How to Make Fudge from Scratch (and Customize the Flavor!)

Master how to make fudge from scratch to enjoy this decadent chocolate dessert anytime a cocoa craving strikes.

You might be most familiar with seeing chocolate fudge as part of dessert spreads around winter holidays. But it's so simple to master how to make fudge from scratch (not to mention it's so delicious to savor the fruit of your labor) that we think this homemade candy should be an anytime treat! Fudge is always a no-bake dessert and can be completely stove- and oven-free if you follow our method for how to make microwave fudge. That means it's a chocolate dessert idea that will keep your oven cool on even the steamiest days of summer. As you prepare to learn how to make fudge from scratch, you'll need to gather a handful of ingredients. Most fudge recipes require just four ingredients—chocolate, sugar, butter, and milk of some sort—and occasionally feature other toppings or mix-ins (more on that later!).

Candy-Bar Fudge
Karla Conrad

How to Make Homemade Fudge on the Stove Top

There's only one real secret for making old-fashioned fudge as amazing as your favorite candy shop's fudge: It's essential to cook the ingredients to the proper temperature to create a sugar syrup, then cool that properly to achieve the best smooth, firm, and, well, fudgy texture.

Test Kitchen Tip: The steps below are required to succeed at old-fashioned fudge. Alternatively, you can omit the need for a candy thermometer and increase your chance for success using our Easy Chocolate Fudge recipe, which calls for a jar of marshmallow creme for texture and flavor and eliminates the need for special tools.

Start by choosing a fudge recipe as an ingredients guide, then follow these general tips and tricks to discover how to make chocolate fudge.

When the mixture is super hot, any contact with uncooked sugar molecules that may be on the side of the pan can cause the mixture to crystallize and seize. The mixture will become grainy and hard. If this happens, you'll have to start over, so be sure to stir carefully while heating the mixture so no sugar is left behind.

Step 1: Prepare the Fudge Pan.

The first step in how to make fudge is lining the pan. The best pan for fudge varies based on how much fudge you want to make, so simply use the size called for in your recipe. This is often an 8x8-inch square baking pan or a 9x13-inch pan.

Boil Frosting
Blaine Moats

To line the pan, shape a piece of foil around the outside of the pan. Place the foil inside the pan, pressing along the edges to fit, then lightly butter the bottom and sides of the foil to prevent the fudge from sticking to the pan.

Step 2: Cook the Fudge to Soft-Ball Stage.

Combine the fudge recipe ingredients in a saucepan. Traditional fudge recipes generally call for evaporated milk, sugar, butter, and chocolate. Choose a saucepan with a heavy bottom or one that's lined with a nonstick material to keep the fudge from burning.

Cook the fudge over medium-high until mixture boils, then clip a thermometer ($11, Target) to the side of the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Make sure the thermometer bulb is completely covered with liquid, not just foam, and that it does not touch the pan bottom during the heating process. This ensures an accurate reading.

Continue cooking until this syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (234°F to 238°F), stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon only as necessary to prevent sticking. Recognizing the soft-ball stage is crucial as you learn how to make fudge, and a thermometer can make this easy.

If a thermometer is not available, use the cold-water test to determine the soft-ball stage. Shortly before fudge reaches the minimum cooking time, spoon a few drops of the hot mixture into a cup of very cold water. Using your fingers, form the drops into a ball. When you remove the ball from the water, if it instantly flattens and runs between your fingers, the mixture has reached the required temperature.

Test Kitchen Tip: Always test your candy thermometer before making your first batch of fudge; high altitude can cause a variation of several degrees. To test for altitude variations, clip the thermometer to a saucepan filled with water. Heat the water until boiling. Continue boiling the water for 10 minutes. At this time, the thermometer should register 212°F. If there is any variation, you will need to adjust the thermometer reading by that number of degrees when you cook candy.

Step 3: Cool and Beat the Fudge.

