Easy Holiday Hard Candy Recipe

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This Holiday Hard Candy Recipe is a fun, easy way to add a little variety to your food gifts this Christmas. And when I say it’s easy, I mean it: if you can boil water and read a thermometer you can make these holiday hard candies!

Holiday Hard Candy Recipe

Holiday Hard Candy recipe in bowl

A Holiday Food Gift That’s NOT More Cookies

I’m always on the lookout for something different to add to Christmas goody platters and food gifts. I just feel that, by the middle of December, we’re all secretly groaning about getting yet another plate of baked goods.

So, why not add something no one else is making? This year, Holiday Hard Candy Recipe is my “something different,” and the response has been excellent!

Use Flavoring Oils NOT Extracts

As far as the flavors, you can use any food-grade essential oil. I went with these Lorann Oils Fruit Flavors and chose cherry for the red candies and apple for the green.

TIP: Flavoring oils and extracts aren’t the same things. In this hard candy recipe, you want oils. They must be food-grade, too, not the kinds you put in your diffuser.

Hard Candy-Making Tips

Candy-making can be an adventure, but it doesn’t have to leave a horrible mess.

Liquid food coloring can stain porous surfaces like enamel-covered pans, plastic utensils, and wood spoons. Stick with metal or glass instead. (You may also want to see how to get food coloring stains out of clothing.)

To clean up after you’re done, wash everything in the dishwasher on a hot-temperature cycle. If you don’t have a dishwasher, soaking your cooking utensils in hot water will dissolve the sugar.

How to Make Hard Candy

Before you print the recipe below, here’s a visual walkthrough so you can see how easy this Holiday Hard Candy Recipe is to make.

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Combine Ingredients in the Sauce Pan

Candy ingredients on stovetop

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally and bring it to a boil. If you’re trying to avoid high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), don’t worry: light corn syrup is not the same thing.

Start Monitoring the Temperature

Candy thermometer in pan

When the mixture starts boiling, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan, or you won’t get an accurate reading.

Continue cooking until the temperature reaches 300°F. This is known as the “hard-crack stage.” You can double-check whether it’s reached the right stage by dropping a tiny amount in a cup of very cold water. Use a spoon to fish out the drop and give it a bite. If it crunches, it’s reached the right stage.

Making Hard Candy Without a Mold

You can make hard candy without molds. The pictures below show how.

If you do to use candy molds like these, wipe a bit of butter or oil in them before pouring in the molten candy. Place silicone candy molds on a baking sheet or another firm surface, and don’t move them until the candy is set.

Stir in Color and Flavor then Set

Hard candy poured into foil-lined pan

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and take out the thermometer.

Stir in your chosen flavor and coloring.

Pour into the foil-lined pan or candy molds if you’re using them. (If using molds, you can skip the rest of these steps. Just let your candy cool, pop them out, and enjoy!)

Score and Let Set Some More

Candy scored by knife into squares until it sets

The candy is going to cool from the top down. To make it into pieces, you need to score it into 1/2-inch squares using a pizza cutter or table knife.

If the line doesn’t hold, give it another minute or two and try again.

Snap into Squares

Cooled hard candy recipe snapped into squares

Wait 20 or so minutes for it to cool completely. Break the candy into squares, and you’re done!

Holiday Hard Candy

An easy, sweet treat that makes a beautiful food gift. If you can boil water and measure sugar, you can make holiday hard candies!
Print Recipe
Holiday Hard Candy - Choose your favorite flavors and colors
Prep Time:2 mins
Cook Time:20 mins
Resting Time:25 mins
Total Time:47 mins


  • Saucepan
  • Candy thermometer
  • Candy Molds (optional)


  • cups granulated white sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup light-colored, not "lite"!
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp. food-grade flavored oil
  • Liquid food coloring 5-15 drops, depending on desired intensity


  • Line an 8x8x2 inch pan with foil. Use oil or cooking spray to grease it. (If using candy molds, set them on a baking sheet for support and lightly coat them with butter or cooking spray.)
  • Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Clip a candy thermometer onto the edge of the pan, taking care the bulb doesn't touch the bottom of the pan. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 300°F/150°C (hard crack stage).
    To make sure it's reached the proper stage, drop a tiny amount in a cup full of ice water then fish it out with a spoon. Take a bite — if it crunches, it's ready. If not, wait a minute then try again.
  • Working quickly, remove the pan from the heat. Take out the thermometer and stir in the coloring and flavoring. Pour the candy into the foil-lined pan or sprayed molds. 
  • If using a foil-lined pan, score the candy into 1/2-inch squares using a pizza cutter or butter knife. If the lines don't hold shape, wait 2 minutes then try again. 
  • Wait 20 minutes then separate the candy into squares, or pop it out of the candy molds. Enjoy! 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 49kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 3mg | Sugar: 13g | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg
Servings: 45 candies
Calories: 49kcal
Author: Katie Berry

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  1. What happens if the candy doesn’t set. Can you reheat it to get harder.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Dianna,
      I’m sorry yours didn’t set properly. Reheating works, but be sure to keep an eye on it to the mixture doesn’t cook off too much liquid.

      Before doing that, I’d suggest testing your candy thermometer to make sure it’s accurate. Many times they’re off by 10-20 degrees. The easiest way to test a candy thermometer is by bringing a pot of water to boil then inserting the thermometer. As with testing the temperature of candy, don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot or you’ll get an incorrect read. In boiling water, it should read 212°F. If it does not, then you need to take the difference into consideration when testing your candy.

      Alternatively, if they’re close to set but not quite, you could dust them with powdered sugar and consider them soft candies. 🙂