Homemade hard candy isn’t hard to make! Follow this easy hard candy recipe and the step-by-step instructions. Changing the flavor is simple and delicious!
First, let’s talk a little bit about the science behind candy making. Don’t leave! It’s cool, I promise. When you make this hard candy recipe, you mix up sugar and water. In the case of this recipe, it’s water, sugar, and corn syrup.
At room temperature, there is only a certain amount of sugar that water can dissolve. That’s why we have to heat the sugar and water when we make this hard candy recipe.
Basically, we are forcing more sugar to dissolve in the water, creating what is called a “supersaturated solution.” This happens at a certain temperature, which is why candy recipes usually specify the temperature you need to boil the sugar mixture at. You will need a thermometer for this recipe, I recommend this one!
When this supersaturated solution cools, the magic starts to happen. Because we packed a whole bunch of sugar molecules into the water, when they cool down they will need to do so in a super orderly manner. Super orderly = crystallization!
The size of the crystals is determined by how much agitation the solution encounters, in other words, how much you stir the candy. Stirring frequently yields small crystals, desirable in smooth candies like fudge. Not stirring yields large crystals, which is what we are going for when we make hard candy. Also why following the instructions precisely is important!
In this hard candy recipe, the only stirring happens before the sugar is dissolved and then after the mixture is taken off the heat if you are adding flavoring. Otherwise, you just let the color incorporate via the boiling action of the mixture. If you’re geeky like me, you can read more about the science behind candy making here.
If you do want to flavor your candy, I recommend using flavoring oils. They are much more potent than extracts. I have tried both and the extract flavor is very mild, even when a lot is used. Just be sure you are not leaning over the pot when you add them! They will make the mixture steam vigorously and that can burn easily.
I don’t usually use candy molds either. If you don’t have candy molds, you have a few options. The simplest method is to just pour your hard candy into a quarter or half sheet baking tray that has been sprayed with oil. Spread it out, if needed, and then when it’s hard, break it up and toss it with powdered sugar.
Option two is to free-form candies or suckers. This is most easily done when the mixture has cooled for just 1-2 minutes and is slightly thicker than it is just off the heat. Pour dollops of the mix onto parchment and let it harden.
Ingredients for the hard candy recipe
- Sugar: We need 2 cups of granulated sugar.
- Corn syrup: ⅔ cups of corn syrup is perfect for helping us to sweeten and thicken our candy.
- Water: We need ¾ cup of water to help dissolve our sugars.
- Food coloring: This is optional, but you can add in a little of any color you prefer, perfect for party themes.
- Flavoring oil: One teaspoon of flavoring oil is enough to make this recipe taste great if desired. I used cinnamon flavor in mine.
- Powdered sugar: We will need ¼ cup of powdered sugar to help coat our candy pieces later. This prevents sticking.
How to make hard tack candy
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3 quart saucepan.
- Over medium heat, cook the mixture until sugar is dissolved. Stir until the sugar is just dissolved and then stop stirring.
- Heat the mixture until it reaches 260 degrees F.
- Add in the food coloring if using.
- Continue to boil the mixture until it reaches 300 degrees F.
- Remove the pot from the heat and then add in the flavoring oil, if using. Do not lean over the pot when doing this as the steam can burn you.
- Stir the sugar until everything is combined.
- Pour the sugar mixture into a quarter sized baking sheet and allow it to harden. Break into bite-sized pieces and then toss in powdered sugar to coat.
- Optionally, you can also choose to pour the mixture into candy molds and harden it into shapes.
- Another option is to pour free-form candies onto a parchment lined sheet. After allowing the mixture to cool for a minute before pouring, this method becomes easier.
Homemade hard candy FAQs
While it doesn’t have any close expiration dates (practically none) homemade candy can still go bad but for reasons, you may not think. Humidity, temperature control, storage, and other things all come into play on the shelf life of candy. Your candy as it ages will become soft, sticky, chewy, and gooey so it’s best to enjoy it when it’s at its freshest for best results.
While you could freeze it, I do not recommend doing so. Hard candy once it begins to thaw will weep and become a sticky mess. For this reason, I highly recommend avoiding the idea altogether.
Your hard candy shouldn’t stick to the parchment paper because parchment paper is designed and made to withstand such recipes.
A lot of factors could be at play for making your candy chewy instead or hard as desired. For example, the storage and room’s humidity levels could be factors, but another one is how you made the candy.
If you didn’t allow the candy to get to the proper temperature before pouring into the pan or molds, the candy may not have reached the proper hard-ball stage needed to hold a hard texture once cooled.
Hardball stage is the name given to the part of the sugar/water boiling process when the sugar reaches about 260 degrees F and can be dropped in tiny amounts into a container of ice-cold water and instantly ball up in shape.
It usually takes about 10-12 minutes to get to this point while boiling the mixture and it’s very helpful to have a candy thermometer on hand for tracking the heat of the mixture as we want to go past this point and bring our mix closer to that 300 degrees F point.
Homemade Hard Candy Recipe
- 2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup corn syrup
- 3/4 cup water
- food coloring if desired
- 1 teaspoon flavoring oil if desired, I use cinnamon
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- In a 3 quart saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water.
- Over medium heat, stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Do not stir again.
- Heat until the mixture reaches 260 degrees F.
- Add food coloring, if desired.
- Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F.
- Remove from heat and add flavoring oil, if desired. Do not lean over the pot when you add the oil!! The steam can burn.
- Stir until combined.
- Pour into a quarter baking sheet and allow to harden. Brake into bitesized pieces and toss with powdered sugar.
- OR pour into candy molds and allow to harden.
- OR pour free-form candies onto parchment paper. I find this is easier after the mixture has cooled just slightly, about 1 minute.