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Martha Washington Candy

Passed down by my grandmother and mother, this Martha Washington candy recipe is a cherished family tradition. We've even had each grandchild and great-grandchild take a turn stirring the candy mixture! —Cindi Boger, Ardmore, Alabama
  • Total Time
    Prep: 45 min. + chilling
  • Makes
    about 5-1/2 dozen


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
  • 6 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup shortening


  • In a large bowl, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla until blended. Stir in coconut and pecans. Divide dough in half; refrigerate, covered, 1 hour.
  • Working with half the dough at a time, shape mixture into 1-in. balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate 30 minutes longer.
  • In top of a double boiler or a metal bowl over barely simmering water, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip balls in melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Return to waxed paper. Refrigerate until set.
  • To Make Ahead: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Freeze option: Freeze candy, layered between pieces of waxed paper, in freezer containers. To use, thaw in refrigerator 2 hours before serving.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • For this recipe, make sure to use sweetened condensed milk. This type of milk has most of the water cooked off and added sugar. It’s generally used in candy and dessert recipes. Evaporated milk is concentrated in the same way, but doesn’t contain added sugar.
  • To toast pecans, spread them in a baking pan and bake at 350° until golden brown, stirring often. Generally, nuts will be toasted in 6-10 minutes. Timing will depend on how finely the nuts are chopped and the thickness of your baking pan.
  • Find more easy candy recipes here.
  • Nutrition Facts
    1 piece: 196 calories, 13g fat (7g saturated fat), 9mg cholesterol, 43mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (21g sugars, 1g fiber), 2g protein.
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    • tina
      Jan 1, 2021

      My first memory of Martha Washington candy is from around 60 years ago while visiting a family friend in south Texas. We helped her roll the dough because that's how you got to taste it! We begged Mom to get the recipe from her and make them for us. We had to shell the pecans ourselves if we wanted the candy. But there were five kids so it didn't take long and it was SO worth it! We used the paraffin wax back then (Mom kept it in the freezer in case her iron was dragging) and never added coconut or cherries. I think its the easiest candy of all to make because it doesn't require an thermometer!

    • Brandy
      Dec 22, 2020

      Okay people, so this is called Martha Washington Candy because in the 1920 or 30's there was a candy company called Martha Washington Candy Company and they were the original creators of the candy. The stores all closed during the Great Depression, but the recipe for this candy has held the test of time.

    • christmastreegal
      Dec 21, 2020

      This is one of my favorite candies to make at Christmas! I do add maraschino cherries as that was the way I first ate and learned to make this candy with and my husband thinks they are fabulous. Either with or without, this recipe is a keeper and one that generations back made only without the condensed milk as they made their own using heavy cream, butter and sugar.

    • Laura
      Dec 14, 2020

      Made these without the coconut; I also processed the pecans so they were a bit of a mix between chopped and ground and I loved the texture. We tried it with semisweet and dark chocolate. At first as I sampled I was worried it wouldn’t be exceptional but patience was worth it. These were divine. A bit dangerous because I could eat way too many. The texture was perfect! I can picture forgoing pecans and adding mint extract- considered it- and it would taste just like a york. But why not just buy a york? I loved the pecans! I do wonder why Martha Washington is in the name, simply bc I am a fan of hers and would enjoy knowing the history. I never made candy before and this was a simple, fun, delightful and scrumptious introduction going into my recipe book! Thanks!

    • sherrysbear
      Dec 11, 2020

      My mother made a nearly identical recipe back in the 1960's, only her recipe called for food-grade paraffin wax instead of oil. So glad times have changed! Everyone who ate one of my mom's "bon bons" raved about them Few asked for the recipe as these take time to make.

    • 1008oregon
      Dec 10, 2020

      Maybe Martha Washington made peanut butter herself. Anyone who was not there needs to get a hobby. It’s been great candy for decades, since I was a teenager when the earth was still cooling.

    • Ann
      Dec 10, 2020

      My mother made this candy every year at Christmas & I’ve made this candy for years now. The reason this was called Martha Washington Candy was because is had chopped up pieces of Maraschino Cherries in it. I put the small jar of cherries in a small chopper and then press all the juice out between paper towels. I also use paraffin & semisweet chips no oil. I refrigerate for overnight & used a small cookie scoop. So much easier than rolling in a ball. Dip using a plastic fork with the two middle tines broken out.

    • KdLite
      Aug 8, 2020

      These were awesome!!! People like KathyCooks1943 and Catie really need to get a grip and stop nitpicking over stupid stuff. Next they'll blow all our minds and tell us there's no dogs in hotdogs, that chili is served hot, there's no ham in hamburgers and it's unlikely that General Tso ever made General Tso's chicken. Just sayin....

    • Kittens
      Jun 6, 2020

      Growing up in the southwest, I've never even heard of these little gems! Traditionally, for Christmas, we make a soft coconut cookie, sometimes with peppermint flavoring, sometimes dipping in chocolate, but those don't begin to satisfy the tastebuds as well as these candies. Definitely messy, but ooooh soooo worth it. Thank you so very much for our new Christmas tradition!!!

    • KathyCooks1943
      Apr 30, 2020

      Pretty sure Martha Washington didn't have condensed milk, chocolate chips and sweeten shredded coconut. No freezer either. Lol