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Enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas treat this year with this decadent Martha Washington candy recipe. It’s a holiday classic! A creamy middle is packed with sweetened coconut, maraschino cherries, and pecans all inside a dreamy chocolate coating. Perfect for gift-giving or your holiday cookie tray!
Old-fashioned candy like nut brittle, rum balls, and Martha Washingtons are perfect for making during the holiday season. They’ll remind you of holiday baking and treat-making with your mom or grandma. Don’t you love Christmas traditions that involve family and lots of good food? I sure do 🙂
If you like almond joy candy bars, you will love this Martha Washington candy recipe! The sweet coconut, crunchy pecans and cherries combine with powdered sugar and sweetened condensed milk to make a rich, decadent candy with a flavorful center.
The classic candy looks lovely on the holiday table or when added to Christmas cookie trays. It also makes a great gift for coconut lovers or anyone with a sweet tooth.
For another super easy candy recipe for the holidays, try my crockpot candy — it’s a hit with kids and adults alike.
For now, let’s get started on one of my favorite homemade candy recipes.
This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
- Butter — Use unsalted butter softened to room temperature.
- Powdered Sugar — This confectioners’ sugar will sweeten up the center of the Martha Washingtons to perfection.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk — For the creamy part of the “dough.” Make sure you grab sweetened condensed milk and not evaporated milk.
- Vanilla Extract — Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- Shredded Coconut — I prefer sweetened shredded coconut, but you can use unsweetened if you want to cut down on the richness a little.
- Pecans — The perfect nut to go in these holiday treats. Chop them finely so they mix easily with the other ingredients.
- Maraschino Cherries — Drain them completely, chop them, and blot them dry with a paper towel.
- Chocolate Almond Bark — Any kind of melting chocolate will do, but chocolate almond bark is my favorite because it sets up quickly.
- White Candy Melts — This is optional but is used to create a pretty white drizzle over the balls.
Equipment You’ll Need
Grab the following tools to get started on these easy candies:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Large mixing bowl
- Microwave-safe bowl – for melting the candy coating.
- Baking sheets
- Electric mixer– either a stand mixer or hand mixer will work for this recipe.
- Parchment paper or wax paper – I love the pre-cut parchment sheets. Huge time saver!
- Candy dipping tools – optional, but helpful.
- Small cookie scoop – also optional, but helpful.
How to Make Martha Washington Candy
This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below.
Step 1: Mix the butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer.
Step 2: Stir in the shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and chopped maraschino cherries.
TIP: Remember to blot the cherries dry first; you don’t want any added liquid in these candies.
Step 3: Cover the candy mixture with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until it’s firm enough to handle without sticking to your hands.
Step 4: Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper. Roll the chilled mixture into 1-inch balls, and place half of the balls on each of the paper-lined baking sheets. Small balls are best because this candy is quite rich!
Step 5: Place the baking sheets in the fridge for 2 hours or until firm. I prefer to chill the balls overnight.
Step 6: Add half of the almond bark to a microwave-safe bowl, heating in 30-second increments until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove one tray of the candies from the fridge.
Using a toothpick, candy dipping tool, or fork, dip the balls into the melted chocolate. Tap off the excess chocolate on the side of the bowl, and place the candy back on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
When you are finished with one cookie tray, put it back in the fridge and repeat the process with the remaining almond bark and candies.
Step 7: After all the candies have been dipped, melt the white candy melts and drizzle the white chocolate on top of the candies using a fork.
Step 8: Allow the chocolate to set. Then serve and enjoy!
Storage and Freezing
Refrigerator: Store these candy balls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Freezer: Freeze the dipped candies in an air-tight container between layers of wax paper. Thaw for at least 4 hours in the fridge before serving (overnight is best).
Martha Washington Candies Tips and Tricks
- Toast the pecans to amp up the nutty flavor. If you do toast the nuts, you’ll need to do so before chopping them. Heat your oven to 350°F, and place the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 6-10 minutes, stirring often, until the pecans are golden brown. Do not leave unattended — nuts can burn quickly.
- Reheat the melting chocolate as needed. Because the candy mixture is chilled the almond bark may harden. If it does, reheat it in 15-second increments until it’s melted and smooth.
- Save the maraschino cherry juice. You can use it for a yummy drink!
- Use powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Dust your hands lightly with powdered sugar to keep the candy mixture from sticking to your fingers and palms while rolling the balls.
- Prep ahead. Flash-freeze undipped candy on the baking trays, and then put them in freezer-safe containers with wax paper between each layer. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and dip in chocolate the day you’re ready to serve.
- Save half of the undipped balls for later. Don’t feel like dipping them all at once? Save half of the rolled balls and half of the almond bark for later. You can even freeze them for a couple of months if you’d like.
Additions and Variations
Substitute different nuts. If pecans aren’t your thing, try walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts. Just make sure they are finely chopped before adding them to the mixture.
Change the topping. Instead of a white chocolate drizzle, top the candies with more crushed nuts, a pinch of coconut flakes, or some fun and festive sprinkles.
Ditch the cherries. When it comes to maraschino cherries, people either love them or hate them. If they’re not your cup of tea, leave them out. The candy will still be delicious.
Martha Washingtons Recipe FAQ
The ingredients in this Martha Washington candy recipe are: butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, coconut, pecans, maraschino cherries, and chocolate. This old-fashioned candy looks similar to a buckeye but has a sweet, creamy center packed with shredded coconut, cherries, and chopped pecans.
The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal reports that Elie Sheetz, the confectioner and store owner who created the candies, was amused and inspired by a customer referring to his candies as u0022Martha Washingtonu0022 candies. He went on to name the candies u0022Martha Washington Candiesu0022 and his candy company the u0022Martha Washington Candies Companyu0022
While not all candy made with sweetened condensed milk needs to be refrigerated (like fudge, for instance), I do recommend refrigerating Martha Washington balls. The taste and texture is much better when they’re chilled.
Yes, you can make this old-fashioned favorite several days ahead of time and add them to your holiday tins when you’re ready to gift them.
Homemade Candy Recipes
Try some of these easy candy recipes this holiday season!
- Homemade Peppermint Patties
- Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies
- Peanut Butter Fritos Candy
- Chocolate Covered Honeycomb
- Christmas Crack
Martha Washington Candy
- 1 cup butter room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 can 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 20 maraschino cherries drained, chopped and blotted dry
- 1 pound chocolate almond bark
- 1 cup white candy melts or white almond bark
- In a large bowl, mix the butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla until combined.
- Stir in the coconut, pecans, and cherries.
- Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper and set aside.
- Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place half on each lined baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm. (I prefer to chill overnight)
- Melt half of the almond bark in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Remove 1 tray of the candies from the fridge and use a toothpick, dipping tool, or fork to dip the balls into the melted chocolate. Tap off excess chocolate and place it back onto the lined baking sheet. When you are finished with one baking sheet place it back into the fridge to set and repeat to melt the remaining almond bark and dip the second batch of candy.
- When all candies have been dipped, melt the white candy melts, and drizzle on top of the candies.
- Allow the chocolate to set. Serve and enjoy!