In today’s post: This is the best English Toffee recipe, and it’s super easy! You only need five ingredients to make classic toffee that everyone will love. You don’t even need a candy thermometer.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been making English Toffee to give as gifts at Christmas time. And for as long as I can remember, people have been telling her it’s the BEST toffee they’ve ever tasted. People wait all year for this toffee, and it’s easy to see why:
- The taste is just a beautiful butter caramel flavor, everything you want from classic toffee without anything else to get in the way.
- The texture is perfectly crunchy without being sticky.
- It’s covered with a generous amount of milk chocolate (no skimping here!) and your favorite chopped nuts on top.
How Much Toffee Does This Recipe Make?
This recipe makes a full 9×13 pan of thick toffee, or a cookie sheet of thinner toffee. That works out to about 2.25 pounds of candy, or approximately 8 cups when broken into bite size pieces. If you want to give it as gifts, you can divide it up into eight small bags with about one cup in each, or 4-6 larger bags if desired.
This English Toffee recipe is very traditional, and uses only sugar, butter, and water for the toffee, plus chocolate and nuts on top. Some recipes add vanilla, salt or corn syrup to the toffee mixture, but I think all of these are unnecessary: butter and sugar cooked together to perfect don’t need any extra flavoring!
I use Hershey’s milk chocolate chips because they are easy to work with, but you can use a fancier brand or a nice dipping chocolate if you like, or even semisweet chocolate if you prefer. I prefer toasted almonds on my toffee, but my mom makes it with walnuts; feel free to use your favorite nuts, such as chopped pecans.
You may notice that this recipe calls for water in the toffee, which isn’t strictly necessary. However, as you cook toffee the butter and sugar can separate, especially if you are cooking it too hot. Adding the water helps keep the boiling temperature lower and prevent that problem.
How to Make Classic English Toffee
I used to be intimidated about making homemade toffee because candy making seemed really hard, especially back when I didn’t own a candy thermometer. But I’ve found the perfect hint for telling when it’s done AND streamlined the process a bit so it doesn’t take as many steps. I’ll share all my tips so your toffee turns out great on the first try! One thing to note is that you will need a heavy saucepan to make toffee – if you try to use a cheap lightweight saucepan it will end up burning.
Prep the Pan and the Nuts
Before you start making toffee, you need to prep a baking dish or cookie sheet to pour the hot toffee out onto. I use a 9×13 pyrex baking dish lined with parchment paper. That makes a nice thick toffee. If you prefer thinner toffee, you can line a cookie sheet with parchment paper instead.
Next, if you’re using almonds you’ll want to toast them, so spread out a cup of almonds on a baking sheet and placing them in a 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes.
After 7-8 minutes they’ll smell delicious. Remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly, then chop them into small pieces as shown.
Cook the Toffee
While the nuts are in the oven toasting, start making your toffee. In a heavy bottom medium or large saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring it to combine as the butter melts. Try not to splash sugar up on the sides of the pot as your stir. The mixture will foam up quite a bit larger as it begins to boil, so make sure you are using a saucepan with plenty of room. It will be light yellow at this point.
Once the toffee mixture is boiling, you don’t need to stir very often at all. Too much stirring can cause the mixture to separate, leaving you with a greasy mess. I use a wooden spoon and only stir once or twice every five minutes, just to ensure nothing is burning at the bottom of the saucepan. In the meantime, pull your almonds out of the oven and get them chopped.
You’ll continue to boil the toffee mixture on MEDIUM and it won’t look like much is happening for the first fifteen minutes or so. After a bit, the mixture will decrease in size and you’ll see that it’s beginning to turn a golden color. This is when you’ll want to stir a little more often (but don’t stir too quickly; again too much stirring can cause separation).
Note: If you aren’t getting a nice boil over medium heat, turn the burner up to medium high, but no higher.
Toffee needs to cook until the hard crack stage, which is at least 300 degrees Fahrenheit (I think 310 degrees is better). If you have a candy thermometer, you can certainly use it. But I find that getting the toffee to the right color is actually a better indicator of doneness. And the right color is: exactly the color of peanut butter.
I like to have a spoon of peanut butter sitting on the counter so I can compare it to the cooking toffee. Once the color matches, the toffee is ready. You’ll also notice the toffee smells amazing at this point. Give it a couple good stirs, and then you can pour it out into your prepared 9×13 pan or prepared baking sheet.
It will spread out on it’s own, but you can also use an offset spatula to smooth the top if you’d like. You’ll probably see some bubbles, but those will disappear as it begins to cool.
Top with Chocolate and Nuts
Allow the toffee to sit for about ten minutes, which will let it start firming up. Then sprinkle the chocolate chips on tops, spreading them out evenly. After about five minutes they’ll be melty and you can spread the chocolate out with an offset spatula.
Finally, sprinkle the chopped nuts on top, evenly distributing. Gently press the nuts into the melted chocolate.
Now you need to wait until the toffee is completely cool and the chocolate has set up. This is the hard part! Depending on how warm your house is, this could take 6 or more hours, so I always like to make toffee in the evening and just let it sit out to cool overnight.
Once the chocolate is hard, you can break the toffee into bite size pieces and enjoy! I use the parchment paper to remove the toffee from the pan and set it on a cutting board, then use a large sharp knife to chop it into small pieces. It stores well at room temperature for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.
- 1.5 cups Butter 3 sticks
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1/3 cup Water
- 2 cups Milk Chocolate Chips
- 1 cup Almonds
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- Heavy Bottom Saucepan
- Line a 9×13 cake pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place almonds on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven. Set a timer for 7-8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place butter, sugar and water in a medium large heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring ingredients to combine as the butter melts.
- Continue to boil on medium, stirring only occasionally, until mixture begins to turn golden brown. Total cook time with be approximately 20 minutes. During this time your almonds will finish toasting; remove them from the oven and chop them into small pieces.
- Continue cooking the toffee until mixture is the color of peanut butter or 305-310 degrees Fahrenheit. Give it a couple good stirs, then pour it out onto the prepared baking dish or cookie pan.
- Wait ten minutes, then sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the toffee. Wait a few more minutes, then spread the chocolate out into an even layer and sprinkle on the nuts. Gently press the nuts into the chocolate.
- Allow the toffee to cool completely and the chocolate to set up completely before cutting or breaking into bite size pieces.
No! I never use a candy thermometer when I make toffee. It’s easy to tell when it’s ready – just compare it to a spoon of peanut butter. When the color matches, it’s done!
If you cook your toffee on too high of heat OR stir it too often, it can separate. Make sure you are using a heavy bottom saucepan that will evenly distribute heat. If your toffee has just begun to separate, you can try two things: put it on a lower temperature and gently stir in a tablespoon of water; that may help it come back together.
If the toffee gets cooked all the way to 310 degrees it will be nice and crunchy without sticking to your teeth. If it is sticky, that means it wasn’t cooked long enough. Try cooking it longer next time, until it’s the same color as peanut butter.
If you are worried you cooked the toffee too long, let it cool without adding the chocolate and nuts. After about 20 minutes it should be cool enough that you can break off a little piece and taste it. Very overcooked toffee will taste burnt, but if it’s just a little over it will likely still be fine. If it tastes fine to you, just melt your chocolate, pour it over the toffee, and add the nuts.