This easy foolproof homemade toffee is a holiday staple! The recipe also includes THREE essential tips for ensuring perfect toffee every time!
Making toffee at home can seem super intimidating. And trust me, I get it! I’ve had my share of homemade toffee fails over the years.
But thanks to me failing and trying again (over and over and maybe with a few bad words sprinkled here and there), I’ve learned the secrets to perfect foolproof homemade toffee.
Most homemade toffee recipes look very similar. Making perfect toffee is all about the technique and tips. The do’s and don’ts.
Today, I’m sharing my favorite homemade toffee recipe plus three tips for foolproof toffee!
Homemade toffee is one of my favorite holiday treats ever. The crunchy caramelly nutty goodness is irresistible!
The ingredients are super simple:
- a little bit of salt
- chopped nuts (optional)
The other critical “ingredient” is a heavy-bottom pot.
What constitutes a heavy-bottom pot? You’ll know if your pot is good for toffee making if the base of the pot is thicker than the sides. It should feel noticeably heavy and more substantial at the bottom. This helps distribute the heat to cook more evenly.
How to Make Homemade Toffee
To begin, the butter, sugar and salt get melt together over low heat.
At first, you may be alarmed. Like, why is my sugar and butter mixture so greasy? So oily? So separated? So weird?
It all comes together, I promise! It has a lot to do with chemistry and molecules and heat reactions and science.
Mel’s Dumbed Down Version: patience, moderate heat and heavy-bottoms (see saucepan note above) make the best toffee.
It’s important while the toffee cooks to only stir it occasionally. Constant stirring can cause the toffee to crystallize and separate.
For those of you that need to know exactly how often you should stir, I would suggest erring on the side of not stirring more than stirring. Moderate the heat so the toffee doesn’t scorch and burn, and you only need to stir 3-4 times.
When stirring, don’t scrape the sides of the pot. That can also cause the toffee to crystallize and/or separate into a butter layer.
Cook the toffee until it is a beautiful deep golden brown. That’s right around 285-290 degrees F on a thermometer.
What happens if my toffee separates?
If you notice the toffee separating with a greasy butter layer on top, try slowly stirring in 1 tablespoon water at a time until it comes together again.
Immediately upon reaching the sweet spot of perfectly cooked toffee, pour it onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You can spread it out with an offset spatula, but I just pour it around in ribbons and let it flow together.
The Golden Question
Q: Do you like nuts on the bottom of your toffee or on the top?
A: I like them on the bottom. It’s the only way I make toffee. I scatter chopped nuts (my fave combo is slivered almonds and toasted pecans) on the parchment paper and pour the toffee over the chopped nuts.
But if you prefer the age old toffee + chocolate + nuts look, you can simply pour the toffee right onto the parchment paper and save the nuts for later.
Scatter chocolate chips immediately on top of the hot toffee. They’ll melt within a few minutes.
Spread them into an even layer (add nuts to the soft chocolate at this point, if you want) and then let the toffee hang out until it’s set and no longer warm.
Break the cooled toffee into delicious shards and make a plan for the toffee’s immediate exit out of your home. Otherwise you’ll be like me and wonder how an entire batch of toffee innocently sitting on the counter managed to disappear in less than 24 hours.
3 Tips for Foolproof Toffee
1) Use a heavy-bottom saucepan.This is important as the thicker base means more even heat distribution which means less chance of burning. Thin-bottom, cheaply made pots should stay far away from toffee making. I always use a stainless pot – I wouldn’t recommend pots with nonstick coating. Basically, a heavy-bottom is a very admirable quality here.
2) Don’t stir constantly. Unlike other homemade candy and many caramel recipes that require constant stirring, toffee is different. It only needs to be stirred occasionally, otherwise it has a tendency to crystallize (turn sugary and grainy) or separate. I leave my stirring spoon in the pot the entire time. Taking it out and reintroducing it with every stir also increases the risk of the dreaded crystallization because the temperature drops when the spoon enters the hot, boiling toffee.
3) Moderate the heat carefully. When the butter and sugar are first added to the pan, cook on medium-low until the butter is melted. Don’t try to rush this step with higher heat. After that, cook on medium heat as the toffee comes to a gentle boil and throughout the cooking process.
Every stove is different – gas vs. electric, etc., so watch the heat closely and turn down or up as needed. Medium on my stove may not be the same as medium on your stove. Additionally sudden drops or spikes in the temperature of the toffee can cause issues, so try to keep it even and steady.
And there you have it! Perfect foolproof homemade toffee. This recipe has been in my family for years. It’s classic, simple and delicious.
Anyone can make homemade toffee with the right recipe and just a few crucial tips and tricks!
Yes! Use a larger pot and remember that doubling the recipe will mean it takes longer to cook and reach the correct temperature.
If you notice a greasy buttery layer forming on top while the toffee cooks, it means the toffee is separating. You can try adding in 1 tablespoon of water at a time and slowly stirring to recombine. Separating (and/or crystallizing where the toffee turns sugary and grainy) can happen with sudden drops or spikes in the temperature or with constant, vigorous stirring. It can also happen if the sides of the pot are scraped, reintroducing crystallized sugar pieces.
Granulated sugar is best for this toffee recipe (brown sugar has a different moisture content and a much higher chance of scorching).
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1 hour 35 minutes
- 1 cup chopped nuts (see note)
- 2 cups (4 sticks, 16 ounces) butter (I use salted)
- 2 cups (15 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
- Line a half sheet pan or 9X13-inch pan (for thicker toffee) with parchment paper – no need to butter or grease the parchment. Sprinkle chopped nuts in an even layer over the parchment. Set aside. (I like nuts on the bottom of the toffee, but you can skip this step and sprinkle nuts on top of the toffee after the chocolate melts.)
- In a heavy-bottom 4-quart saucepan on medium-low heat, add the butter, sugar and salt. Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, if using.
- Increase heat to medium, and bring the mixture to a steady boil. Stir only occasionally (not constantly) and avoid scraping down the sides of the pan. Stirring too quickly or too often can cause the toffee to separate. Moderate the heat as needed – turn it down if the toffee is boiling or cooking too fast so it doesn’t burn.
- Cook until the toffee registers 285-290 degrees on an instant-read or candy thermometer and is deep amber brown in color, about 20-25 minutes.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the toffee evenly over the nuts on the prepared baking sheet – don’t scrape the sides of the pan. You can spread the toffee with an offset spatula; I pour it back and forth in ribbons over the nuts and let it flow together.
- Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Let them soften and melt for 2-3 minutes and then spread the chocolate into an even layer over the toffee. If using nuts on top, sprinkle them over the melted chocolate before it hardens.
- Chill or let toffee sit at room temperature until set. Break into pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container (it will keep for several days at room temp).
Nuts: I like to use a combination of slivered almonds and toasted pecans. I coarsely chop them into small pieces.
Vanilla: I don’t add vanilla to my toffee because I’ve learned from experience that it can cause the toffee to crystallize or separate.
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