Real Old Fashion Homemade Fudge (No Cheating)

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to make old fashion homemade fudge and it always ended up as a syrupy sloppy mess (we call this “hot fudge” lol.) It’s so disappointing because I really love old fashion homemade fudge, so I finally got my grandmother to break down and tell me how she does it.

See, my mom makes good fudge, but she cheats. She uses Marshmallow Fluff and chocolate chips. I don’t want that fudge, or fudge that uses corn syrup or evaporated milk. I want my grandmothers’ old fashioned Hershey’s cocoa fudge. You know, the hard old fashion homemade fudge that melts in your mouth and makes your eyes roll in the back of your head; That fudge. So here it is, the recipe and the secret – leave it alone!

Old Fashion Homemade Fudge Recipe

What You Need:

  • 3 TBSP. Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 3/4 c. Milk
  • 2 1/2 c. Sugar (not confectioners or powdered, but granulated)
  • 1/4 c. (4 TBSP.) Butter – softened, but not melted(not margarine)
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Pinch of Salt

What You Do:

  • In a large saucepan (if it’s too small it will boil over leaving a mess, try a 3-4 qt. pan) whisk together the cocoa, sugar and salt.
  • Get rid of the whisk and grab a wooden spoon.
  • Slowly stir in the milk (keep stirring with one hand, pour slowly with the other)
  • Set the heat to medium high and bring to a boil – don’t stop stirring.
  • Once it’s boiling turn the heat to medium-low and stop stirring.
  • Let it boil for about 15 – 20 minutes and fill a large mouth glass with water and ice. Don’t Stir
  • Lightly grease an 8×8 dish (or similar size) and go sit down so you’re not tempted to fiddle with the fudge!
  • Dip a little of the mixture up with a spoon and drop it into the glass. Don’t Stir
  • Try to form the dropped mixture into a ball, if it doesn’t stay let the mixture cook for 5 more minutes. DO NOT STIR
  • Try again with the mix in the ice water (get new ice water if the water is cloudy). If it still isn’t forming a ball leave it and check again in 5 minutes. DO NOT STIR
  • Continue checking every 5 minutes until a soft ball forms (you’ll know because it will feel like a piece of wet play dough, holding shape) DO NOT STIR
  • When you have a soft ball, remove the saucepan from the burner and add the butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR
  • Let the saucepan sit at room temperature for 20 minutes – go take a bath, wash your hair, paint your toenails – just leave it alone!
  • Roll up your sleeves and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it starts to look more matte than glossy. This takes some elbow grease, stick to it and consider it your workout for the day!
  • As soon as most of the gloss is gone quickly pour the fudge into your dish.
  • Let it cool and cut it into pieces.

If it doesn’t come out the way you wanted, try again. This is an acquired recipe, it may take a few tries but the key is to leave it alone! It’s tempting to stir and scrape, but resist the urge and you’ll have yummy fudge. Keep at it until you make the perfect old fashion homemade fudge, and you’ll be able to make it time and time again.

(these are not my photos – I swear I’m getting around to taking some soon!)

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  1. R lee says

    Followed directions exactly. Let fudge set for 20 min. ..looks like soup. I did the water test and the fudge mashes between my fingers like dough. Waiting to see if the fudge will be alright to put in a pan and, if it will firm up. It does however taste great.

  2. Jana says

    Take note that she posted years ago that it is 2 TBSP of butter, not 4 (1/4 cup). Trying this one today – love the tips in the comments section!

  3. Sam says

    I’ve made this fudge twice and it has turned out perfect each time. Can I add peanut butter to this recipe without changing anything or maybe reduce the amount of butter? Also, is it normally 2 tbsp. butter or 4 ? Thanks.

  4. Moira T-I says

    Thanks Amber, this fudge was what I remembered as a kid, when the only shop around for miles made old fashioned fudge, coconut ice, apricot delights and all the old fashioned sweets. X

  5. Krisha Marker says

    I just made a batch for the holidays…. thank you for the receipe. This is the same one my grandmother made…. a gas stove give me no troubles in creating the perfect batch of fudge. For 20 yrs now, I have had an electric stove and it is hard to have a batch that doesn’t crystallize. I am going to make another batch tomorrow and I am going to try the 2 burner process…. fantastic idea, I sure hope it works…. thanks again, all of you have been a delight! Merry Christmas to you all!

