Martha Washington Candy Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 45 min. + chilling
Martha Washington candy is a nostalgic confection that’s been passed down for generations. Don’t let the word “candy” intimidate you! This confection is very easy to make, with zero fancy tools required.

Updated: Apr. 29, 2024

Martha Washington candy is a vintage treat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not loved by the modern palate. The candy’s center is sweet, smooth and creamy, with tropical shredded coconut and toasted pecans studded throughout. Each candy has a shiny chocolate coating, creating an irresistible coconut-pecan bonbon.

This vintage candy has murky origins, but the recipe is so beloved that it’s been passed down for years—and is still loved to this day.

Ingredients for Martha Washington Candy

  • Confectioners’ sugar: We use confectioners’ sugar in our Martha Washington candy recipe. It’s powdery and dissolves better than granulated sugar.
  • Sweetened condensed milk: This type of milk has most of the water cooked off, then sugar is added. It’s generally used in candy and dessert recipes. Evaporated milk is concentrated in the same way but doesn’t contain added sugar.
  • Shredded coconut: Be sure to grab the “sweetened” shredded coconut instead of “unsweetened.” It will make a huge difference in flavor.
  • Toasted pecans: To toast nuts, spread them in a baking pan, and bake at 350°F until golden brown, stirring often. Generally, nuts will be toasted in 6 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to stop the cooking process. Timing will depend on how finely the nuts are chopped and the thickness of your baking pan.
  • Chocolate chips: Grab a bag of the best chocolate chips from the store. You’ll really want to make sure you’re using a good-quality chocolate chip brand since it’s such an integral ingredient in this recipe.
  • Shortening: A bit of shortening thins the melted chocolate so it’s easier to coat the candies. It also adds shine to the chocolate for a gorgeous candy finish.


Step 1: Make the dough, and chill

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract until blended. Fold in the shredded coconut and toasted pecans until everything is evenly dispersed.

Place half of the dough into a separate bowl. Cover bowls with storage wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

Step 2: Shape into balls

Working with one dough half at a time, shape the mixture into 1-inch balls. Place the balls on waxed paper-lined baking sheets, and refrigerate the balls for 30 minutes longer. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

Step 3: Melt the chocolate

On top of a double boiler or a metal bowl over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate chips and shortening together until completely smooth and no lumps remain.

Editor’s Tip: Not a fan of the double-boiler method? Try one of the other ways to melt chocolate instead.

Step 4: Coat the balls in the chocolate

Martha Washington Candy Dipped in chocolate and ready to serveTMB Studio

Working with one ball at a time, lower the balls into the melted chocolate. You may need to roll the ball in the chocolate a bit to completely cover it. Allow the excess melted chocolate to drip off. Return the balls to the waxed paper. Top with additional shredded coconut or other toppings if desired. Refrigerate the balls until they’re set.

Editor’s Tip: A dipping tool set is one of our essential candy-making tools. If you find yourself making a lot of bonbons and chocolate-covered truffles, we recommend investing in a set.

Recipe Variations

  • Add maraschino cherries: Many Martha Washington candy recipes include maraschino cherries for extra sweetness and brightness. If you want to add this ingredient, you really need to make sure the cherries are as dry as possible, or the balls will be impossible to roll with all the extra moisture. Drain a jar of maraschino cherries, chop them up, and pat them very well with a paper towel. Dry them out for up to two hours at room temp, then pat them dry one more time.
  • Swap out the pecans: Feel free to omit the pecans or use a different nut. Remember, the nut has to pair with coconut and chocolate, too, so go for macadamia nuts, hazelnuts or almonds. Don’t forget to toast them beforehand!
  • Drizzle on white chocolate: Once the semisweet chocolate coating has set, melt white chocolate, add it to a piping bag or resealable bag, and cut open a very small hole. Drizzle the white chocolate on top of each candy. Feel free to add one of the decorative toppings listed below before the white chocolate sets. It happens quicker than you think.
  • Decorate with toppings: Before the chocolate has set, sprinkle any leftover toasted pecans on top for a nice crunch, or flaky salt to slightly offset the sweetness. You can never go wrong with sprinkles.

How to Store Martha Washington Candy

Store Martha Washington candies in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If stacking the candies, place pieces of parchment or waxed paper in between each layer. The candies can last for up to two weeks in the fridge.

Can I freeze Martha Washington candy?

Yes, you can freeze Martha Washington candies. Freeze the candy, layered between pieces of parchment or waxed paper in freezer-safe containers. Store them in the freezer for up to three months. To use, thaw in the refrigerator for two hours before serving.

Martha Washington Candy Tips

Martha Washington Candy served in a dishTMB Studio

Why is it called Martha Washington candy?

Martha Washington candies (sometimes called “coconut bonbons”) have a few origin theories. The most obvious origin, and the least agreed upon, is that this recipe comes from Martha Washington herself.

The second, and most popular, theory is that this recipe came from the candy store Martha Washington Candies that first opened in the 1890s. Around the 1920s, the company reached its peak with stores opening across the country, but many started to shutter their windows during the Great Depression. By the 1940s, the stores dropped off completely, but homemade recipes of Martha Washington candy were passed down with each generation, continuing this candy’s legacy.

When should I make Martha Washington candy?

Many people love to make Martha Washington candies during the holidays. Make a batch and place them around the cookies on your Christmas cookie tray. The candies are especially on par if you’re already planning on making a few old-fashioned, traditional Christmas desserts for your holiday spread.

Watch how to Make Martha Washington Candy

Martha Washington Candy

Prep Time 45 min
Yield 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. Top with additional coconut if desired. Refrigerate until set.
  4. To Make Ahead: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 196 calories, 13g fat (7g saturated fat), 9mg cholesterol, 43mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (21g sugars, 1g fiber), 2g protein.