How to Make Creamy, Melty Fudge (The Best Last-Minute Gift) (2024)

Many people have something that comes naturally to them in the kitchen. Full disclosure: Candy wasn’t mine. While I now boil sugar syrups with ease and whip up marshmallows on the reg, this wasn’t always the case.

In pastry school, I was regularly seeking help from a friend who was a candy natural (I would return the favor by showing her how to crimp the edges of her pies). That same friend and I had lengthy discussions about fudge while I researched this article: “Hey, hi, how are you… Let’s talk about fudge now please.” I made way too many batches and may be responsible for some cavities in my immediate loved ones in the near future.

But it was worth it: Fudge is so fun to make and a really great lesson in exactly how sugar works. Oh, and it’s an excellent gateway candy to future candy adventures.

Let's do this together:

  1. What is fudge?
  2. Ready your thermometer.
  3. Prep your equipment.
  4. Ingredients and how they work together.
  5. Cook, stirring; boil, stirring.
  6. Cool down.
  7. Agitate.
  8. Finishing and storing.

(Or skip straight to the recipes.)

1. What is fudge?

Fudge is made by boiling sugar, dairy, and flavoring to the soft ball stage. After it reaches the appropriate temperature, the mixture is left to cool. When it reaches the second, cooler temperature, it is agitated. This agitation causes the mixture to crystallize, which gives fudge its structure, all while maintaining its signature, creamy texture.

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It should be noted that while fudge is often associated with chocolate, it can be made in a variety of flavors—and chocolate is not a necessary ingredient to this sugar-based confection.

2. Ready your thermometer.

Fudge is very easy to make at home, but it requires an accurate thermometer for getting the results just right. If the fudge is overcooked, it will be crumbly, grainy, and/or brittle. If the fudge is undercooked, it will be very soft and won’t hold its shape well when cut (though I’ll say right here and now that it’s still really yummy this way, so always better to err on the side of undercooking when it comes to fudge: Melt it into your coffee, blend it into a milkshake, warm it up and make actual hot fudge). When I say over- or under- cooked, I’m talking about single degrees: 1 degree too hot can be grainy, 1 degree too cool can be loose. So it’s very important to have a good thermometer and to give it a quick test before you get started.

3. Prep your equipment.

You’ll want to ready the container you’ll be putting the finished fudge into (all three of the recipes included with this article use an 8- by 8-inch baking dish; you can use a 9-by-9 in a pinch, but just remember the pieces will be shorter).

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Top Comment:

“I made the chocolate fudge recipe as one of my Christmastime treats and loved it (so did many others). But could you perhaps give me some tips about how to make WHITE chocolate fudge? Thanks!”

— Julia P.

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I prepare it by lightly greasing the pan and then lining it with parchment (the layer of grease helps keep the parchment in place). I fold the paper and cut the edges to make it fit flush against the sides of the pan, leaving an excess on either side to help me pull the finished fudge out of the pan later. Grease the surface of the parchment well with butter (my recipes all use a tablespoon of butter for this).

You’ll also want to ready your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Butter the inside of the mixing bowl (my recipes use an additional tablespoon butter for this). Note: If you don’t have a mixer, butter the inside of a heat-safe bowl and ready a large wooden spoon: You can mix your fudge by hand instead!

Finally, you’ll need a relatively large pot. While the recipes won’t take up much room in the pot, they will bubble vigorously and are prone to bubbling over. Make sure your pot will have plenty of space for the mixture to bubble, and grab a heat-safe utensil ready for stirring (a Silicone spatula is best).

And, of course, your accurate candy thermometer!

4. Ingredients and how they work together.

Fudge will always contain the following:

  • Sugar
  • Dairy (milk, cream, butter, or a combination)
  • Corn syrup
  • Flavoring

This is the same ingredient list that comprises soft caramels, just in different ratios. One main difference is the quantity of corn syrup (if you’re worried about using corn syrup, read this). Corn syrup prevents (or at least drastically reduces) the other sugars present in the recipe from forming the crystals that create a grainy, unpleasant texture. When you make caramels, you want to avoid crystallization, which can make the should-be-smooth caramels gritty and grainy and so corn syrup is added in decent quantities (crystallization can still happen, but the corn syrup really helps).

