Hard Candy

36 Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Cool 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Hard Candy is the perfect sweet treat to give as a gift or enjoy yourself. Make them with lemon, orange, or strawberry flavors.

This is such an easy Homemade Candy recipe you can follow to create multiple Hard Candy flavors. If you’re a homemade candy fan, be sure to also try recipes for chewy candy like Sour Patch Grapes or Birthday Cake Fudge.

About Our Hard Candy Recipe

Even first-time candy makers, can successfully make this Hard Candy recipe. This is an old-fashioned recipe that only takes a few ingredients to make. You’ll combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a dutch oven or heavy saucepan and cook it into a syrup. Then add the flavors and colors of your choosing. After that, just pour the candy, and let it dry before breaking it into pieces.

The best tip for making sure your candy turns out right is getting the right cooking temperature for the syrup. This is easy to do if you have a candy thermometer to check the cooking temperature.

This recipe has instructions for lemon, strawberry, or orange Hard Candies, so you can make whatever type of candy you like best. If you want to make all three, you can divide the ingredients into three separate pans before adding food coloring and flavor. Then let the candy harden in separate square cake pans. After breaking the candy into bite-size pieces you can mix the finished candies all together in a candy jar.

“Can Hard Candy be made ahead?”

Hard Candy will keep for a while. You do not need to prioritize prepping this candy fresh. Go ahead and make it days ahead of when you’d like to serve it, if you like. This way, you’ll have some hard candy around for when you have a sweet tooth until it’s time to share them.

Hard Candy Ingredients

  • White Sugar: One of the most important components of this candy recipe is sugar. As you cook the sugar with the other ingredients it will melt into molten sugar. Continue to cook the white sugar until it fully turns into liquid.
  • Light Corn Syrup: Along with the sugar, you’ll also use light corn syrup. Like the sugar, it sweetens the candy recipe. However, it’s essential to have both sweeteners because the corn syrup stops sugar crystals from forming, resulting in a smooth syrup-like mixture.
  • Water: You’ll need 1 cup of water to mix with the corn syrup and granulated sugar. As you cook the hot candy mixture, the sugar dissolves into the water, and some the water cooks down to make a thickened, sweet mixture. It’s important to cook the mixture to the proper temperature so that the water cooks down.
  • Food Coloring: You can add any color you like to hard candy, though it’s nice to pick colors that match your flavor of choice. Whichever color you’re using, only add a few drops of food coloring at a time. Mix in the food coloring, and add more as needed until you reach the desired color.
  • Flavoring Ingredients: To flavor the homemade candy recipe, you can use strawberry extract, orange extract, or lemon extract. These are a great way to flavor the simple, homemade candy recipe. You can also add different extracts to make your favorite flavor combination.
Hard Candy Ingredients

Kitchen Tools & Equipment

  • Baking Sheet: Grab a baking sheet with a 1-inch wall to hold and cool your candy. The wall is important so the liquid candy doesn’t spill over the side.
  • Nonstick Cooking Spray: Make sure to prep your pan with an oil spray so that the Hard Candy doesn’t get stuck to the pan. You can also prep the pan by covering it with nonstick foil for ease.
  • Large Dutch Oven: Use a large dutch oven that can handle the amount of liquid, and the boiling that will be going in inside the pot.
  • Whisk: You will need a wire whisk to combine the ingredients and to whisk while your candy comes up to temperature.
  • Candy Thermometer: The Candy Thermometer you use should be able to clip to the side of the dutch oven so you can watch the candy as it bubbles.
  • Kitchen Mallet: Use your trusty kitchen mallet to break the candy into bite-sized pieces.

How to Make Hard Candy

Time needed: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

  1. Prep Time

    Get out a rimmed baking sheet with a 1-inch wall, and spray the baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.

  2. Mix Ingredients

    Add the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water to a large dutch oven, and whisk well.Hard Candy ingredients in a pot

  3. Boil the Candy

    Turn the stovetop to medium heat as you continue whisking until it comes to a boil. Stop whisking once it starts boiling. Then bring the temperature of the syrup to between 300 and 310 degrees, using a candy thermometer to check the temperature. It will take about 20-30 minutes to come to the right temperature.Hard Candy boiling

  4. Lemon Flavor

    Remove the sugar mixture from the heat, and add your choice of flavoring and food coloring. For lemon candy, whisk in 1 tablespoon of lemon extract and ½ teaspoon of yellow food coloring. Lemon Hard Candy being flavored

  5. Strawberry Flavor

    Add 1 tablespoon of strawberry extract and ½ teaspoon of red food coloring to make Strawberry Candy. Stir until completely blended into the syrup mixture.Strawberry Hard Candy being flavored

  6. Orange Flavor

    Add 1 tablespoon of orange extract and ½ teaspoon of orange food coloring for orange hard candy. Stir until completely blended into the syrup mixture.Orange hard candy being flavored

  7. Cool

    Pour the candy mixture into the prepared baking sheet, and tilt the cookie sheet to spread the mixture evenly. Then dust powdered sugar over the top. Let the slab of candy cool for 1 hour. Use a kitchen mallet to break the hardened candy into bite-sized pieces. Remove from the pan into a candy bowl or jar and enjoy the homemade Hard Candy.Strawberry Hard Candy being poured

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts
Hard Candy
Amount Per Serving
Calories 125
% Daily Value*
Sodium 9mg0%
Potassium 0.66mg0%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Sugar 32g36%
Calcium 2mg0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

Get your old-fashioned Hard Candy just right with these helpful tips.

