Cannabis hard candy packages, with their typically bright colors and promises of bold flavors, are a definite lure for hungry eyes when browsing around at the local dispensary. But do these delicious bits of weed candy lie only in the realm of the professional cannabis candy maker? Or can the home chef replicate these gem-like drops of THC goodness in their own, personal kitchen?
Hard candies may seem like a recipe best left up to the pros but think again – Weed candy is surprisingly easy to whip up in your own home, and we’re here to tell you how. Let’s get to cooking!
How to Make Cannabis Hard Candy at Home
Though a fairly simple process, making hard candy at home (THC or otherwise) isn’t typically something thought of in our modern age. While hard candies don’t require a lot of technique or expensive ingredients they do typically require at least a couple of pieces of specialty equipment, and having enough room to move and maneuver about in your kitchen is also fairly ideal. Making your edibles doesn’t have to be complicated if you follow a few simple steps.
Candy Making 101
At it’s heart, candy making is about taking a form of sugar and melting it, while reducing or removing any liquids it might be mixed with. As the sugar melts the sucrose molecules within begin to break apart, eventually leading to caramel (or burned sugar) if left on the heat.
Different sweets are crafted by either manipulating this molten sugar or adding in various ingredients – Fats such as butter will lead to sweets such as caramel candies, while subjecting molten sugar to centrifugal force is how we get cotton candy.
Most hard candy is made by combing sugar with water and bringing it to a certain temperature over heat – Once this temperature has been reached the resulting mix can then be poured into molds to make individual candies. But while this simple, basic method can work, it isn’t without it’s flaws, and a few small tips can help make sure your hard candies turn out right every time.
Here are some tips to make your hard candies turn out successfully.
1. Add Corn Syrup
When sugar is melted via heat the tendency is for the sucrose molecules to bind together in a crystalline form. Though this may sound like a good thing for making hard candy it is not – These crystals swiftly lead to a grainy, gritty texture not unlike the raw sugar crystals your sugar syrup started with. When making candy, the prevention of these crystals is one of the key elements for success (and also the focus for our next tip below).
To prevent sucrose molecules from binding, another form of sugar is typically introduced. Enter: Corn syrup. This starchy glucose-based sweetener has molecules that are smaller than the sucrose molecules found in granulated sugar, and their introduction to the mix helps prevent the sucrose molecules from binding together just by getting in their way.
It doesn’t take much corn syrup to work as an effective crystallization preventative; our recipe below calls for 2/3rd of a cup but some recipes only call for as little as a tablespoon. Ultimately a little more corn syrup won’t hurt the recipe, so we recommend going with a larger amount just to make sure everything stays nice and crystalized.
Also: Though we specifically focus on corn syrup here invert sugar, honey, or even pure glucose will typically work as substitutes – We recommend corn syrup in particular due to it’s ease of use and availability. Though we invite you to play around with different types and amounts of ingredients, for our basic recipe and for your first time, sticking to corn syrup will likely yield the best marijuana candy results.
2. Don't Stir
In line with the above, stirring your candy solution once the temperature starts to rise is another big no-no if you want to prevent the formation of crystals (and you do). For crystals to form they need what’s known as a “seed”, often a microscopically small crystal in its own right. Once this tiny seed crystal has formed it begins to grow by attracting other like-minded molecules to it like a magnet; the more molecules attached, the bigger the crystal – The bigger the crystal, the more molecules that will be attracted.
Agitating the sugar solution by stirring it adds in temperature variance that can lead to crystallization; likewise, if a seed crystal does form, stirring the pot only helps to attract more molecules to its structure.
Though you can certainly stir together the water+sugar solution before turning on the heat there’s no need, as the act of being heated will cause the two to blend perfectly without any manual help from the cook. And once the solution has started to heat? Your stirring spoon should be nowhere near the inside of your cooking vessel.
3. Brushing Down the Sides?
Many recipes will tell you to keep a kitchen brush and a small container of water nearby, and when you see any sugar solution that’s splattered up onto the interior wall of the put to dip the brush into the water and gently wash the errant sugar solution back down into the pan.
If you absolutely need to do this then yes, this method will work. But in this humble editor’s 15+ years of making candy neither they nor anyone they’ve spoken to has ever had to do this, and the candy of all parties involved always turns out just fine. While there’s nothing wrong with being prepared for the worst, don’t expect to strictly need a brush nearby.
4. Candy Thermometer vs Cold Water Tests
If you’ve ever been around someone making candy of any sort before, odds are you’ve heard of the cold water test; take a bit of your molten-hot sugar solution, drip it into a small container of ice cold water, wait for it to cool for a moment, and then touch it to see what it feels like. What this does is simulate what the candy will feel like once it cools off and reaches room temperature, letting you get a feel for how “done” your candy is without having to rely on a thermometer.
… but. Relying on a thermometer isn’t a bad thing, or a sign of inherent weakness in your skills as a home cook. In fact, using a candy thermometer is a safer, more reliable method than the cold water test, and can be particularly useful when making candy syrups and the like that should be pulled from the heat at lower temperatures.
Regardless of whether you use cold water or a candy thermometer, there are generally seven basic “stages” a sugar solution will go through when cooking. We’ll list the stage names, temperature ranges, and what to expect if using the cold water testing method.
