Hard Tack Candy

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Remember this vintage candy recipe from your childhood? Hard Tack Candy is easier than you think! Make for any holiday.

There’s a handful of recipes I remember my mom making during the Christmas holidays. I remember some Christmas cherry cheesecake bars, snickerdoodles, peanut blossoms and this hard tack candy.

I’ve always been candy crazy, so when I remembered this candy, I had to make it to share with you. This brings back many memories for me and I hope it does for you too.

bowl of homemade colorful candy

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • vintage recipe
  • simple ingredients
  • make any flavor and any color
  • perfect for make ahead holiday gifts

What is hard tack candy?

Hard tack candy, sometimes called rock candy, is a homemade hard candy. Think Jolly Ranchers, lollipops, etc…this is a candy that you suck on similar to those.

You make hard tack candy by boiling sugar to the point of “hard crack” stage, which is between 290-300º Fahrenheit.

homemade hard tack candy in a muffin tin

What do I need to make candy?

There are a few key things you’ll need for this recipe:

  1. LorAnn Oils: You can find these in baking shops, possibly in Walmart or on Amazon. They come in tiny little bottles and you can get them in just about any flavor imaginable.
  2. Food Coloring: We used liquid food coloring. Just cheap store brand is fine for this recipe.
  3. Candy Thermometer: We LOVE our Thermoworks ThermaPen to quickly test temperatures. This probe thermometer is AMAZING. Get it here.
lemonade flavor and blue food coloring in a hand

How do you make hard tack candy?

It’s important to be very, very careful when making homemade hard candy. The mixture gets extremely hot so you can easily get burned. And the hard candy can actually be quite sharp! The first times I made this I ended up with tiny cuts on my hands. Make sure you watch those strands of glass-like candy.

powdered sugar christmas candy

Also, kids may want to help with this. After all, it’s candy! It may be best to bring them in at the point of breaking the candy or shaking it in powdered sugar.

  • Line a large baking sheet (at least 12×17″) with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Place the sugar, water and corn syrup in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Mix constantly until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to boil.
sugar, water and corn syrup in a saucepan
  • Continue to cook and stir. The first time you make this, you may want to keep the heat at medium. Once you are comfortable with the process, feel free to turn up the heat. Just continue to mix gently.
  • Constantly measure the temperature of the boiling sugar mixture and cook until it reaches 280º Fahrenheit. At this point, add in the food coloring. Add a few drops at a time until it reaches the color you’d like.
blue sugar boiling in a pan
  • Continue to cook the mixture until it reaches 290º Fahrenheit. Don’t rush this process! Make sure it hits at least 290º, but up to 295º is ok.
  • Remove the sugar from the heat and stir in the flavored oil.
  • Immediately pour the hot sugar on the prepared pan. Make sure you don’t have a super thick layer or it will be hard to crack apart.
  • Allow the mixture to cool completely (this will take about 30 minutes).
  • Use a meat mallet to crack the candy into pieces.
  • Place the candy pieces into a zippered bag. Add the powdered sugar and shake to coat.
bowl of colorful candy
bowl of colorful candy

Hard Tack Candy

4.78 from 27 votes
Remember this vintage candy recipe from your childhood? Hard Tack Candy is easier than you think! Make for any holiday.
Servings 20
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Setting Time 30 minutes

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 1.75 pounds granulated sugar (about 3 ½ cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • food coloring
  • .125 ounces LorAnn Flavoring Oil
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Instructions
 

  • Line a large baking sheet (at least 12×17") with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Place the sugar, water and corn syrup in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Mix constantly until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to boil.
  • Continue to cook and stir. The first time you make this, you may want to keep the heat at medium. Once you are comfortable with the process, feel free to turn up the heat. Just continue to mix gently. Be patient!!! Temperature is everything. This recipe will not work if you take it off the heat too soon.
  • Constantly measure the temperature of the boiling sugar mixture and cook until it reaches 280º Fahrenheit. At this point, add in the food coloring. Add a few drops at a time until it reaches the color you'd like.
  • Continue to cook the mixture until it reaches 290º Fahrenheit. Don't rush this process! Make sure it hits at least 290º, but up to 295º is ok.
  • Remove the sugar from the heat and stir in the flavored oil.
  • Immediately pour the hot sugar on the prepared pan. Make sure you don't have a super thick layer or it will be hard to crack apart.
  • Allow the mixture to cool completely (this will take about 30 minutes).
  • Use a meat mallet to crack the candy into pieces.
  • Place the candy pieces into a zippered bag. Add the powdered sugar and shake to coat.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature. The candy will keep this way for several months.

Notes

The calories shown are based on the recipe serving about 20, with 1 serving being 1/20 of a recipe. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information.**

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Sugar: 56g | Calcium: 2mg | Iron: 1mg
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 214
Keyword candy, christmas, old fashioned recipe, vintage

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my hard tack candy sticky?

If hard tack candy is sticky, you didn’t let it get to a high enough temperature during cooking. Hard crack stage is between 290-300º Fahrenheit.

How do you fix sticky hard candy?

There is not a great way to fix sticky hard candy after you’ve cooked it and let it cool. You can dust with powdered sugar or a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch. Make sure you store the candy in a humidity-free place as humidity will make the candy more sticky.

How long does hard tack candy last?

Hard candies can last about 6 months if stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

How long does it take for hard tack candy to harden?

Ours hardens and cools within about 30 minutes, but it will depend on temperature and humidity.

Can I make this without a candy thermometer?

You can, but it is easiest with a thermometer. You cannot go completely by time (although mine usually takes about 20 minutes). To test for hard crack stage without a thermometer, drop a bit of mixture in a glass of ice cold water. The mixture should immediately harden into a ball. You can also drizzle a bit of mixture into the cold water. It should become brittle and glass-like. If is doesn’t, cook it longer.

What if I don’t have LorAnn flavor oils?

LorAnn oils are highly concentrated making them great for this. They will not break down as other flavors will. We don’t recommend anything other than flavor oils recommended for candy. Extracts won’t be quite the same. I’ve heard of people using Jello or Kool Aid, but I haven’t tried these myself so cannot 100% recommend.

Can I use gel food coloring?

Yes. You can use gel or liquid food coloring.

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Christie
2 years ago

How do you recommend measuring out 0.0125 of the oil? Is there a “drop” equivalent or actually measuring in a dish and pouring it in?

Alé Simmons
1 year ago

5 stars
I made 4 recipes of this today and it was perfect! But on the 5th and 6th tries, my candy hardened “cloudy”… any tips?

Karla phillips
11 months ago

5 stars
Can I use sugar free sugar

Lisa
11 months ago

3 stars
My candy stuck to the parchment paper, so I would recommend pouring directly into a pan rather than using paper to avoid your candy from potentially sticking to the paper. Also, when you use a meat mallet to break the candy, you can get very tiny pieces you wouldn’t want; it is much better to cut the candy.

Patty Glover
11 months ago

Do you use the whole bottle of oil per batch?

Alida
6 months ago

Hi Lizzy, I want to try this recipe and I want to make a sour strawberry or cherry flavor. Any suggestions? Thanks, Alida

Chris
1 month ago

5 stars
I’m going to try this for Christmas. I had a friend whose mother made this. I love it!!!!!