Learn how easy it is to make rich, smooth, creamy fudge using simple ingredients and just the right techniques so it turns out perfect every time.
How to Make Perfect Fudge
Fudge is a cooked candy typically made with sugar, butter, and dairy, plus flavorings such as dark chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, marshmallow, maple syrup, nuts, and even pumpkin. The trick to good homemade fudge is to cook the ingredients to the right temperature to form a sugar syrup, and cool the mixture properly so the texture of the fudge turns out smooth and firm, but soft enough to cut.
Here's what you'll need to make fudge from scratch on your stovetop.
Saucepan: Choose a heavy, straight-sided metal saucepan that holds about twice the volume of your fudge recipe. A heavy pan distributes heat evenly so the ingredients are less likely to scorch when they boil at high temperature. Using a large saucepan gives the ingredients room to expand when they boil.
Candy thermometer: Use a candy thermometer that clamps onto the side of the saucepan. Why? Candy-making is a science as well as an art, and relies on exact temperatures to make ingredients—especially sugar—behave properly. A candy thermometer is the best way to ensure your ingredients are at the right temperature in each stage of making fudge; many candy thermometers are marked with the recommended temperatures for each kind of candy you make.
Wooden spoon: Choose one with a long handle for stirring.
Baking dish: This is the pan your fudge will cool in after it cooks. Use the size recommended in your recipe, otherwise a larger pan produces thinner pieces of fudge, and a smaller pan produces thicker pieces. To keep the fudge from sticking to the cooling pan, line it with non-stick foil or parchment paper, or coat it with cooking spray, butter, or a neutral oil.
Pastry brush (Optional): For oiling the sides of the saucepan and the cooling pan.
Long knife: For slicing the fudge neatly after it cools.
Top Tips for No-Fail Fudge
1. Follow Directions
The key to making smooth and creamy fudge is to follow the directions exactly. Use an accurate candy thermometer and allow the mixture to reach the temperatures called for in the recipe before moving to the next step. Add each ingredient in the order listed by the recipe.
2. Oil the Saucepan
Some candy-makers like to coat the sides of the saucepan with butter or oil before they even start cooking any kind of candy because it helps prevent boil-overs and keeps sugar crystals from sticking to the sides.
3. Know When and When NOT to Stir
Stir the ingredients to dissolve the sugar until the mixture comes to a boil. If your recipe uses milk, stirring will keep the mixture from curdling. But once it reaches about 236-238 degrees F/113-114 degrees C (the "soft-ball" stage), do not stir it or even shake the pan. Why? Stirring at the wrong time causes the sugar to form large crystals. That's the "graininess" that inexperienced fudge-makers complain about. Smooth fudge, on the other hand, has tiny sugar crystals that melt on the tongue.
4. Cool Correctly
When your fudge reaches 236-238 degrees F/113-114 degrees C, it's done; you should remove the pan from the heat so it won't continue to cook. If your recipe calls for adding butter, you can place it on top of the fudge now so it can start melting, but do not stir. The fudge needs to cool to 110 degrees F/43 degrees C before you can stir in the butter, nuts, or any other extra flavorings, and transfer it to the cooling pan.
5. Don't Scrape the Pan
When you're transferring the warm fudge from the saucepan to the cooling pan, don't scrape the sides or bottom of the saucepan or you may introduce unwanted sugar crystals into your finished fudge.
More Fudge Facts
For first-time candy makers: Look for recipes that call for corn syrup, marshmallows, or marshmallow crème. These ingredients prevent crystallization of sugar into large grains, so the texture of the fudge will remain smooth. Recipes using cream or condensed milk are less likely to curdle than regular milk.
No thermometer? No problem. To test the boiling mixture for doneness, drop a bit of it into a bowl of cold water. If it forms a ball that is soft enough to flatten between your fingers, the mixture is ready for cooling.
VIDEO: Old-Fashioned Fudge
Watch as we show you how to make a classic stovetop fudge recipe. You'll even see how to test the candy mixture for doneness without using a candy thermometer. Tip: No double-dipping. Always clean the mixture off the dipping spoon thoroughly between tests. Again, you don't want to inadvertently stir sugar crystals into the fudge to make it gritty.
For making fudge in your microwave, you'll need a large microwave-safe bowl, a wooden spoon, and the pan your fudge will cool in. Microwave fudge recipes usually include sweetened condensed milk as an ingredient because it is already a sugar syrup, and you're simply melting in other ingredients to make it into fudge.
More: Learn the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk.
Here's how to make creamy fudge in the microwave.
Fun with Fudge
Try these variations on a fudge theme:
Microwave Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Fudge: The recipe title says it all. Easy microwave peanut butter fudge is topped with melted chocolate and swirled with the edge of a knife to create a two-toned treat. You can also use this technique for making swirled white and dark chocolate fudge.
Chef John's Christmas Miracle Fudge: No-cook fudge for vegans made with coconut oil and honey. Watch the video to see how this clever recipe comes together, and get a smart tip for cooling this super-fast fudge in a silicone ice cube tray.
Pumpkin Fudge: A pumpkin-flavored fudge to munch while waiting for The Great Pumpkin to rise up out of the pumpkin patch.
Cherries and Chocolate Fudge: A microwave fudge recipe that'll crush the holiday food-gift competition.
Creamy Peanut Butter Fudge: While this popular stovetop fudge doesn't say to use a thermometer, you can certainly use one if you want to make sure you hit the right temperatures. Lorna gets great results without one, but you'll want to read her complete review to get her no-fail tips.