Fudge, on the other hand, needs to crystallize eventually (at the end of the process). So fudge recipes contain less corn syrup; instead preventing crystallization, the corn syrup sort of just slows the process down. There’s just enough corn syrup in the recipe to control the crystallization: The fudge will be less likely to crystallize during cooking, and will crystallize more slowly when agitated, forming smaller crystals (for a smoother, creamier texture).

When it comes to dairy, the main thing to note is fat content. Too much fat can destroy the delicate balance of the fudge ratio. A good way to understand is by comparing the chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter fudge recipes included in this article.

  • The chocolate fudge uses milk as the base: This lower-fat dairy allows for the addition of chocolate and cocoa powder. Butter is then added for richness in the proper quantity.
  • Similarly, the peanut butter fudge has a decent quantity of peanut butter in it, so milk is used as the base, and less butter is added.
  • The vanilla fudge, on the other hand, uses cream as the base, and therefore has no added butter in the fudge itself (just butter used for greasing the pan and the bowl).

Flavorings are usually added from the very beginning of the fudge process, with the exception of extracts and ground spices, which are added at the very end of cooking. Additions like chopped nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate chips can be folded into the batter after it's agitated or sprinkled on top of the fudge before it has cooled.

5. Cook, stirring; boil, stirring.

It is important for some sugar syrups to never be stirred once they come to a boil, as this can immediately begin crystallization. Fudge is a different story. Due to the large quantity of dairy enrichments, it’s important to stir throughout cooking to prevent the bottom from scorching and the whole batch from cooking unevenly.

It’s also important to start the process over relatively low heat; I place the pot on the stove and turn it to medium-low. Stir it constantly at the beginning to help combine the mixture (and evenly distribute flavoring ingredients like peanut butter, chocolate, or vanilla bean), and also to help the sugar dissolve.

Once the mixture is visibly smooth—meaning the sugar is dissolved, the chocolate is melted, the peanut butter is melted, etc.—then turn the heat up to medium. If you haven’t already attached the candy thermometer, attach it now and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the syrup is boiling, you don’t need to stir constantly, but you should be stirring very frequently. Make sure you get the sides and base of the pot to avoid scorching or sticking.

Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture reads 235° F on the thermometer. The mixture will come up to 220 to 225° F very quickly—and the last few degrees much more slowly. Keep a close eye on it. It can be smart to allow for 1 to 2 degrees of carryover cooking, but if your thermometer is accurate and you work quickly, going right to 235 is no problem. A fudge overcooked by just a few degrees can have unfortunate results (grainy, crumbly, brittle), and a fudge undercooked by just a few degrees will be very soft and won’t hold its shape.

6. Cool down.

When the mixture reaches the proper temperature, stir in any extracts and remove the pot from the heat.

Pour the mixture into your prepared, buttered bowl. Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the bowl, making sure it’s as submerged in the mixture as possible. At this point, do not stir the mixture at all. If your recipe has added butter, it's often added now, to begin the cooling process. Dapple it evenly across the surface of the fudge and let it melt/rest undisturbed; it will get incorporated during agitation.

You'll notice that some candy recipes (including some fudge recipes) will have you pour the mixture directly from the pot into the prepared baking dish and cool it to room temperature. These recipes rely on a natural crystallization: The mixture will slowly form chains of sugar crystals while it cools. Fudge made in this way forms larger crystals, resulting in a firmer fudge. It’s not brittle or crumbly, at least not unpleasantly so.

By cooling the fudge prior to agitation (like in the recipes included in this article), on the other hand, you'll get much smaller, finer sugar crystals and a finished fudge with a smooth, creamy texture.

