Licorice Caramels

Licorice caramels. Ever had them? They are so, so, so, so good. A little old school, they are absolutely, 100% my favorite flavor of caramel (even trumping these chocolate caramels which is saying a lot).

And wait, if you aren’t a black licorice fan, hold up now! Don’t turn up your nose!

Licorice Caramels

I have been shocked at the number of people who have declared loud and clear they hate black licorice (it’s quite a divisive flavor, you know) and yet somehow, someway, they end up devouring these caramels. I’ve even known a person who shall remain nameless but might be joined to me by marriage that has been found sneaking these out of the pantry at all hours of the night even though he is a self-professed black licorice hater. With a capital H.

The anise flavor isn’t overpowering, at least the way I make them. Each bite is a creamy explosion of caramel with a subtle, delicious tingle and it leaves you (ok, me) thinking “hmmm, why on earth can I not stop eating these things?”

Licorice Caramels

Seriously. They are amazing.

Plus, in this episode of Sugar Rush, you get to make paper cones. And caramels in paper cones are just fun. There’s a kind-of-no-brainer step-by-step below the recipe in case you need it (don’t be ashamed, I totally need those kind of hand-holding tutorials and for the record, I’m sure there is an easier/classier/lovelier way to make paper cones but this is how I do it because it’s simple and doesn’t make me hate crafts). So you should make both. Licorice caramels and paper cones. I can pretty much guarantee your holidays will be brighter if you do.

Licorice Caramels

One Year Ago: Killer Crunch Brownies
Two Years Ago: Classic Hummus – Three Ways!
Three Years Ago: Almond Roca

Licorice Caramels and a Simple Step-by-Step Paper Cone {Sugar Rush Gift Edition #5}

Yield: Makes 8X8- or 9X9-inch slab of caramels

Licorice Caramels and a Simple Step-by-Step Paper Cone {Sugar Rush Gift Edition #5}

Ok, let's talk. Anise extract is the classic licorice flavor. It is available in well-stocked grocery stores or online; I bought mine on Amazon (The Star Kay White brand which looks like is currently unavailable) and would encourage you to get pure anise extract not imitation (if there even is such a thing). I have seen anise oil here and there and I know nothing about it so if you go that route do some research into the potency of the oil. Too much and you'll be hating life and licorice caramels. I played around with amounts of anise through test batches of these caramels and 2 teaspoons is perfect for my taste but feel free to add more or less depending on how you like the flavor. Also, the black food coloring is optional. Of course it gives the caramels a look to match their flavor but it doesn't add to the flavor, if that makes sense, so if you are opposed to artificial coloring, you can leave it out but by all means, if you are using it, use the paste/gel and not the liquid.


  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
  • 2 cups (1 pound) sugar
  • 1 can (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup (12 ounces) light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract (see note above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black food coloring paste (optional; see note above)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Lightly butter an 8X8- or 9X9-inch pan and set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan, combine the water, sugar, condensed milk, corn syrup, and butter. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, ensuring that the tip of the thermometer isn’t touching the bottom of the pan and is inserted at least 1-2 inches into the liquid (or according to your thermometer’s directions).
  3. Continue stirring gently while the mixture boils and cooks, until the caramels reach 242-244 degrees F. If the caramels seem to be scorching on the bottom of the pan, moderate the heat to a lower temperature. You can also test the caramels using a spoon and dropping a pea-sized amount of the hot caramel into cold water. If the cooled piece of caramel is firm but not hard, the caramel is properly cooked.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the anise extract, food coloring, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the caramels into the prepared pan and allow to cool completely to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
  5. When cool, remove the sheet of caramels from the pan. Cut the caramels into pieces using a large knife or bench scraper. Wrap each caramel square in a bit of wax paper, twisting the ends to secure.

Recipe Source: from me (method adapted slightly from the Soft Chocolate Caramels)

How to Make a Paper Cone

55 Responses to Licorice Caramels

  1. Libby says:

    These are amazing! While I was digging in my cupboard for anise extract to make them, I came across butter rum candy flavoring and had to make another batch using that. Have you tried butter rum caramels yet? They are SO SO GOOD! They remind me of the Brachs soft toffees my grandparents always had. (I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the flavoring, instead of the anise extract and food coloring.) My kids can’t keep their little hands off of them. 🙂

  2. Kristi says:

    Have you ever doubled this recipe in a 9X13 pan? Do you think it would work? Thanks!!!

