Recipe Review

Instagram Loves This 3-Ingredient Butternut Fudge, but It’s Worse than You Think

updated May 21, 2020
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Credit: Patty Catalano

There are some truly amazing ideas that come from unexpected places. Without reddit, we wouldn’t be munching on grandma’s greatest lemon bars, and if not for TikTok, the toaster would be left for — toast! But with any food experiment comes risks and, unfortunately, the Instagram-famous butternut fudge was a hopeful swing and a big, big miss.

Back Up for a Second: What Exactly Is Butternut Fudge?

Butternut fudge is a recipe created by Instagrammer Bethany Ugarte (@lilsipper). It promises effortless fudge made with just three ingredients: a butternut squash, chocolate chips, and gelatin. Based purely on likes — almost 19,000 of them! — it looks to be one of her most popular recipes. Ugarte’s followers have shared post after post of the fudge from their own kitchens, and I was soon craving a chocolatey square of my own. Since I’m a total sucker for a food hack, I used the instructions in her post to try it out for myself.

Here’s What Happened on My Butternut Fudge Journey

I began by roasting my squash. I halved it, removed the seeds, and brushed the cut sides with vegetable oil to prevent sticking, then placed it cut-side down onto a baking sheet. I roasted it at 425°F until a knife easily pierced the flesh and the sugars from the squash were bubbling and caramelized. I carefully flipped the squash over with tongs, scooped out the flesh, and transferred it to a food processor.

I then added 3/4 cup chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons of gelatin. While a specific brand of gelatin is mentioned in the Instagram post, I used the Knox gelatin I had in my pantry.

With all three ingredients in the food processor, I twisted on the lid and blended until smooth. The heat of the roasted squash melted the chocolate chips, giving the mixture a milky chocolate brown color. Often times, if a recipe doesn’t call for blooming (or rehydrating) the gelatin, it will leave a stringy texture and unpleasant mouthfeel. But here, it appeared that the heat of the squash and the rapid whipping of the food processor successfully dissolved and incorporated the gelatin.

Credit: Patty Catalano

I grabbed my go-to brownie pan, folded a parchment sling for good measure, and spread the fudge mixture into an even layer. There was no specific indication of what size pan to use, and in retrospect, a loaf pan rather than a 9×9-inch pan would have resulted in a thicker piece of fudge (like the one on Instagram). In the time it took for me to clean my offset spatula, the fudge was already beginning to firm up. I quickly moved the pan to the refrigerator and set the timer for two hours.

Here’s What Happened with the Taste Test

After two hours, the fudge was firm and ready to serve. It was easy to remove, especially with the help of the parchment sling, and I cut it into 16 squares. My first impression was that the bar had a decidedly rubbery wobble. My second was that it didn’t taste very good. The butternut squash adds sweetness, but its overtly vegetal flavor is not masked by the chocolate chips. Perhaps dark chocolate, with its more intense flavor, would have masked the squash’s flavor more completely.

But the real flaw in this recipe is the gelatin. Four tablespoons of gelatin is an enormous amount for this proportion of ingredients. Even if the amount of gelatin was reduced, these clean-cut bars are more akin to chocolatey gelatin stacks, not fudge. They are totally missing the melt-in-your mouth quality that normally comes from the manipulation of sugar crystals and dairy.

Honestly, I’m having trouble understanding who would be attracted to this recipe in the first place. The target audience is clearly not for anyone who is vegan, Whole30, keto, dairy-free, or avoiding refined sugars because one or more ingredients — out of just three — are off-limits in those diets. But if you’re simply looking for a fudge recipe with fewer calories or sugar, you’re better off having a small sliver of the real thing, because this version certainly won’t satisfy your fudge cravings.

Have you tried this fudge hack? Tell us in the comments below.