Cool the mixture until it reads 120° F on the thermometer—no stirring. This can take 1 to 1/2 hours.

7. Agitate.

After the fudge cools to the appropriate temperature, it is ready to be agitated. For ease and evenness, I like to use my mixer. I attach the bowl directly to the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix the fudge on medium speed until it reaches the appropriate texture.

What exactly is the appropriate texture? Good question. This is the hardest part about making fudge—and it gets easier with practice! During mixing, the fudge will lighten in color and lose its shine, becoming more matte in appearance. It will also thicken noticeably.

My test is to lift the paddle out of the fudge and let it fall into the bowl. The mixture should be thick and should hold its shape when it falls. In a mixer, this will take 3 to 4 minutes. You can absolutely mix the fudge by hand: Just be sure you pour it into a heat-safe bowl to cool, then mix with a wooden spoon or Silicone spatula vigorously; by hand it will take 4 to 6 minutes.

8. Finishing and storing.

Pour the finished fudge into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. If the mixture is very firm, you can also place a piece of plastic wrap over it and press it to the edges with your hand. Let the mixture cool at room temperature until fully set and crystallized. This will take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Try not to move or agitate the fudge while it sets, as this can make the surface crack slightly.

When the fudge is set, use the excess parchment to pull it out of the pan. I like to cut my fudge into 1-inch squares. Some recipes will suggest “scoring” the fudge before it cools to help it cut more evenly. If you believe you may have overcooked the fudge, I’d recommend this. If your fudge is properly cooked, however, it will cut perfectly at the end.

Cut fudge has a long shelf life, but is very prone to drying out. It’s ideal to wrap each piece or store them in a very airtight container. Fudge will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months (thaw before eating).

Ready for the recipes?

Chocolate Fudge View Recipe

Ingredients

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (71 g)
2 1/2 cups sugar (500 g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (81 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 g)
1 cup whole milk (230 g)
2 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder (11 g)
4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped (113 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (71 g)
2 1/2 cups sugar (500 g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (81 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 g)
1 cup whole milk (230 g)
2 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder (11 g)
4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped (113 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
Peanut Butter Fudge View Recipe

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (57 g)
1 3/4 cups sugar (350 g)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar (320 g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (81 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 g)
1 1/3 cups whole milk (307 g)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (113 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (57 g)
1 3/4 cups sugar (350 g)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar (320 g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (81 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 g)
1 1/3 cups whole milk (307 g)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (113 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 g)
Vanilla Fudge View Recipe

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (28 g)
2 cups sugar (400 g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (81 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 g)
1 cup heavy cream (235 g)
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (28 g)
2 cups sugar (400 g)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (81 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 g)
1 cup heavy cream (235 g)
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
How to Make Creamy, Melty Fudge (The Best Last-Minute Gift) (2024)

FAQs

What gives fudge the creamy texture and dull appearance? ›

The addition of egg whites and gelatin will coat the sugar crystals and keep them small. This results in creamy fudge. Shhh! It's a Fudgy Secret!

What is the secret to smooth fudge? ›

How to Make Smooth, Creamy Fudge
  • Melt the sugar gently. ...
  • Resist stirring. ...
  • Potential grainy moment: We know it's hard to not stir, but fight the urge! ...
  • We'll say it again: resist stirring. ...
  • Potential grainy moment: If you stir your fudge before it cools to 115 ° F crystals can form. ...
  • Now stir it just enough.
Dec 20, 2023

How to make fudge creamy and not grainy? ›

Grainy Fudge

To avoid this issue, swirl the pan instead of stirring it with a spoon. You can use a wet pastry brush to wipe down any sugar that sticks to the sides of the pot.

What gives fudge its firm texture? ›

Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don't feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth. While you ultimately want crystals to form, it's important that they don't form too early.