  1. Watch Temperature Carefully: The ability of your rock candy mixture to get to that crack stage all depends on the temperature it reaches. 300 to 310 degrees is essential. If the temperature is too cool, you will have a softer candy as a result.
  2. Whisking: It is essential to whisk continuously until your candy starts to boil. The sugar needs to be distributed evenly, and not clump in one spot as it comes up to temperature. Then it will be important for to stop whisking so your candy can crystalize properly.

How to Store Hard Candy

  • Serve: Make sure to let the Hard Candy completely cool and harden before breaking them apart and serving.
  • Store: To keep the candy fresh, place them in an airtight container and keep them stored in a dry, cool place. The candy pieces can stay good for 2-3 weeks.
  • Freeze: You can also freeze this recipe. After breaking the candy into pieces, place them in a freezer bag or another freezer safe airtight container. The recipe can stay good frozen for up to 12 months. Then let the candy pieces thaw at room temperature until you’re ready to serve them.

Ideas to Serve Hard Candy

These are a great treat to give as a gift, or have around the house for a sweet tooth. Put them in small bags to give as gifts, housewarming presents, or add to snack baskets. Set some out in a bowl as a part of a dessert board, or even a sweet addition to an appetizer board. You can also enjoy them after dinner, similar to how you’d have Mints.

FAQs for Hard Candy

How do you make hard candy stay hard?

If your Hard Candy recipe isn’t staying solid, it’s likely because there’s too much liquid in the candy mixture. That’s why it’s important to cook the sugar mixture to 300 degrees, so most of the water cooks out. It’s also important to store the Hard Candy in a cool place. Otherwise, it can start to melt.

How long does it take for hard candy to harden?

It should only take your candy syrup about 1 hour to harden to the crack stage. If after an hour, the candy slab is still sticky, it could be that the liquid never got hot enough. It could also be that your house is too warm. Try putting the pan in the fridge to see if the candy hardens at a cooler temperature.

Close up of three flavors of Hard Candy.

Recipe Card

Hard Candy

Hard Candy is the perfect sweet treat to give as a gift or enjoy yourself. Make them with lemon, orange, or strawberry flavors.
Yield 36 Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Candy
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


Lemon Candy:

  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Strawberry Candy:

  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Orange Candy:

  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar


  • Spray a baking sheet with a 1-inch wall with vegetable oil spray.
  • In a large dutch oven add sugar, corn syrup, and water and whisk well.
  • On medium heat, keep whisking until it comes to a boil.
  • Do not whisk any further, bring to a temperature between 300 and 310 degrees using a candy thermometer.
  • This will take 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add in extract and food coloring, stirring well until the color is completely mixed in.
  • Pour the candy into the baking sheet and tilt to spread evenly.
  • Dust powdered sugar over the top.
  • Let cool for 1 hour.
  • Break candy apart into bite sized pieces.


Calories: 125kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Sodium: 9mg | Potassium: 0.66mg | Sugar: 32g | Calcium: 2mg

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Hard Candy Variations

  • Candy Shapes: This is more of free-form candy recipe, where you’ll break the candy into broken glass type shapes. To make Hard Candy into different shapes, you can pour the hot sugar mixture into candy molds of your choice. You should be able to get candy molds at a baked goods store. Just make sure to get heat safe candy molds. Otherwise, the hot mixture can melt the molds.
  • Lime Candies: You can try this simple candy recipe with a lot of different flavor ingredients. Another easy one to try is lime. Add 1 tablespoon of lime extract and ½ teaspoon of green food coloring to the sugar syrup mixture. Stir the mix-ins in carefully. You can always add a couple more drops of food coloring as needed to get the desired color.
  • Cinnamon Candies: If you like a sweet and spiced flavor, then try making Hard Candy with cinnamon flavor. Use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon oil to flavor the candy. If you like a hotter flavor, you could do 1 ½ teaspoons. Just keep in mind that the flavoring oil is quite strong. Mix in the teaspoon of flavoring and red food coloring for a delicious old fashioned candy recipe.
  • Toppings: Instead of topping the candies with powdered sugar, you could sprinkle large-grain sanding sugar, sprinkles, or lime or lemon zest. Sprinkle any toppings you’d like over the candy before it hardens so that it sticks to the surface.

Kid-Friendly Treats

PIN of red Hard Candy in footed, glass dessert bowl.

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. I made a double batch of lemon and added an extra teaspoon od lemon flavor, it doesn’t taste like lemon…is there a way to fix it

    1. hmm…that’s something I will have to experiment with. I wonder if adding citric acid would’ve helped. Putting it on my list for the test kitchen recipes!