  3. Sharron says:

    I made these this evening and (after cooling) realize that the anise flavor isn’t as strong as I’d like. Is there a way to heighten it without throwing them out and starting again? What if I threw them all in a pot and melted them down again??? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hmmm, that’s a good question, Sharron. I’m not sure…I think as long as they don’t reheat past the temperature in the recipe, they should be fine, but I’ve honestly never tried that.

    • Gillian says:

      I had to re-boil a batch which didn’t set up properly, and it worked fine! I think if anything it intensified the anise flavour just cooking them again, but you could definitely add more of the extract once they’re re-liquified.

  4. Rachel says:

    Ok so I make my own vanilla extract with vanilla bean and vodka… I know you can get dried anise at a bulk store so I will give this a go for Christmas. Thanks

  5. Daisey says:

    My caramels are not hardening. I can put the pan in the freezer and then cut them while frozen, but they immediately revert back to gooey. Am I not cooking long enough? I am reaching the correct temperature. Would mixing afterwards help (as in making fudge)? Thank you.

  6. Denise says:

    Is the temperature, 242-244, sea level temperature?

  7. Lynda says:

    These caramels are fantastic. You definitely need an accurate thermometer. Totally worth the time it takes to make them. Easy step by step directions. Amazing results. Just getting ready to make another batch

  8. Natasha says:

    Third time (with a new thermometer) was the charm! These are tasty! Even my kids who don’t like black licorice like them. Now that my first candy turned out, I am looking forward to trying some more of your candy recipes. Thank you for the feedback! Merry Christmas!

  9. Mamalala says:

    Oh my. I am not a black licorice lover or hater. I would never choose them as a snack of choice but these are to die for. I learned a lot about my stove- one gas burner just doesn’t get hot enough, so I had to move it to another burner and it increased temperature quite nicely. I bought a special thermometer for these and I am so glad I did. A labor of love for sure.

  10. Natasha says:

    I have tried these twice and they come out very hard. I calibrated my thermometer before the second time, but am wondering if I need a new one?

    • Mel says:

      If they are too hard, it definitely sounds like they are getting overcooked. If your thermometer seems to be reading inaccurately, a new one might help.

  11. Yumling says:

    How long do these stay fresh/ store them where? Can you freeze? Thanks I just got a bunch of LorAnn Flavoring today~ soooo excited to try these! Experimenting early for Mother’s Day treats! 😀

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t tried freezing them so I’m not sure. If they are well-wrapped individually in wax paper and then put in a covered container, they should stay fresh for several weeks.

  12. poetical says:

    I tried to make these without the corn syrup. Something went terribly wrong and all I got was licorice flavored sugar. I tried to make a simple syrup instead, but I think I didn’t let it get to the right stage before I added the rest of the ingredients and brought it to a boil. Am I right?

  13. Pauline says:

    I want to try these and the cinnamon caramels. Is there a reason you use this recipe for the licorice instead of your basic caramel recipe you used for the cinnamon caramels?

    • Mel says:

      I didn’t discover the latest no-stir caramel recipe until this year so last year when I posted the licorice caramels I used another of my favorite recipes. I think you could use either and be fine (although this recipe is particularly delicious with the anise because the caramel base is just slightly richer and softer since it uses sweetened condensed milk).

  14. Andrea says:

    These are really, very good! I’ve had to hide some so they last until Christmas. Just brought some into work this morning and there’s a lot of oooo-ing and aaahh-ing around the office. Thanks again for a great recipe Mel!

  15. Linda says:

    Is it possible to omit the anise altogether and use real licorice powder? Anyone tried?

  16. Lauri says:

    My first batch was beyond hardball stage – but I persevered and used the last of my butter to try again. They are SO GOOD. I think they may have become a new Christmas favourite.

  17. emily says:

    i made these for christmas.. and WOW.. EVERYONE LOOOVED them… i am actually depressed that they are gone haha! and i don’t even like licorice!! seriously, amazing.. i think they are a new christmas tradition in my family. .thank you 🙂

  18. Licorice trumps all other caramel flavors for me too! I can’t begin to explain how much I love them! I hardly buy them anymore, since I literally eat them one after the other until there are no more left. Being able to make them at home is the best holiday gift for me!