    • Krisha Marker says

      PS. My grandmother always used can milk (diluted) meaning if she needed 1 1/2 cups milk. She used 3/4 cup can milk and 3/4 cup water. As soon as she pulled it of the stove she put in the butter and vanilla

  6. says

    I have been trying to find my mothers fudge recipe and have not. This one seem to be very close!!
    It tasted great!! However, the texture was grainy. Not sure when I didn’t do right? Any suggestions?

  7. María says

    Im from Mexico and Ive always wanted do make hard fudge. I tried other recipes but i didn´t get the desired result. I think your recipe is the best I´ve encountered so far and it´s very clearly explained. Thanks for the informartion.

  8. Hana says

    I know this recipe is five years old, but I just had to comment that it’s the best one I found online and the instructions are perfectly clear and amazingly easy to follow! This was my first time making anything even close to fudge and it turned out perfect. Thank you so much, I’m from a country where you can’t really get condensed milk from a regular store so this was a great help :D

  9. kat says

    Would I be able to use my mixer to stir it at the end? (might need to place it in the mixer’s big bowl) I have a dough hook attachment as well.

  10. Linda says

    This is a must make at Christmas In my family. I have a Hershey’s can with the recipe on it. I’m in my sixties and my grandmother made this fudge then my mom then me and now my daughter. I use a cast iron skillet to cook. Also, my mom was out of milk and used evaporated milk no taste difference but smoother texture

  11. Cyndi says

    I am hooting at myself! I left it too long In the sauce pan and when I stirred it, I broke my wooden spoon and it hardened so fast I couldn’t get it out of the pan onto the cookie sheet! It tastes great, though.. I’ll keep trying.

  12. Rita says

    This brings back SOBmany memories! I will celebrate my big 70 birthday next month, and have been making this fudge since I was about six years old! NOTHING touches it for goodness and happy memories! Loved the instructive humor! It Is SO hard not to stir!

  13. Vicky says

    Thank you so much for the recipe. I made this and let me tell you it didn’t last two days at my house. Thank you for sharing.

  14. alyssa says

    So when you add the butter and vanilla, do you mix it in and then let it sit, or do you just throw it in on top and mix it in after it sits?

  15. Donna says

    I am gonna try this out. This sounds exactly like my mothers fudge. My only problem when making it years ago was it would not harden and we had to eat it with a spoon lol.
    It tasted great but hard to take as a fudge to a
    Holiday party. But I will try this and share the recipe on Facebook for you. I’ll let you know how it turns out for me. Thanks so much for the recipe. My mother passed away almost 40yrs ago and someone else ended up with the recipe so I was very excited to find your recipe on here because it’s the same as hers was. Thanks again!

    • Bruce says

      If you ended up with “spoon fudge”, either it didn’t get to the soft ball stage (235° F), or you didn’t stir it long enough before you put it in the pan to set.

    • Heather says

      Another reason it does not harden is because”Old Fashioned Fudge” cannot be made in a highly humid day. The fudge simply won’t set up. You have to cook it on a dry day; it can be either cold or hot outside but it has to be dry.
      We were always tempted to stay inside on a rainy day and bake but we knew better than to try making fudge after Mom warned us it wouldn’t set up and we tried to make it anyway. (We did it 2-3times & got fudge syrup each time.) That’s a lot of time & stirring to just get a liquid fudge goo. Make it on a clear day and you are nearly guaranteed to get good results!

  16. Katie says

    Any recommendations on using honey instead of sugar? I love fudge for the holidays but I’ve been off refined sugar for almost 6 months and don’t want to go back but still want my holiday treat! :)

  17. Queen Keys says

    I had been looking for the recipe that my Grandma Smith used to make her famous old fashioned fudge. I tried the reprinted version of the Hershey’s version of which while I was able to set it up correctly it had 2/3 cup of cocoa that made it too bitter. I also tried to use a candy thermometer of which did not work out for me with the first recipe. I had decided the next time I would use only 1/3 cup, but then I found this recipe that called for only 3 Tablespoons of cocoa and less sugar and milk. This was more like what Grandma’s fudge look like (not as dark as with using the 2/3 cup of cocoa) and your instructions worked out PERFECTLY for me. The only thing I may change is waiting the full 20 minutes after the addition of the butter and vanilla. The texture immediately changed from glossy to matte after the full 20 minutes, but then it become hard to stir and was sticking to my pan. I added a little milk and was able to stir enough to pour in my pan….I just cooled it and cut a piece…YUM…just like Grandma’s!! ♥♥♥ Thanks so much-I will work with my final finishing stir time (also loved your comical instructions too!) :) Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Ella Jane says

