Homemade rock candy is easy to make! It simply requires a little bit of patience and a whole lot of sugar. Whether you're making the sweet treat to enjoy for dessert or as a science experiment to do with your kids, you'll be amazed at how fun DIY rock candy is.
This post was first published in August 2011, but has been updated with much improved instructions and new photos in 2021.
So, you want to make your own rock candy? Yay! I first wrote this tutorial back in 2011 when I decided I wanted to make rock candy as table decor for my wedding.
Well, let's just say once I attempted actually making rock candy I realized that was not going to happen for several reasons:
- Rock candy requires A LOT of sugar to make. If I wanted 200 sticks of rock candy, it would take about 200 cups of sugar (that's if I re-used each sugar solution one time).
- Rock candy requires time and patience to make. In the quantities I wanted, I should have started making my rock candy at least a year in advance and would have been working on it nearly every day during that time.
- I'd have to live with mason jars of rock candy growing all over my (at the time) tiny apartment.
Needless to say, I did not make rock candy for my wedding.
But 10 years later, I've decided to update this post because my initial rock candy instructions were not that great- I shared my experience with you, but my results weren't ideal.
I've recently started making rock candy again and now have a process down that should work for everyone!
I've also included lots of FAQs that I've received over the years, along with some tips and tricks to make DIY rock candy making easier for you.
What is Rock Candy?
Rock candy is sometimes called "sugar candy" and for good reason! It's actually made completely of large sugar crystals. It often comes in pretty colors and is sold in all kinds of candy stores.
If you've ever made simple syrup before, making rock candy is similar... Except you'll oversaturate the syrup solution (AKA add too much sugar to it) and then let it cool and rest so sugar crystals can form.
Because the solution is supersaturated, that means it can't possibly absorb the sugar at the cooler temperature. Therefore, as the solution cools, it becomes unstable and all the sugar can't stay in the liquid, so it attaches itself to the skewer.
Why Should I Make My Own?
Of course you can easily purchase rock candy in a store or online, but making your own is fun. Whether you want to enjoy it yourself or give it out as gifts, it's easy to do. But if you need it in bulk for wedding decor, you'll want to plan VERY well in advance!
Another reason to make your own rock candy is because it's a great science experiment. You and your kids can learn all about the process of crystallization and different saturations of solutions.
Also, rock candy makes for super fun cocktails (you can also make fun mocktails for your kids)!
In conjunction with making rock candy, you may also want to try making other candies, like homemade fudge and gummy candy. Here's a great guide to sugar chemistry.
How Long Does it Take to Make?
The solution for rock candy is really easy to make and doesn't take long at all. BUT once you make the solution, you need to let it sit for 6-7 days so the crystals can form.
So, yes you need some patience. But it's also fun because you can check on your jars every day to see how your crystals are growing!
You may already have everything you need to make your own rock candy as it only requires a couple simple ingredients and a few household items. Here's what you need:
- Granulated Sugar (for 5 sticks of candy, you'll need 10 cups)
- Food coloring (if you want to add color to your candy)
- Mason jars or other receptacles to hold sugar solution. I recommend a standard 16 oz. mason jar.
- Skewers or sticks to make rock candy on. I use a simple wooden kabob skewer. But you can actually buy rock candy sticks to use for a more professional look.
- Clothespins or chip clips to balance stick on jar (you can't let the stick touch the bottom of the jar).
How to Make Rock Candy
This "recipe" will make 5 sticks of rock candy. Since the candy will all grow in separate jars, you can make a variety of colors with this one recipe. I like to keep at least one jar clear as it's the easiest to be able to monitor growth!
To start, you need to coat your skewers or sticks in granulated sugar. The purpose of this is to "seed" the rock candy and give the crystals something to adhere to as they start to grow.
I trim my skewers a bit before using them since they're pretty long and have a pointy sharp end.
Submerge the skewers in water, coat them in sugar, and then set out to dry.
I like to do this a day ahead of time, but as long as you let them dry for an hour, they should be fine.
The next step is to prep your jars so that the process is easy once you make your sugar solution.
Make sure your jars are clean and not cold (I recommend running hot water through them before using). Attach a clothespin or chip clip to each skewer and then balance over the top of jars.
Be sure your skewer is hanging about an inch from the bottom of the jar as the rock candy crystals will stick to the bottom of the jar and will make it tough to remove skewers.
Set it all up, but then take the skewer out of the jar- you'll add it back in once your sugar solution is in.
Now it's time to make the sugar solution. Add 4 cups of water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then start adding sugar in one cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon and letting each cup fully dissolve before adding the next.