  19. Julie says:

    How many pieces do you usually cut?

  20. Cammee says:

    I looooove licorice caramels! I always end up making most of the stuff on Sugar Rush and make myself and everyone around me sick, buts it’s, oh so, worth it.

  21. Janette says:

    Do I need to adjust the temperature for a higher altitude? I live in Utah and don’t want to overcook or undercook.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Janette- when I lived at a high elevation in Utah, I cooked my caramels at the same temp but I never actually looked to be sure if that was the right way (although they did turn out). You might try googling something like “making caramels at high elevation” just to see what you turn up since I’m not a reliable expert on high elevation.

      • Rosie says:

        To adjust temperature for high elevation, put your thermometer into boiling water. Subtract your boiling water temperature from 212(F). Use that number as your guide: candy stages (soft ball – hard crack) will all be that much lower than the same stages at sea level. This method also works for variability in thermometers.

  22. Nimbus says:

    I used anise oil (appx. 1 1/2 tsp) for this. it is less pungent as the extract and allows the caramel flavor to come through. So far, everyone who has tried them absolutely loves them. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!

  23. Pinned! And I totally need to make this! My husband has been on a licorice craze this winter so he will flip over these!

  24. Misty says:

    Made these tonight and decided to chance it using liquid food coloring. Just kept pouring and stirring til the color was dark enough. They came out fine using the liquid! And they taste soooo good. Much better than licorice candy! Thanks!

  25. Jane says:

    Is it one cup or 12 ounces for the corn syrup?

  26. tahnycooks says:

    My mother absolutely loves black licorice, gonna have to make these!

  27. Lauri says:

    I think I might make these for my licorice loving mom. Did you line your pan with parchment paper, or is the butter enough to keep them from sticking?

  28. Lisa Clawson says:

    Ok my dear! I must share my favorite. My grandma, then my mom and now me are big licorice caramel fans. A Christmas staple, but you need to try them as cinnamon. Red coloring, and cinnamon extract. DIVINE!!! My neighbor even dips them in chocolate:) I just sent a big bag to my missionary son in Albania, and he needs more. His landlord sneaks into their apt. and steals them:)

  29. Trish Olsen says:

    What are your thoughts on using fennel essential oil in place if anise?

  30. pam says:

    My sister taught me to make this back in the 80’s only her recipe doesn’t call for sugar and water, I believe… Thanks for the memory.

  31. Rachel R. says:

    These look amazing -corn syrup and all 🙂 Thanks for the tutorial on the paper cones! Easy is always appreciated!

  32. Beverly S. says:

    These sound scrumptious, although I wish the recipe didn’t have gross corn syrup in it.
    I will try ro make them without…

  33. Amy A. says:

    Can you recommend another brand of extract? I’ve seen McCormick at my local grocery store. But I hate their vanilla, so I don’t know that I would like the anise.
    So excited to make these for my dad. He loves black licorice. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • Mel says:

      Amy – I’ve only ever tried the one I recommended in the notes section (Star Kay brand) so I’m afraid I don’t know how the McCormick anise extract will fare. If that’s all you can find locally, I’d say it’s worth a try.

      • Connie Guenther says:

        I live in Canada. I tried club house extract and it gives a smell of licorice but it is not very strong. I also wanted to advise that you use more standard measurements in your recipes. Butter in Canada is bought by the pound only (at least where I live) so 1 1/2 sticks of butter is hard to convert. My husband who I should not have listened to said he was sure a stick of butter was 1/4 cup. He really meant 1/4 lb. They still turned out fine even with half the butter recommended and a candy thermometer that never went beyoud 200 degrees.

    • terri says:

      Watkins is the best anise extract I’ve found to make these licorice caramels

  34. queenann says:

    Um, flashback to my childhood! My mom always used to make these at Christmas time. Hmm…I wonder if my family would eat them…

  35. Meaghan says:

    I love this recipe because it has the licorice candy thing happening without any wheat in it. I’ve missed black licorice since going gluten free because it is typically made with flour 🙂 Excited to make these!

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