syrup, so this comment is misleading.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Laura, cook the Eggnog fudge until it reaches between 235 and 240 degrees, cook the Peanut Butter Fudge to between 234 and 236 degrees. Barb@KAF

    2. Laura

      If I make my marshmallows(regular size), do I just put in as close to the l cup of mini marshmallows that the recipe calls for?

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Laura, if you have a scale you can measure the same weight of regular marshmallows as ounces recommended when using mini-marshmallows (1 3/4 ounces). If you don’t have a scale, you may want to chop up the larger marshmallows a bit before measuring them by cup. Barb@KAF

  4. Marian

    I tried to make fudge this week, and tried not to stir….I ended up with burnt bottom to my pan. Was my pan not heavy enough? The temp was low so it was just simmering. How do you prevent burnt bottoms?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Marian, you do need to use a heavy-bottomed pot when making candy on the stove top. Cooking at a low temperature is also important. Barb@KAF

  5. Sharon

    From the pictures, it looks to me as though the cooked fudges are in a bowl, in a water bath, in a larger pan. Is that right? I ask because I tried making a fudge like this recently and even though I had it at a medium heat, the stuff burned on the bottom before reaching the desired temperature. As I do not have a large enough enameled cast iron pan to make this recipe in, am hesitant to try again as it was a sad mess I threw down the drain.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is just a very heavy-bottomed pot on the stove top. It’s important to use a pot with a heavy bottom to prevent burning. Cooking at a lower temperature is also important, so try medium-low rather than medium. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kimberly, we don’t recommend using marshmallow cream, as the fudge may not firm up enough. Barb@KAF

  6. Laura

    If I make homemade marshmallows or marshmallow fluff, what do you think would be the amount of them in comparison to the 1 cup of mini marshmallows? Thanks, Laura

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Laura, we haven’t tried this, and are a little concerned that the fudge may not firm up properly when using these substitutions. Please let us know how they come out if you decide to experiment! Barb@KAF

  7. Sharon

    At what temperature do you set you burner so the boiling fudge mixture doesn’t scorch when you stop stirring and cook to the soft ball stage?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sharon, it needs to cook slowly, so try medium-low. You don’t want to go so low that it’s not boiling, but it should be a slow boil. A heavy-bottomed pot is really important too. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Laurie, you’re right, all recipes should specify. In the first fudge recipe, it really doesn’t matter since it’s such a small amount of butter. I think you could also use either kind in the Peanut Butter Fudge. Most recipes these days call for unsalted butter, unless salted is specified, because unsalted butter allows the baker to have more control over salt content and unsalted butter is generally thought to be fresher than salted butter. In older recipes I think salted butter is more often used, but you can check whether salt is an added ingredient, and that is usually a sign that unsalted butter is called for. Keep in mind that a stick of salted butter has about 1/4 tsp salt, so if necessary you can adjust the recipe to use whatever type of butter you have on hand. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The pan itself will be heavy and the bottom will be noticeably thick. I bought a stainless steel pressure cooker for candy-making and it works perfectly (I don’t put the lid on when making candy), but an enameled cast iron dutch oven would also work. Barb@KAF

  8. Sherrie

    I’m excited to try your peanut butter fudge recipe for Christmas. The recipe says to “pour the smooth fudge into a prepared pan”. Would you please tell me the size? I couldn’t tell from the picture if it was the loaf pan you used for the chocolate fudge or the 9″ square pan for the eggnog fudge. Thank you for all your help.

    Reply
  9. Liz Q

    I am wondering which would qualify better as a heavy-bottomed pot – my very heavy stockpot with the very thick bottom, or my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Liz, either of those would qualify; the stockpot may be too deep to keep the bulb of your candy thermometer submerged, though. Susan

  10. Melissa N

    The best fudge my mom ever ever made actually has Knox gelatin in it, one package, and 1 and 1/2 cups butter. It had to be kept in the fridge or the butter would melt out. It was heaven….

    Reply
    1. Margy

      Melissa, this interested me, and I actually found multiple recipes on an online search. They even use a similar amount of butter. I may have to try this on a nice, cold winter day (if cold weather ever gets here…it’s been unseasonably warm in Maryland).

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Room temperature is best for most fudge and candies. Happy baking, er fudge making! Irene@KAF

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Barbara,
      For best results, we’d say keep that one for another day and use one of the other great recipes for your stovetop. ~ MJ

  11. Carol Carmical

    Love love that old time fudge, when I make fudge, it’s what I make, nothing like it. It’s the hershey can fudge.It is a little tricky but I’ve got it down now after plenty of yrs experience. Don’t care for the marshmallow fudge at all. And I make a lot of peanut butter fudge and have a lot of request for the peanut butter roll, you know the one the call potato candy.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      I do know about potato candy, Carol! It’s surprisingly good. You sound like quite the seasoned fudge maker; your friends must look forward to your gift plates when the holidays roll around, eh? PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You may want to wrap the fudge in wax or parchment paper before putting it in the zip lock bag to help keep things from getting messy. Once in the zip lock bag, you store it for about 1-2 months in the freezer. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Tammy, you could either try making a batch of the Peanut Butter Fudge and a batch of the Easy Microwave Fudge, and pouring them both into the same pan to chill and set. Or, for an easier shortcut, you could just a batch of the chocolate fudge, and then add about 1/2 to 1 cup of peanut butter that has been sweetened with some confectioner’s sugar (to taste). Using a sharp knife or a toothpick to swirl the peanut butter into the chocolate should work well. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Mary, a candy thermometer is not a tool that everyone has in their kitchen, and we want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy this delicious fudge. We’ve created this recipe so that bakers are bound to have great success even without a candy thermometer. We hope that explains where we’re coming from. Kye@KAF

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