- Thread – 230 to 234°F: Creates thin, soft, malleable threads of sugar
- Soft Ball – 234 to 240°F: Can be compressed into a soft-but-tangible ball of sugar
- Firm Ball – 244 to 248°F: Can be compressed, but not easily
- Hard Ball – 250 to 265°F: Difficult to mold and shape
- Soft Crack – 270 to 290°F: Some flexibility but will eventually snap if bent/twisted
- Hard Crack – 300 to 310°F: Easily and immediately snaps
- Caramel – 320 to 338°F: Your sugar is now brown and past the point of candy making
- Burned – 338°F+: Your sugar is now black and your kitchen is filled with smoke
5. Add Flavors & Concentrates Last
Your sugar solution is going to be roiling hot long before it’s done, and this means other molecules trapped within will be lost in evaporation – Molecules like flavonoids, that contribute to taste. Adding in your flavoring agent – or worse yet, your cannabis concentrate – early in the process means the majority of your flavors and THC will be boiled off into the atmosphere.
To prevent this, make adding your flavors and marijuana concentrate the very first thing you do after removing your candy solution from the heat. You only have a limited window of opportunity to work with the candy before it begins to set so make sure to do this as soon as possible, stirring the mixture briefly to combine.
Pro Tip: If going for a fruit-based flavor, check to see if you should be adding citric acid (for orange, lemon, lime) or malic acid (strawberry, blueberry) to help enhance the taste. Though not strictly necessary, the addition (or lack) of the right kind of acid can make the difference between a good cannabis candy and a great cannabis candy.
Our Basic Marijuana Candy Recipe
Our basic weed candy recipe is adapted from Lorann’s Oils (though modified to include our marijuana extract). You’ll need:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4th cups water (filtered recommended)
- 2/3rd cups light corn syrup
- 1 tsp flavoring oil of choice
- 1 tsp cannabis extract; this should be either an alcohol tincture or as close to pure THC concentrate as possible, weaker extracts like cannabutter or cannabis coconut oil won’t work as strongly
- 1 tsp citric/malic acid (if needed)
- Food coloring (if desired)
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Either a parchment paper lined baking sheet or a set of hard candy molds – Do NOT use molds intended for chocolates or other candies for this (or any hard candy) recipe!
- Heavy-bottomed cooking pot, preferably with a pour spout on the rim
1. Mix & Heat
Place your sugar, water, and corn syrup into your heavy-bottomed pan, setting it on the stove top at medium-high heat. Let this mixture heat up – All sugar granules should disappear, and you should be left with a clear, bubbling syrup.
Check the temperature of this syrup routinely, either with a thermometer or via the cold water test (if unfamiliar with this term, see our Weed Lollipops Recipe article (2) for more details). This will take some time, but do not wander away from the stove – Candy can and will burn quicker than you think.
Once you reach the hard crack stage of 300 to 310°F you should remove your candy solution from the heat immediately. While waiting, prepare your landing surfaces (molds or baking sheet) by spraying them with cooking spray. Do not let your attention wander from the pot – Candy can and will burn on you very, very easily, so don’t get distracted.
2. Add Flavourings & Pour
Once your solution is cooked remove from the heat and add in your flavorings, food coloring and marijuana concentrate/canna oil/THC tincture, stirring to combine. Working swiftly pour your mixture into your candy molds or out onto your parchment-paper lined tray. Be very careful as the sugar solution is extremely hot and will cause significant burns; watch out for splashes and splattering as you work.
And remember: We only discuss simple hard candy drops in this article, but this recipe can be adapted to a wide variety of other forms. Make sure to check out our related article on How to Make Cannabis Lollipops for more ideas on how to use this recipe!
3. Let Your Cannabis Candies Cool
Once poured out your job is now finished – Leave the trays/molds to cool for a couple of hours before returning to de-mold. If using the tray, you may end up with one large-but-thin sheet of candy; if so, simply break it up into small bite-sized shards by covering with a tea towel and gently smacking it with something heavy (the back of a knife, your hand, a book, etc). Be careful, as these shards can be incredibly sharp.
4. Storing Your Marijuana Candy
Storage can be done in a plastic container or bag, though depending on your area’s ambient humidity it might be worth tossing the candies in powdered sugar before putting into an enclosed space. Humidity will make candy weepy and gummy, particularly once trapped inside a closed container, and a quick dusting of powdered sugar will help alleviate moisture.
One option is replaceable silicone packets, available for purchase online. Made of the same stuff as the little silica packets you find in, say, bags of beef jerky or medicine bottles, these will help keep your sugary marijuana creations feeling & tasting fresh for a long time to come.
Also important for cannabis candy (or any weed edibles): Proper labeling. Particularly if in a household where small children may be present, make sure your bags are stored out of the reach of small arms, and include labels on the bag that clearly state the psychoactive nature of the candy within – The last thing anyone wants is an in-law accidentally devouring half a bag of “those really funny tasting mints” they found by the couch. Consider adding made-on dates & any strain information as well, so you’ll know when your candy may be reaching it’s best-by date.
And that’s it – Hard candy isn’t some dire specter of the kitchen, deadly and impossible for all but true professional chefs. Can the experience be dangerous? Yes, if you’re careless – Molten candy mixture is quite capable of delivering very severe burns on unprotected skin, so recipes such as this require both patience and caution. But so do most recipes, and hot surfaces and sharp knifes both require the same level of care that candy molds and lollipops do.
We hope our article on how to make THC candies at home has helped both educate and inspire. Happy cooking!