Cool the fudge to 110°F, then use a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula to beat the fudge mixture vigorously and continuously. When the fudge stiffens slightly, it's time to add any other mix-ins, such as chopped nuts or chocolate chips, you desire. Continue beating until the fudge becomes very thick and starts to lose its sheen.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you're wondering "what is sheen when making fudge?" it's the glossy appearance at this step of the fudge-making process. The moment fudge's sheen begins to fade, put down the spoon. If you continue mixing past this point, you may end up with rock-hard results.

Step 4: Pour the Fudge into the Pan.

Pour the mixture into the buttered foil-lined fudge pan, spreading evenly. Do not scrape the saucepan; the scrapings will likely have a stiffer, less creamy texture. If the fudge becomes too stiff, try kneading it with your hands until softened, then press it into the pan.

Step 5: Cool and Cut the Fudge.

Cover the pan and chill for 2 to 3 hours or until firm. Use the foil to lift it out of the pan, then cut the fudge into squares or shape your fudge pieces with miniature cookie cutters.

Now the most fun part of how to make fudge: Sample a piece to see how you did! If you plan to share these with guests within a day—say, at a bake sale or party, or as a potluck dessert—consider transferring squares to mini cupcake liners for a tidy grab-and-go sweet treat.

Two-Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge
Emily Hemmingsen and Jake Sternquist

How to Make Microwave Fudge

If you prefer an even easier-to-make and simpler-to-clean-up method, learn how to make microwave fudge. There's no thermometer required—and just one bowl. Try our Peppermint Tuxedo Fudge as your example for ingredient amounts.

As explained in Step 1 above, prepare a fudge pan by lining it with foil and coating it with butter.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate pieces with sweetened condensed milk and a spoonful of water. Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

Pour the melted mixture into the fudge pan, cool for 30 minutes, then slice and store.

How to Customize Your Homemade Fudge

If you're interested in how to make peanut butter fudge, how to make vanilla fudge, or how to make chocolate fudge with mix-ins and other flavor boosters, we've tried—and adore—these nine twists:

  • Peanut Butter Fudge: Opt for peanut butter instead of dark or milk chocolate.
  • Mint Chocolate Fudge: Add ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract.
  • Vanilla Fudge: Use white chocolate instead of dark or milk chocolate and add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Cookies and Cream Fudge: Fold in 1 cup of chopped Oreo cookies.
  • Pumpkin Fudge: This fudge calls for canned pumpkin, marshmallow creme, and cinnamon-flavored chips.
  • Birthday Cake Fudge: Top the fudge with rainbow sprinkles.
  • Mocha Fudge: Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of instant coffee crystals and garnish with ½ cup chopped chocolate-covered coffee beans.
  • Bacon-Covered Chocolate Fudge: Immediately after transferring the chocolate mixture to the fudge pan, sprinkle on crumbled crispy bacon.
  • Christmas Fudge: Come holiday time, little looks more festive than chopped pistachio and dried cranberry-spiked white chocolate.

Chopped toasted nuts, cereal pieces, and cookie crumbs are also among our favorite fudge fold-ins or toppings. Feel free to get creative!

Salted Caramel Fudge
Blaine Moats

How to Store Fudge

The best way to store fudge depends on when you aim to enjoy it. You can store most fudge recipes in an airtight container ($10, Target) in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Short on space and need to stack layers of fudge in a single container? Place a sheet of waxed paper between the layers to keep them from sticking together.

If you plan to freeze the fudge, it might be wise to wrap each piece or a food gift-size portion individually so it's easy to thaw a bit at a time.

How to Fix Any Potential Fudge Flaws

Texture is the most common challenge as you master making fudge from scratch.

  • How to Make Fudge Harder: If your fudge won't set, you may have beaten it for too short of a time, or perhaps it didn't reach the exact temperature. No worries; we can fix this. Try to thicken with powdered sugar, a little at a time and mixing between additions, until you reach your desired consistency.
  • How to Make Fudge Softer: If your homemade fudge errs on the harder side, try storing it on the counter at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator. Enjoy within 1 week.

Now that you're a whiz at how to make homemade fudge (and how to make fudge your own with a wide variety of flavors and shapes), you'll never be more than about 15 minutes of prep time away from a decadent dessert.

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