You have got to try these homemade licorice caramels! Each bite is a creamy explosion of caramel with a subtle, delicious licorice tingle. They are delicious.
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!
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?”
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.
One Year Ago: Killer Crunch Brownies
Two Years Ago: Classic Hummus – Three Ways!
Three Years Ago: Almond Roca
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups (424 g) sugar
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup (340 g) light corn syrup
- ¾ cup (170 g) salted butter
- 2 teaspoons anise extract (see note)
- ½ teaspoon black food coloring paste, optional; see note
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Lightly butter an 8X8- or 9X9-inch pan and set aside.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
77 Comments on “Licorice Caramels”
I always use heavy cream when making caramels. Every recipe I have seen they all call for sweetened condensed milk when making licorice caramels. Is there a chemical reason for this or is this more of what people have on hand? Will mine turn out OK if I use heavy cream as I just purchased 2 quarts at Costco and I need to start using some of it?
Hi Jim, I wouldn’t substitute heavy cream for the sweetened condensed milk. The sweetened condensed milk is very sweet and adds to the overall balance of sweetness in the caramels (whereas the heavy cream is not sweet). I think there are also candy-making/caramel “science” reasons for using the sweetened condensed milk, so I wouldn’t alter the recipe. However, I do have this recipe for caramels that uses heavy cream, and it is fantastic (and you can make licorice flavored caramels out of it): https://www.melskitchencafe.com/how-to-make-the-best-homemade-caramels-of-your-life/
I’m not sure you will see this but can I use your vanilla bean caramel recipe and just add the anise flavor to that recipe or is it something with the sweetened condensed milk that makes the anise work? I just have better luck with that recipe but want the anise flavor. Thanks!
Yes, you can absolutely do that!
These are fabulous and very easy to make. I LOVE LOVE LOVE licorice and added 4 tsp of anise (Watkins extract). It was still not enough. After pouring it in the pan, I saved a little to taste and when it cooled and could tell there wasn’t enough anise. So I used to toothpick to poke many holes in the warm candy and used a basting brush to brush on more anise. Everyone loved the candy but STILL agreed there could be MORE anise. Next time I will use at least 2 TBL And maybe more. I can’t wait!
Just a note and my opinion, only. If you only use 2 tsp of anise, it will taste more like caramel than licorice, which is probably why so many people who don’t like licorice, like this candy. It will still be very good but because it is jet black, and because we eat with our eyes first, it doesn’t work for me. Caramel should not be black.
Hello Daisey…….AND an earlier contributor as well. Have either of you heard of or tried “Thermometer Calibration?” While candy thermometers normally show water coming to a boil at 32 degrees farenheit, barometric pressure makes that VARY slightly by one or two degrees (believe it or not), and for successful use of your candy theremometer (as well as candy SUCCESS), you need to adjust your “goal temperature” accordingly. Take a pan of water, put your thermometer in the pan (as you would while making caramels), and bring the water to a boil. WATCH to see EXACTLY what temperature your water comes to a full boil. THAT IS, for THAT DAY, and THAT ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE, the temperature you use as a gauge. Every so often, I have to add one or two degrees to the “temperature to bring candy temp TO” to get the preferred results! Also, using that “drop a dime-size dollop” into cold water and check texture once cold” works VERY WELL! Keep in mind that the “Calibration of your Thermometer” can make or break your final results! (I made peanut brittle before learning about “calibration” and my brother-in-law almost lost a tooth trying to chew it, after digging a piece loose from the pan, and his teeth stuck in the “non-brittle brittle!” We’ve made home-made candy for our school and church teachers for years, and caramels and fresh fudge are their FAVORITES!
Why is one cup corn syrup 12 oz? Is the one cup volume and the 12 oz by weight?
Yes, the 12 ounces refers to the weight of the corn syrup.
How is this different from licorice toffee? Can I use your recipe as a base for this? Thanks!
I’ve never had licorice toffee, so I’m not sure – definitely worth a try! These are soft and chewy.
Nice caramel, be careful it scorched easily.
Made these again for my goodie baskets this year- they are so good! Two things- I have found them just a tad too soft in years past (they were a BEAR to cut) so this year I just let them go a little longer, to 248- perfection. Still chewy but easier to package. Second- I always add in some flaky salt and sprinkle a little over the top. I use Maldon. Seriously, you should make these. A friend called me today and when I picked up the phone she started with “I don’t even like licorice.” and then proceeded to rave about how good these are. They are. Really. So good. Thank you and merry Christmas!
I’m not much of a black licorice lover, but my soon-to-be father in law is and I made these last Christmas specifically with him in mind. And in my perfectionist ways, I had to try it to make sure it was done right, and was totally ready to spit it out. But I didn’t want to! I ended up making a second batch just so I’d have some leftover to keep for myself! I’m making them again tonight and so excited! XD I was thinking of making a second batch again, but switching up the flavour and seeing how that goes.
