How To Make Salt Water Taffy

Let’s get this out of the way: Don’t try to make salt water taffy. It’s very tedious. If you do it by hand your arms will be dead when you’re done.

Seriously, if you like salt water taffy go somewhere and buy it. If you want to see it made, take a tour. This was a total pain in the … arms, actually. We won’t be trying this again.

But if you still want to — and how could anyone resist after that buildup? — or if you just want to point and laugh, here’s how we did it.


2½ cups sugar
1½ cups light Karo syrup
1 pint (2 cups) hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon butter
lemon extract
strawberry extract
food color


A note on ingredients. Yes, that’s evil corn syrup I’m using. I never use corn syrup, so what’s the story?

This is candy.  Corn syrup is how candy is made. It’s not a substitute for sugar because it’s cheaper. You’ll notice there’s a whole bunch of sugar also. If you want to tell me how bad sugar is for you, or corn syrup in particular, please do it by writing your own blog post and leaving a pingback.

Moving on …

This recipe comes from

The Kappa Key to Cookery
Compiled  by
Gamma Omega Chapter
Kappa Kappa Gamma
Denison University — Granville, Ohio

I’ve got some really strange ones in here I’ll be sharing. but for now, let’s get back to our salt water taffy.

Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup over high heat.

Use a candy thermometer — there’s no way to do this based on what it looks like, it’s got to be a thermometer — to make sure you bring it to 253° F.

While it’s heating, butter a large baking sheet. You’ll need it later.

When the syrup is 253° F — I told you to use a thermometer, right? — remove it from heat and stir in the vanilla, butter and salt.

It was still boiling in that first picture even though it was off the heat. Which is a good reminder for me to make this public service announcement:

This stuff is hazardous!

And I’m not talking about a threat to your waistline either. Boiling corn syrup is sticky, and more than hot enough to give you third degree burns before you can get to the sink and turn on the cold water. Be extremely careful when working with hot sugar. And use a wooden spoon. Metal will heat up too much, and plastic could get soft and bendy.

Candy making is not for the faint of heart.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way … Pour the syrup onto the buttered pan.

Let it cool enough to handle without burning yourself. We were making two flavors, so at this point we cut it in half.

For the first one, 10 drops of lemon extract and three drops of yellow food color.

Then start twisting and pulling the taffy.

All the recipe we worked from said at this point was “Pull”, like you’re going to know what that means. Here’s some more detail:

  • Fold it
  • Stretch it
  • Fold it again
  • Stretch it again
  • And again …
  • And again …

For a good half-hour until the color is uniform, which means the flavor should be uniform, too. And the more it cools the stiffer it gets. This is insanity. There’s a reason they use machines to make this.

The other half we did with strawberry extract and red food color.

Stretch everything into long, skinny strips and cut into bite-sized pieces.

And that’s …

… well that’s not it actually. I brought that bowl over to my in-laws. They were really looking forward to it.

Did I mention it’s gotten warm in Cleveland the past week? But not hot enough to turn on the air conditioner yet?

I guess now I know why salt water taffy is always sold individually wrapped in wax paper.

I should have seen this coming. While I was getting that picture of the finished product, I set my knife down on top of the uncut taffy. And just that quick …

We cut the rest, put a half-cup of powdered sugar in a bowl and tossed the pieces of taffy in it. That kept them apart nicely.

The kids at the party we took this to loved it. And we’re never making it again. Never.