You'll notice it becomes harder and harder for the sugar to dissolve as you add more in and the sugar will start to clump before dissolving, like this:
That means your solution is supersaturated and you should have no problem growing crystals. Woo hoo!
Once your final cup of sugar has been dissolved, let mixture simmer for about 5 minutes before removing from heat.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes.
Now, divide the mixture between your 5 prepared jars. And stir in your food coloring at this time.
I highly recommend bringing your jars to where they'll be resting for the next 6-7 days before you place the skewer in the jar. Be sure to use caution when moving the jars as they will be very, very hot.
Once the jars are in their resting spots, place prepared skewers into solution. You'll want to try your best not to move jars around much once skewers are in place.
Now comes the tough part... Waiting for your rock candy to grow!
Luckily, things will start happening fairly quickly and you should see crystals starting to grow on your sticks within a day. Here's how mine looked after 24 hours:
Here they are after 48 hours:
And here they are after 72 hours:
You can remove the skewers from the jars whenever you want, but I recommend giving them at least 6 days to fully form.
When you're ready to remove rock candy sticks from jars, use your finger to gently crack the hardened sugar on top of the jar and gently wiggle the stick to release. Like this:
Let the syrup drizzle from stick. I recommend setting the candy over an empty jar or bowl to let it drip or placing it on a paper towel.
Then you're ready to enjoy your incredible homemade rock candy!
How cool is that??
Can I Re-Use Sugar Solution?
I got a lot of questions about this on my previous post, so I decided to do a little experimenting this time around.
Once you take the sticks out of your jars, you'll likely feel wasteful pouring the rest of the sugar solution in the trash. So, can you re-use it? The short answer is yes!
But before you just plop another sugar-coated stick in the solution, I recommend that you pour it back into a saucepan and bring it back to a boil. Add another ¼ cup sugar in it and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then pour it back in the jar.
I re-used a couple of my solutions without re-heating and adding more sugar to the solution and here's how they came out after a week:
Here's what happened when I did re-heat and add an additional ¼ cup sugar:
That's some definite proof that you'll want to re-boil the solution and add more sugar!
Why Isn't My Rock Candy Growing?
Great question! Making rock candy can be a bit finicky and there are lots of reasons it may not work on your first try. However, if you follow these instructions closely and use the full 10 cups of sugar in 4 cups of water, you should have a supersaturated solution and your chances of it working are high.
If your sticks don't seem to have crystals growing at all after a few days, it may because your sugar solution wasn't oversaturated for whatever reason. In that case, you can put the mixture back into the saucepan, bring it to a boil and add in another cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add more sugar in if the first cup dissolved easily.
You'll want to use new sugar-coated skewers, too.
I went through this process the first time I made rock candy and had a fail and it definitely seemed to help as crystals started growing after I did it.
Also be sure to double-check that your jars are clean and not cold and that you didn't move your jars around once you added the stick in.
How Can I Make Rock Candy Fast?
Unfortunately, there isn't really a way to make rock candy grow quickly. I have heard that putting the jars in the fridge will speed up the process a bit, but I haven't tried this myself.
You can take your rock candy out of the jar after just a couple days, but your sticks will probably be a bit sparse.
How to Store Candy
Store your rock candy in a cool dry place. If you're planning on keeping it for a while or giving it as gifts, I recommend wrapping them in cellophane wrappers, like these.
When stored properly, your rock candy should stay good for a year.
Helpful Tip & Tricks
Once you have the process down and understand the science behind it, making your own rock candy is super simple! But I do have some tips and tricks that should help you troubleshoot if you're having problems:
- Make sure your mason jars are completely clean and not cold. I store a lot of my mason jars in my basement (which is chilly), so I always clean them out with hot water before using them.
- Do not skip the step of coating your sticks in sugar. It's very important that the crystals have something to adhere to as they grow (otherwise they'll likely just grow to the bottom of the jar).
- I recommend using a concentrated food coloring or gel to ensure that you can add enough color without adding too much liquid to the solution. These are my favorite colors (they're not gel, but are very saturated).
- I recommend making the color a bit darker than you think you should as it will look lighter once the crystals form.
- You can add flavoring to the rock candy if you want, but similarly to using food coloring, try to use a concentrated flavoring so you don't have to add too much liquid to get the flavor level you want.
- Once you've poured your sugar mixture and placed your sticks in the jars, take care not to move them or jostle the sticks.
As you can see, DIY rock candy is pretty easy to make as long as long as you understand the process. It mostly just requires patience... And a whole lot of sugar!
After making rock candy at home, I have a whole new appreciation for the candy and can certainly understand why a company may charge top dollar for it (though I'm sure the use of machinery makes it much easier!).
