How to Make Fudge the Old-Fashioned Way
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No need to head to the candy store. We'll show you how to make fudge that's rich, creamy and decadent.
Fudge is one of our all-time favorite treats. It’s sweet, simple and makes a perfect gift, especially around the holidays. You can typically find fudge at local candy shops, but it’s also easy to make at home.
We’ll walk you through everything—yes, everything!—you need to know about making fudge. We’ll cover the ingredients, top tips and even troubleshoot some common mistakes if you run into any issues. Ready to get started?
Psst: Take a look at our best fudge recipes.
What is fudge?
At its simplest, fudge is a dense, soft candy. Traditional fudge is flavored with chocolate, but you can utilize pretty much any flavor—like peanut butter, pumpkin or even birthday cake. And if you’re watching your sugar intake, try our Sugar-Free Chocolate Fudge.
What ingredients are in fudge?
Fudge requires three essential ingredients—sugar, butter and milk—but most recipes also include chocolate or some kind of flavoring. It’s also common to include mix-ins and toppings, like nuts, cookie pieces, marshmallows and hard candies.
What are the methods for making fudge?
The two most popular ways to make fudge are on the stove and in the microwave. For the stovetop variety, like the recipe below, you’ll heat your ingredients, cool slightly, beat with a spoon until the mixture thickens, then refrigerate until firm. For this microwave fudge recipe, you’ll zap the ingredients until they’re melted, stirring occasionally, then refrigerate until firm.
The Best Tools for Making Fudge
Luckily, fudge doesn’t require a lot of fancy tools or gadgets. In fact, you likely already have everything on hand! And no sweat if you don’t have a specific candy thermometer. A clean meat thermometer works just as well.
Must-Have Fudge Tools
How to Make Fudge, Step-by-Step
This recipe for Perfect Chocolate Fudge comes to us from Dorothy Anderson of Ottawa, Kansas. “This rich chocolate fudge is sure to delight someone you love,” she says.
- 1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
- 3 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup baking cocoa
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yield: 64 pieces
Step 1: Prepare your pan
Start by lining an 8-inch square pan with foil. Then, grease the foil with 1-1/2 teaspoons of butter. This will help your fudge release easily from the pan when it’s finished.
Step 2: Boil the ingredients
Next, in a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir in the milk until smooth, then bring to a rapid boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Step 3: Cook to soft-ball stage
Once the mixture boils, insert a candy thermometer into the pan and cook, without stirring, until the thermometer reads 234°F, or soft-ball stage. Learn more about how to make candy.
Step 4: Add remaining ingredients and cool
Remove the mixture from the heat and add your vanilla and remaining butter. Be careful that you do not stir, though. That step comes later!
Step 5: Beat until thick
Let the mixture cool to 110°F. Then, beat with a spoon until the fudge thickens and just begins to lose its gloss. Immediately spread the mixture into your prepared pan and let cool completely.
Step 6: Set and serve
Ahh, finally—it’s time to dig in! Using the foil liner, gently lift the fudge out of the pan. Peel the foil away and discard, then cut the fudge into 1-inch squares. Serve and enjoy!
Psst! These fudge recipes taste like vacation.
What are the best toppings for fudge?
When it comes to fudge toppings, your sweet tooth is the limit! Feel free to add:
- Crushed candies
- Chopped nuts
- Glazed bacon
- Dried fruit
- Peanut butter or Nutella swirl
- Cookie crumbs
How long does fudge last?
It depends. Most fudge will last for one to two weeks when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also prolong the life of your fudge by storing it in the fridge or freezer. Fudge that has gone past its prime is typically rock hard or soft and gooey. Pay attention to your add-ins, too. Nuts have a tendency to spoil, and pieces of cookie can get stale. Here’s more on how long fudge lasts.
How do you thicken fudge?
If your fudge won’t set, there are a couple of things that could have gone wrong. It’s possible that the mixture wasn’t cooked to the right temperature or beaten long enough. To fix it, you can try to thicken the mixture with powdered sugar or mix-ins. Or, return the fudge to the stove, add about 1-1/2 cups of water and reheat until the mixture is once again at the soft-ball stage. Beat and set the fudge again, according to the recipe instructions.
Is there a way to soften fudge?
If your fudge is on the harder side, you can soften it by storing it on the counter, rather than in the refrigerator. The warmer storage temperature should keep the fudge a bit softer. But keep an eye out, hard fudge is a sign that your candy might be past its prime.
What makes fudge grainy?
Sugar crystals. The best way to avoid them forming in your fudge is to resist the temptation to stir your mixture once it boils. Wait until everything cools before breaking out the spoon.
What is the soft ball test?
When making candy, there are a number of tests that can help cooks ensure that their mixture has reached the right temperature and consistency. (This is especially helpful if you’re working without a thermometer). For fudge, you’ll want to use the soft ball test. When you think your fudge mixture is at or near the 234°F mark, drop a small amount of the hot candy mixture into cold water. Once cool (and removed from the water) the ball should flatten immediately and run over your finger.
Why isn’t my fudge setting?
If your fudge doesn’t set, it likely never got hot enough. In order to set up firm, fudge needs to reach at least 234°F, as indicated by a candy thermometer. Check out these other common fudge making mistakes almost everyone makes.
Can I freeze fudge to make it set?
We wouldn’t recommend freezing your fudge to get it to set. Freezing can cause the fudge to cool unevenly and too quickly, messing up the texture of the fudge. Instead, let your fudge set on the counter until it reaches room temperature and then store it in the fridge.