Why isn't my fudge creamy? ›

It might be that you haven't dissolved all the sugar before boiling the fudge mixture. It could be that there just wasn't enough fluid or fat to enable the sugar to dissolve or it might even be that the fudge wasn't beaten long enough or hard enough. All of these factors could be the cause of grainy fudge.

How do you make fudge firmer? ›

​Harden the fudge:​ Place your container or tins in the fridge for 2 hours, which is the time it takes for the fudge to set. Once it's hardened, cut the fudge into 12 pieces or remove it from the muffin tins. Store in the fridge or the freezer (if you don't devour it right away).

What not to do when making fudge? ›

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels
  1. Using the Wrong Pan. All candy and confections start by melting sugar. ...
  2. Stirring the Sugar. ...
  3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer. ...
  4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining. ...
  5. Skipping the Cooking Spray. ...
  6. Scraping the Pot. ...
  7. Using a Cold Knife to Slice.
Dec 16, 2015

When should you not make fudge? ›

Humidity can cause fudge to boil over in the pan or stay soft when set, so try to avoid working on humid days if at all possible. If waiting for a less humid day isn't feasible, you'll need to boil your fudge at a slightly higher temperature than usual — or just order some delicious fudge from Wockenfuss!

How do you make fudge less chewy? ›

Chewy fudge is often the result of undercooking. To fix it, you can reheat the fudge mixture over low heat and continue cooking until it reaches the proper temperature. Be sure to use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature accurately.

Why did my fudge turn out like taffy? ›

If the temperature is too low, the fudge will be too soft and sticky, and if it's too high, it will turn into a hard, crumbly mess. The ideal temperature to cook fudge is between 232-234 degrees F (111-112 degrees C).

Will powdered sugar thicken fudge? ›

How to thicken your fudge? If your fudge it noticeably thin, you may want to add more chocolate. If you are out of chocolate, you can also add 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered sugar. This, however, can make the fudge very sweet.

Should you stir fudge while it's boiling? ›

You should mix the cream, butter, and sugar when making your fudge, but put down the spoon once it has reached its boiling point. Stirring while your sugar mixture is boiling will only form sugar crystals and make your fudge crunchy rather than silky smooth.

Why shouldn't you stir fudge after it reaches the correct temperature? ›

After cooking, the mixture must cool before being stirred in order to make it crystallize. This cooling period is essential: this is what determines the size of sugar crystals which, remember, should be as tiny as possible. Ideally, the syrup should cool to a temperature of around 43 to 50 °C (110 to 122 °F).

Why did my fudge not get hard? ›

The main reason is that your Fudge has not reached the optimum temperature. If your mixture only reaches 110 or 112 degrees Celsius it will always be soft. That's why we recommend investing in a sugar thermometer. Another reason your Fudge is not setting is that the ratio of liquid to sugar is too high.

What does cream of tartar do in fudge? ›

Cream of tartar is used in caramel sauces and fudge to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing while cooking. It also prevents cooling sugars from forming brittle crystals, this is why it's the secret ingredient in snickerdoodles!

Why is my fudge not shiny? ›

Beating the mixture encourages the formation of small sugar crystals, which leads to the crumbly texture. The crystals may not be noticeable in themselves but the fudge mixture will thicken and turn from shiny to matte in appearance.

Why is some fudge hard and some soft? ›

If you don't heat your fudge to a high enough temperature, you'll end up with a soft product. And if you heat the mixture too much, your fudge may be harder than you'd like.

What does cream of tartar do to fudge? ›

Cream of tartar is used in caramel sauces and fudge to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing while cooking. It also prevents cooling sugars from forming brittle crystals, this is why it's the secret ingredient in snickerdoodles!

What is the white fuzz on fudge? ›

It's actually just a scientific process called “chocolate bloom”. There are two types of this bloom: sugar bloom and fat bloom. Sugar bloom happens when moisture comes in contact with the chocolate - it dissolves the sugar crystals on the chocolate's surface, leaving a white, powdery look.

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