Don't forget to check out my recipe for rock candy cocktails if you're looking for a fun way to utilize your candy!
Have you ever made your own rock candy at home?
DIY Rock Candy
- 5 wooden skewers
- 5 mason jars (I recommend 16 oz)
- 5 clothespins or chip clips
- 4 cups water
- 10 cups granulated sugar, plus more for coating skewers
- Food coloring
- Submerge skewers in water, coat them in sugar, and then set out to dry. I like to do this a day ahead of time, but as long as you let them dry for an hour, they should be fine.
- Make sure your jars are clean and not cold (run hot water through them if necessary). Attach a clothespin or chip clip to the top of each skewer and then balance over the top of jars. Be sure your skewer is hanging about an inch from the bottom of the jar as the rock candy crystals will stick to the bottom of the jar and will make it tough to remove skewers.
- In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add sugar in one cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon and letting each cup fully dissolve before adding the next. You'll notice it becomes harder and harder for the sugar to dissolve as you add more in.
- Once your final cup of sugar has been dissolved, let mixture simmer for about 5 minutes before removing from heat. Let mixture rest off the heat for about 15 minutes.
- Divide sugar solution amongst the 5 prepared jars. Stir in food coloring at this time. I recommend bringing your jars to where they'll be resting for the next 6-7 days at this time. Be sure to use caution as the jars will be very hot. Once they're in their resting spots, place prepared skewers into solution. You'll want to try your best not to move jars around much once skewers are in place.
- You'll likely see little crystals forming within hours, but you'll want to let the jars rest for 6-7 days to let sugar crystals fully form.
- When ready to remove rock candy sticks from jars, use your finger or a fork to gently crack the hardened sugar on top of the jar and gently wiggle the stick to release. Let solution drizzle from stick (I recommend setting the candy over an empty jar or bowl to let it drip) before enjoying the candy.
- If you want to re-use the sugar solution to make more rock candy, pour solution into saucepan and bring to a boil (you can add any sugar crystals that have already formed, but if you can't get them all, simply clean them out of the jar before re-using). Add in an additional ¼ cup of sugar and let simmer for a couple minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes before pouring into a clean jar.
View Web Story for project
Kate Deeks says
Ha! I loved the rock-candy camera setting. Would love to make crystals, but not so interested in the candy eating. Sounds like a fun experiment.
remember as a kid how much we loved having these?
i was horrid at making caramel until I finally got a good thermo and MADE myself set up camp at the stove to babysit the caramel.
lynn @ the actor's diet says
i remember them making this (and peanut brittle) in science class. i was so jealous of those kids!
Rock candy is so pretty! I made it once when I was a kid and a trail of ants found their way to it from under my back door.
sue, this is very pretty, it's a piece of art. just like clusters of crystals !! It's amazing to know just by boiling sugar syrup can form into these. oh, just voted for your site. Have a happy day!
wedding rock candy...what a cute idea! you could have jars of rock candy forming all over your house haha 🙂
I only have about 65 peeps coming to my wedding. I might be able to make this happen! Thanks for the inspiration!!!
Congrats! I will go vote now! I had no idea making rock candy was such a process! The results are so pretty! I def do not have the patience
Hi Susie! You and Chris looked like you at least enjoyed making these! And they are so pretty. I just voted for your website, and will return tomorrow to do it again!!
Lauren at Keep It Sweet says
OMG, so much fun! This would completely make me feel like a kid:-)
Wow who knew that making rock candy was such an ordeal! But totally worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Jenn's Food Journey says
I made rock candy once when I was about 12!! lol Your post brings back great memories of that!! And they look beautiful 🙂
Congrats on being nominated.. I'm going to vote for your ladies right now!
Well, it sure looks great! I had DIY-fever for my wedding too. Then I woke up one day and remembered how much I hate crafts. And bought everything. Except for the favors, which I cooked with my mom...because at least I like cooking!
Emily @ A Cambridge Story says
You definitely make this look easy - who knew that rock candy had to "grow". It probably is a little untenable for homemade wedding favors but I'm really impressed that you did this!
Erica @ In and Around Town says
Totally did this in 3rd grade science, but think I need to do this again! So much fun 🙂 Congrats on the nomination!
I think your photos look great! Also, it was interesting to read about your experience making rock candy, I didn't realize it was such a simple process, but with such varied results! Very cool.
I just bought Sugarbaby and have been planning to try the rock candy recipe just for fun. There's a suggestion in there to use toothpicks and make mini rock candy... which could speed things up if you haven't completely given up on making your own for your wedding.