Hi, I cannot wait to try these caramels out on my black licorice loving husband, son, and granddaughter. I have been making vanilla and chocolate caramels almost non-stop this month with no signs of stopping so this recipe will be a welcome change in my repertoire!
For those having difficulty with temperature and texture after setting: I have personally found that using both the thermometer AND ice water test is the best way of ensuring consistent success. I use the thermometer (which I almost always find to be off slightly one way or the other) as a guide – I know that when I am near the target temperature, it’s time to start dropping small amounts of the boiling caramel into a small bowl or glass of ice water I keep handy. I find that feeling a chilled bit of candy in between my fingers for firmness and eating it to test how it ‘chews’ is the best way to determine when it is ready. Multiple tests as described may be necessary until one becomes familiar with the texture, but I don’t mind sneaking a few tastes! Make sure you keep the water plenty cold, adding ice as necessary. I hope this is helpful. Merry Christmas!
I would take a stash of licorice caramels and stack Nancy Drew books into my mom’s sewing room on rainy days. Love mysteries and licorice caramel to this day. This is a terrific recipe- try enrobing a few in dark chocolate sometime- you’ll be glad you did.
I make this for my family at Christmas. I’m just about to make it for my Dad to send to him for his Birthday. I made it for my brother last month, for the first time and he loved it. We are black licorice lovers, so I add an extra teaspoon of anise (It’s McCormick brand) and a light sprinkling of sea salt. I also use this recipe to make cinnamon caramel using a dram of cinnamon oil for the flavoring. I know there is a recipe for cinnamon caramel, I just like the ease of this recipe.
Bulk Barn has the anise
Mel is there anything I can do the caramels did not set up? Mine are still too soft to cut and I’m wondering if I could re-boil them?
Yes, usually soft caramels can be boiled again and brought back up to temperature if they are too soft. Use low heat or else the caramel may separate with a buttery layer.
I can hardly wait to try these! I make a “ton” of caramels around the holidays for family, friends, and fundraisers. We live at a high altitude and have learned how to make caramels through trial and error. After documenting temperature and heat regulation for a couple seasons, I quit using a temperature gauge and used the cold water method. I haven’t had a bad batch since, about 10 years. I noticed during my documentation phase, the temperature could vary anywhere from 5 degrees to 40 degrees. Cold crisp days – no storms – were the best days to make candy. Hope this helps. Happy candy making!
Hi, the recipe says 1cup of light corn syrup 12 oz. but a cup is 8 oz???
The 12 ounces is the weight of the corn syrup, not the volume. Does that help?
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. 🙂
Have you ever doubled this recipe in a 9X13 pan? Do you think it would work? Thanks!!!
Yes, works great!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
Mixing after won’t help – sounds to me as though your thermometer may be registering on the cool side. Have you ever calibrated it to see if it’s at the right temperature?
Thanks! I think I’m just going to buy a new thermometer because my fudge doesn’t work either! Thank you!! Is one better than another? I just bought mine at Publix (grocery)
I really love the digital candy thermometers (I bought mine off Amazon – the Maverick brand like this one).
Is the temperature, 242-244, sea level temperature?
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
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!
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.
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?
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.
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! 😀
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.
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?
These caramels won’t turn out without the corn syrup and a simple syrup won’t take the place of it well, I don’t think.
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?
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).
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!
Is it possible to omit the anise altogether and use real licorice powder? Anyone tried?
Linda – I’m not familiar with licorice powder so I haven’t tried it. Good luck if you try it!
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.
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 🙂
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!
How many pieces do you usually cut?
Julie – I didn’t count specifically, but at least 30 if not more.
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.
Do I need to adjust the temperature for a higher altitude? I live in Utah and don’t want to overcook or undercook.
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.
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.
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!
Pinned! And I totally need to make this! My husband has been on a licorice craze this winter so he will flip over these!
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!
Is it one cup or 12 ounces for the corn syrup?
Jane – it is 1 cup (the 12 ounces refers to the weight of the corn syrup not the liquid measurement).
My mother absolutely loves black licorice, gonna have to make these!
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?
Lauri – nope, I didn’t line my pan at all but I did grease it pretty thoroughly.
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:)
What are your thoughts on using fennel essential oil in place if anise?
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.
These look amazing -corn syrup and all 🙂 Thanks for the tutorial on the paper cones! Easy is always appreciated!
These sound scrumptious, although I wish the recipe didn’t have gross corn syrup in it.
I will try ro make them without…
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!
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.
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.
Watkins is the best anise extract I’ve found to make these licorice caramels
Um, flashback to my childhood! My mom always used to make these at Christmas time. Hmm…I wonder if my family would eat them…
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!