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The Perfect Holiday Gift: Best Ever Butter Toffee

The Perfect Holiday Gift: Best Ever Butter Toffee

I enjoy giving food gifts during the holidays.  Every year I deliver at least four, and sometimes more, platters of homemade cookies and sweet breads to friends and neighbors.  I also like to make goodie bags of sweet treats to put in the stockings of the male members of my family.  Sometimes I make caramelized nuts, a sweet snack mix, or candy.  Yes, we still hang stockings for everyone at my parents’ home – even the adults.

My father-in-law loved English toffee.  For many years I made up a batch of Best Ever Butter Toffee as part of his Christmas gift.  I think it brought me as much joy to watch him open it each year as it brought him to receive it.  Every time I gave him this homemade candy he made out as if he was going to offer it to everyone gathered, but then he would pass it around so quickly no one had a chance of taking a piece.  He wanted to save it all for himself.  This always brought moans and laughter from the family as we all knew exactly what he was up to.  Of course, he would then offer to pass it around again.

This will be our second Christmas without my father-in-law and I realized lately I have been missing him.  I decided it was time to pull out my Best Ever Butter Toffee recipe and make a batch in his memory.

I know candy making can be a little scary for some people.  It really isn’t difficult to make, but there are a few important things to know.  
  • You will need a good candy thermometer.  It’s important that it be accurate.
  • Don’t attempt to make toffee on a humid day.  Instead choose a cool, dry day.  High humidity will affect the outcome of your toffee; it likely will turn sticky.  
  • Always use a heavy saucepan.  A non-stick pan makes clean up a breeze.
  • Don’t rush candy by turning up the heat.  Be patient.

Begin by preparing the pan you will be spreading the hot toffee mixture into.  Butter a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan; then set it aside.

Combine the sugar, butter, water and light corn syrup in a heavy 3-quart saucepan.  

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 300ºF.  This will take 25 to 40 minutes.   Here is where the “be patient” tip becomes important.  As the toffee mixture cooks it will turn from a buttery yellow color…

…to a golden brown color.  Here it is at 300ºF.  See how the color has changed?

If you don’t have a candy thermometer I highly recommend you go purchase one.  But, if you can’t there is another way to tell if the toffee mixture is at the right temperature.  This is the cold water test.  When the mixture has turned a golden brown color drop a small amount of the toffee mixture into a small bowl of cold water.


If it forms brittle strands you will know it is has reached approximately 300ºF.  If the toffee mixture, once it is in the cold water, is still soft and pliable, the mixture needs to continue to cook some more.


If at any point your candy does separate, allow it to keep cooking- it may re-mix on its own. Another possible solution is to gradually and very carefully stir in about ¼ to ½ cup of hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well until the mixture comes back together.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the nuts.  Now pour the mixture into the prepared pan.


Spread quickly to the desired thickness.


Sprinkle chocolate chips over the hot candy and let stand 5 minutes.


Then spread the melted chocolate evenly over the candy and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of chopped nuts.


Let cool completely until the chocolate is firm.  This will take at least 3 hours.  Now you can break the toffee into pieces.  You just lift the toffee out of the pan and break it apart.


The toffee should be stored in an airtight container.  It’s fun to get creative on ways to package the toffee for gift giving.  Here are a couple of ideas, but I’m sure you will be able to think of more.

  Best Ever Butter Toffee – the perfect holiday gift.  I would enjoy hearing about your experience making this recipe and about any creative ways you come up with for packaging it for a gift. Please take a couple of minutes to rate and review this recipe too.

Come back in a few days and I will share a new holiday favorite.

Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchens for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.

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Your suggestion to add water saved my batch of toffee! Thank You!

Posted December 04, 2013 by Mary Ann

Hi, I want to make this recipe ,instead of using corn syrup can i use anything else because its hard to find corn syrup as it is not available in the place where i live Thanks.

Posted December 03, 2013 by saritha

This recipe sounds devine. I love toffee so will probably try it. I may have to make a small batch without nuts as my granddaughter & one of my daughters have peanut & tree nut allergies. It sounds pretty easy.

Posted November 25, 2013 by Carol

This was my Mom's favorite candy. Good memories!

Posted November 25, 2013 by Chellee Miller Siegel

I know you love to do this kind of thing Enjoy!