      Yes Queen Keys-this also is like my Grandma used to make…with NO standard measurement devices too! Talk about an expert…I would also suggest maybe bumping the milk up to 1 cup since you had to add the milk to remove the stuck mixture and reduce your wait time to 5-10 minutes after your fudge test ready and you have added your butter and vanilla. I like nuts in my fudge and if you add them, do so right before you start stirring your mixture (Grandma did this). Amber, your instructions are perfect. I am sure with practice and a few adjustments (my gas stove actually has my fudge ready in 15 minutes vs 20 minutes on med-low heat) everyone here can enjoy their happy memories of this delicious hard old fashioned fudge.

  18. alyssa says

    After the step where it says bring to a boil you never say to stop stirring and let it boil for 15 min. Not specifcally at least. If i didnt read this recipe 20 times over i wouldnt have cought to stop stirring it! Ok recipe .. Still havent gotten there.

  19. carla j. says

    I just made this recipe for the first time and it turned out just like I remember fudge tasting as a young girl. This was so easy. I always depend on a candy thermometer b/c I am not good with the water and ball thing. Thank you for sharing your recipe – it does melt in your mouth!

  20. Natalie says

    I’m going to try this recipe tomorrow and I want to add nuts. At what stage should I do that? I don’t want to get a perfect consistency going and ruin it with nuts.

    • Gary says

      Don’t add the nuts until the end when youi’re stirring it and right before it goes in the pan to harden.

      Also I can’t emphasize enough DO NOT STIR the boiling mixture. Resist all urge to do so because doing so will crystallize the sugar and you’ll end up with gritty fudge instead of the buttery smooth texture you want. I mix all the ingredients in a bowl then pour into a saucepan and start the heat. After that it doesn’t get stirred at all until after it’s cooled and it’s time to stir before putting it in the pan. DO NOT STIR FROM THE THE TIME YOU PUT IT ON THE STOVE UNTIL IT HAS COOLED.

  21. Ryan says

    Thanks for sharing this. My family has been searching for my great grandmother’s fudge recipe, but to no avail. I just finished up my first batch and it turned out perfectly. We’re all now convinced this was the recipe she must have used (or something very close), everything is the same as we remember about hers from the ingredients, method, taste, and texture. Really great recipe!

  22. Molly Martin says

    ThankYou For Sharing This. I Have Looked,And All I Found Were The Cheating Ones. I UsedTo Watch My Dear Old Mother Make This Exactly the same way. Testing it was the most fun. And the taste is like no other. Now I can pass it on to my daughter.

  23. Louise Simms says

    I’m so glad I found this recipe! Thank you so much! My Nana used to make these when I was a kid (she placed no stock in condensed milk), and I’ve been looking for it everywhere. I’ve always tried to copy it, and never got the consistency right. They even came out as good as hers – though she’ll never admit it. :)

  24. Hannah says

    this was harder than i thought! after letting it cool for 2o min i stired and waited untill it wasnt glossy anymore but suddenly the whole thing just turned all mushy and it was very hard to stir it was so stiff and alot of it was burned and i cooked to the given time 15- 20 min and let it cool for 20 min. i dont understand but i guess fudge does take more than once to get it right. maybe next time this recipe will work but this turned out really bad!

    • Alice A. says

      Are you using an electric stove? If so, then it was cooking at too high a temp for those 15-20 mins because electric burners retain heat. If you do not have access to a gas stove you can try preheating a second burner to transfer your fudge to for the simmering stage.

      • carla j. says

        I used an electric stove top. For medium high, I let cook on 6.5 until it came to a boil. Then
        I turned the burner down to 3.5 and stopped stirring. Once the temp reach the soft ball stage, I removed from burner and let sit for 20 minutes. Hope these hints help!

