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!

About

Posie grew up on a farm in Maryland and spent her summers in Vermont. As an editor for King Arthur and Sift magazine, she feels lucky to bake every day and connect through writing. She loves homemade bread warm from the oven, raw milk cream, ...

comments

    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

    1. The Baker's Hotline

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

  1. 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).

  2. 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

  3. 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
    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

    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

  4. 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

  5. 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

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