Posted November 25, 2013 by Donna Tagrin Schwartz

This recipe for Best Ever Butter Toffee does indeed make the most delicious version of English Butter Toffee I have ever been privileged to make. This year having a chilly Easter Season, I feel happy to make it for an adult treat as opposed to Jelly Beans, etc. Actually, I'm always happy to have a 'good' reason to make and serve this candy. Yum!

Posted April 06, 2012 by Jean C.

Thank you for the pictures to go with this recipe, It will make it easier for me when I make this candy for Christmas gifts this year. Banne1

Posted November 29, 2011 by Beverly D.
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Becky
Beverly, I’m so glad you found the pictures helpful, I know pictures always make recipes easier for me to follow. I like having a sense of what “it is supposed” to look like. Have fun making your Christmas gifts. I wish I was on your list!
Posted November 30, 2011

I truly appreciate your blogs. The details you give and show in the photos are incredibly helpful. I must confess that I, too. have been making this recipe for gifts for many years. I first acquired the recipe from one of the father's at a Holiday Party for our Boy Scout Troop. The Dad was an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service. He told me candy making was one of his ways to relax after working with people's tax returns all day. He liked concentrating on the blending of the ingredients until he had the perfect toffee. I was thrilled that he offered to share the recipe with me. I noticed in your photos of ways to pack the finished candy that you had a ruffled paper liner in one of the tin boxes you used to pack the toffee. I would love to know where you buy such liners or if it is something you make by hand. Will you please share the information with me? Thanks for sharing the recipe and method-it was wonderful reading how someone else enjoys both making and giving such a delicious treat!

Posted November 14, 2011 by Jean C.
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Becky
Jean, I’m so glad you are enjoying our blogs – we sure enjoy writing them. I hope you are having fun with your friends toffee recipe. The ruffled paper that lines the tin in our photo was purchased at a local craft store that carried candy making supplies and cookie decorating supplies. Check your local craft stores or you could always try ordering from an on-line craft supplier. Good luck with your search.
Posted November 15, 2011

Would love to know some secret to keep the chocolate from coming off the candy part of toffee when breaking it into pieces. How can I get beautiful squares of toffee?

Posted November 10, 2011 by Teresa
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Becky
Hi Teresa - I recommend you use a candy thermometer to make sure the toffee is cooked to the correct stage. Also there might be an issue of a buttery layer that sometimes forms on the top of the candy layer which might not allow the chocolate to adhere as well as it should. Check in our Test Kitchens section on the web site in the candy FAQ for more information about toffee. Another idea is to make sure the toffee is at room temperature when you cut into pieces. If the toffee is too cold it may not break into uniform pieces.
Posted November 15, 2011

From the Test Kitchen... I am glad you asked this question. It is correct that once the candy mixture boils you should try to not stir the mixture. As the temperature gets higher the sugar molecules get more fragile. You also do not want to stir down into the mixture any of the sugar crystals on the side of the pan. I always use a wooden spoon because it is easier to handle and does not get hot like a metal spoon would. Candy is fun to make and give in the holidays. What other kinds of candy do you make?

Posted December 17, 2010 by Cindy

Cheryl, What a great idea to put nuts on the bottom too. I'll try it the next time I make Best Ever Butter Toffee. Enjoy the holiday season!

Posted December 16, 2010 by Becky

This looks fantastic! I now know what the teachers and staff at my children's school will be getting for their Christmas gifts!! On question: I've tried to make toffee before and sometimes I'm successful and sometimes I'm not. I've read that you are not supposed to stir the butter/sugar mixture as it cooks (which I'm fine with because when I do, I get a huge steaming bubbling reaction), but is this true? Also, should I use a wooden or a metal spoon? If a wooden spoon is preferred, why is this the case seeing as the mixture is cooked in a metal pot and then cooled in a metal pan?

Posted December 15, 2010 by Vanessa

My recipe is very similar to yours received from my mother, however she taught me to put chocolate and nuts on the bottom as well. Since I have a large slab of granite, I of course use that, put my 'finely chopped nuts down, covered with a layer of 'grated high quality chocolate, then the toffee syrup, grated chocolate topped with finely chopped nuts. I have used pecans, cashews, almonds, pistachios and macadamia nuts. Our favorite are the cashews. And your right, it doesn't last, it is the best tasting toffee out there.

Posted December 15, 2010 by Cheryl

Kathleen, I know your guest will love this candy. And, there are so many fun ways to package it for gift giving.

Posted December 14, 2010 by Becky

I can't wait to make this for my Christmas guest.

Posted December 14, 2010 by kathleen