Best Homemade Toffee

updated Dec 13, 2023
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Gifting a batch of homemade toffee is the ultimate way to impress your friends this holiday season. The best part — no one has to know how easy it really is. If you can melt butter and read a thermometer, you can make toffee — I promise. In this recipe, you’ll learn how to make buttery toffee from scratch complete with a layer of rich chocolate and finely chopped nuts that’s better than anything you can buy.

What is Toffee?

Toffee is a candy made by cooking butter and sugar to the upper limit of the soft crack stage (295°F to 300°F), then cooled in a thin layer until crunchy. Toffee has rich, buttery, and caramel flavors and is often topped with chocolate and chopped nuts.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Ingredients in Homemade Toffee

  • Granulated sugar: Heating sugar develops caramel-like flavors and aromas (thanks to the Maillard reaction). The candy’s texture is directly related to the temperature to which the sugar is cooked.
  • Unsalted butter: Butter adds richness and dairy flavor to toffee and keeps it the candy from sticking to the teeth.
  • Kosher salt: Even candy needs a bit of salt for balance and to bring out the nuance of caramel flavors.
  • Chocolate: Sprinkle semi-sweet chocolate chips evenly over the toffee, and let the residual heat from the candy melt the chocolate. A mini offset spatula is one of my favorite kitchen tools and it works like a dream to spread the chocolate into an even layer.
  • Nuts: Almonds and pecans provide a nutty crunchy to the top of homemade toffee. Start with raw, whole nuts and toast them in the oven until fragrant.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What Is the Difference Between English and American Toffee?

While Americans refer to most toffee as “English toffee,” there are two major differences between the two.

  • American toffee (also called buttercrunch): Relies on granulated or white sugar and nuts.
  • English toffee: Starts with brown sugar and does not contain nuts.

These are not hard-and-fast rules, however, so you’ll find nut-crusted toffees in Britain and encounter toffee in the States that start with brown sugar.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What Is the Difference Between Caramel and Toffee?

The biggest difference between caramel and toffee is texture. The texture of caramel can range from a thick caramel sauce to chewy candy, but toffee is always hard and crunchy.

  • Caramel candies: Melt sugar into a syrup either with a bit of water (wet caramel) or without (dry caramel) and flavor with cream, butter, and vanilla extract. Soft and chewy caramel candies are cooked to the firm ball stage (245°F to 250°F).
  • Toffee: Cook butter and sugar together to the upper limit of the soft crack stage (between 295°F and 300°F), then pour it into a pan to quickly cool into a crunchy candy.

How Do I Know When My Sugar Syrup Is Ready?

The easiest way to know when sugar syrup is ready is to use a candy or deep-fry thermometer. For toffee, heat sugar and butter until the sugar is caramelized and reaches the upper end of the soft crack stage (295°F to 300°F).

If you don’t have a candy or deep-fry thermometer, you can use the cold water test to determine if the syrup is ready. Once the candy approaches the desired hue — light caramel, or the color of peanut butter — drizzle a small amount of the syrup into a cup of ice water. Let the syrup cool for 10 seconds in the water, then check texture. If the candy snaps rather than bends, it’s ready to take off the heat.

Why Does Toffee Separate?

Toffee fails when the candy seizes and the butter separates from the cooked sugar. Here are some common trouble spots and how to fix them.

  • Heat too high. Cook the candy over medium heat and do not try to speed up the process by raising the heat. It may take it longer to reach the desired temperature, but there’s less risk of separation.
  • Uneven heating. Using a heavy-bottomed pan (this is my favorite saucepan for candy-making) helps distribute more heat evenly than thinner pots. Stirring the mixture periodically helps to break up any hot spots.

How Do I Store Toffee?

Store the toffee at cool room temperature, separating the layers of the candy with parchment paper. Toffee can also be refrigerated or frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container. (Did someone say make-ahead gift?)

Toffee Recipe

This is the easiest homemade candy you'll make.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 35 minutes

Makes about 3 pounds

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup

    raw whole almonds or pecans

  • 1 pound

    unsalted butter

  • 2 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 12 ounces)


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Arrange 1 cup whole almonds or pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and finely chop when cool.

  3. Use wrappers from 1 pound unsalted butter to grease the edges and rim of the same rimmed baking sheet and the sides of a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Line the bottom of the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and place on a heatproof surface.

  4. Place the butter, 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is almost melted completely, stir gently with a wooden spoon, being careful not to splash the edges with the sugar.

  5. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer to the pan and cook until the mixture darkens to a light caramel color or the color of peanut butter, and reaches 295°F to 300°F, 17 to 21 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally to break up any hot spots and to emulsify the butter and sugar. After every stir, rinse the wooden spoon well to remove all sugar crystals so the candy mixture doesn’t seed. If you notice sugar crystals around the edge of the pan above the syrup, brush those areas with a damp pastry brush.

  6. Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Let cool until the bubbles subside and the toffee begins to set, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (careful, the baking sheet will still be very hot). Let until softened and melted, about 5 minutes. Use an offset metal spatula or a silicone spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle with the nuts, pressing gently into the chocolate.

  7. Let cool completely at room temperature, at least 3 hours. If the chocolate does not harden at room temperature, refrigerate for 20 minutes once the toffee is completely cool. Use your hands or a chef’s knife to break the toffee into large pieces.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Nuts can be toasted up to 1 week in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer until ready to use.

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.