  25. James says

    I seem to be at a stand still with fudge. I’m not sure when to stop mixing at the end. The fudge seems to lose its shine but then comes back when I stop mixing. If I continue past that point it gets hard to stir in the pan and doesn’t pour out. Instead it clumps to the side of the pan. I then scrape it out and roll it with a glass to fill the pan otherwise its just a pile in the middle. The consistency is smooth but once cooled it’s soft. Do you have any suggestions? I keep making it daily trying to get the hang of it.

  26. Eric says

    Amber, you are absolutely correct about not stirring after it starts to boil. At medium-low heat it took maybe fifteen minutes to reach soft-ball stage. I used a thermometer and cold water to verify. Stirring while it’s boiling is messy and a bit dangerous, that syrup is hot! You can reduce the final beating by using a thermometer and waiting until it reaches 110 degrees. This took about 35 minutes, then I only had to stir about 4 minutes. Thank-you for a great recipe!

  27. Louise says

    That’s nonsense that you shouldn’t stir. It’s simply not true and makes it very likely that you will end up with a burnt pan. I make fudge from traditional old fashioned recipes – from older books and they tell me to stir constantly and I do. Once the sugar has boiled it takes an hour of simmering to get to the right temperature for fudge stirring all the while it is cooking. Then it is cooled (not stirred now, that’s true) and beaten, poured into a tin and left to set. I am seeing a lot of stuff online about not stirring fudge but it just makes fudge making more tricky and is one of those things that have erroneously got about as being a major rule in making fudge. It is NOT.

    • says

      This is the way my grandmother taught me to make fudge, and it works perfectly for me. Stirring constantly before it comes to a boil and then turning the heat down once it does and leaving it alone is her secret. It’s how I’ve always done it, and will continue to do it :) This recipe yields hard fudge – not the soft pliable fudge – perhaps that is what you are referring to?

  28. GypsySond says

    Thank you for your research and recipe. My great Aunt was the world’s best fudge maker, she took her recipe with her when she passed.. Basically this is what she did as well. One thing, she always made fudge on clear days. Something about the lack of moisture in the air let it set up better. Love anything OLD FASHIONED.. Bless you and thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to try my hand at it.

  29. facebook_teri.grant says

    really screwed it up – pretty sure the problem was that I didn’t beat long enough at the last stage; still looked glossy…keeping first batch for ice cream topping and trying again shortly…..

  30. Meghan says

    My husband has been asking for good fudge and I came across your recipe and it sounds delicious. My question is should it be a 1/4 C. butter or 2 TBSP? 1/4 C is 4 TBSP…..I don’t want to mess it up! Thanks.

  31. Abe says

    I’ve managed to make fudge both with semi-sweet chocolate and with Hershey’s cocoa (natural not Dutch-processed, only cause that’s what I had on hand) both with and without corn syrup, and you’re absolutely right, the not stirring while its cooling down from soft ball is the key. I did “cheat” in a way though: a calibrated candy thermometer meant I could do without the cold water test. But I need to try this out your way so maybe in the future I can eyeball based on how the bubbles look from boiling water temp 212 to soft ball 240 case I don’t happen to have a thermometer available.
    Oh and the stirring, no kidding on this being your workout for the day, my right arm would always end up getting a workout; once I even managed to have a blister right below my pinkie, palm side, from beating my fudge. Always makes for interesting looks from eavesdropping folk when I say I got my blister from beating my fudge earlier.

  32. Crunchy Con Mommy says

    Oh I so love you for posting this recipe! I’m lactose intolerant so I can’t use my moms evaporated milk recipe, but this recipe should work with lactose free milk! The no-stirring part is interesting. I wonder what the science behind that is?

    • says

      I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with the bonding of the ingredients. If you over-stir it comes out runny and refuses to harden. I haven’t tried with lactose free milk, but it should definitely work!

    • Beverly Bedard says

      My Dad made the best fudge using this recipe. He used water instead of milk and added 1/2 cup to 1 cup peanut butter when the regular butter and vanilla was added. Turned out fantastic!

  33. says

    I LOVE fudge and recipes like this that use real ingredients! They are so difficult to find these days. I thank you so much for sharing it although my waistline may not :) I will whip up a batch of this today!


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