Yumm! I never successfully made rock candy as a child, not convinced I'd be too good at it as an adult either though... haha
Michelle Collins says
Congrats on the nomination!
WOW - homemade rock candy - that is amazing! For your wedding, you can show everyone the pictures of your beautiful rock candy 🙂
5 Star Foodie says
How fun to make this at home, very neat!
how fun!! that is awesome 🙂
Andrea Kazilionis says
So excited about this post! I can't wait to try this kitchen science project and enjoy the delicious outcome...!
What a fun post - I had no idea how to make rock candy! Great wedding favor idea too 🙂
Looks great! Can't imagine making 200 of those! Man, that is a lot of sugar for so few sticks!!
Elina (Healthy and Sane) says
Obviously you're not going to make these for the wedding but at least you now know how to make them (I love discovering such things). Awesome little project! 🙂
Wonderful post! Great to see the photos in progress and your commentary was awesome. Thanks for sharing.
Ironically I had actually planned on trying this tomorrow. Last night I was looking something else up in my Joy of Cooking and thought it'd be really cool to try. I'm so glad I saw your blog because I'm going to do more investigating before I begin. My book says to take a disposable square 8" aluminum pan, punch 7-8 holes 1/2" up on two opposite sides. Then lace string back and forth. Then you pour sugar mixture (boiled to 250- hard ball stage) over string. String will be immersed. Then cover pan & leave undisturbed 36-48 hours at least. Then wait some more until it's all crystalized. Cut strings and lift it out of pan. (I guess it's solid now - idk) put on baking sheet in 200 degree oven to dry. Says to use strings as decoration or knock crystals off. Store in air tight container at room temp. Usage idea- pile crystals high in bowl at party for fancy sugar for coffee.
I didn't copy recipe here. Just gave you the highlights. As you can imagine I now have a headache. Lol. You used 3.5 cups of sugar. Mine is 2.5 cups sugar, 1cup water and a pinch of Cream of Tartar.
Featured you in our Food Trends article this week! Looks delicious and gorgeous.
I have had varied luck over the last few years, making rock candy. Like yours, some stuck to the stick, some turned to a huge blob in the bottom of the jar. Luckily for me, I was making them to tie onto Christmas packages, and not for a wedding, or the pressure would have gotten to me! I ordered candy flavorings, and added it to my sugar solutions. Then co-ordinated it with the color-mint or irish cream went with green, for example. These were made to use for stirring coffee, sweetening it, and giving it some specialty flavors! A great gift in itself. If you have serious coffee drinkers on your list!
my took 4 months...for one crystal to grow on it (:
This would be a great Girl Scout troop project!
MYT CR8TiV says
I made these in Science class when I was a kid. We used Hard Candy Flavoring drops to enhance the taste. You could use those so it doesn't just taste like bland crystallized sugar.
I just had to do a chemistry experiment dealing with recrystalization. We did the same process of boiling the water and sugar to supersaturate it, after it was completely mixed we placed the beaker in an ice bath and the crystals automatically formed. I wonder if that process would work to speed up the rock candy process.
Thanks, this'll be great to try! I heard that you can flavor them with flavoring oil/extract, im not sure if I could stand pure sugar on a stick. 🙂
I loveee this site! I'm using rock candy in my wedding too, Purple and White Rock Candy in a vase to make a "bouquet". I've searched online for some to buy, but it is kind of expenses so I thought I would try to make my own. Sounds easy, right? HA! 🙂
Jacob Crim says
Could I pour the liquid into a baking sheet then break it up once its dried? I am trying to make "blue meth" like in Breaking Bad for my Halloween costume.
@Jacob- You could try! As you saw, making this wasn't exactly easy for me... So I'd try a few batches now and hopefully one will be ready in time 🙂
Just a thought in candy making. I was always told to making candy on sunny days. Candy wont set up if not. I know this is true for fudge, and would make sense for this as well.
VinPro elegance says
Thanks!!Thanks, great to try!
Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm gonna try it and I hope the result is good.
These are awesome. I think imperfection looks more beautiful. Cant wait to do this with my daughter.
Gourmet Candy says
I really liked the rock candy and you should also go to this site they got some pretty good candy here too http://www.myidolpops.com/
Well I am really glad I read this. I have been attempting to make rock candy for a baby shower. I have watched countless videos. Everyone makes it look so easy. For some reason the sugar I bought never seems to get clear. I stir and stir and stir. By the time it comes to a boil and I pour it into the jars within an hour its like a solid hard clump. I have three weeks to complete this task lol. I will not give up 😉
I heard to dip skewers in the liquid solution and roll them in sugar before putting them in the jar. The sugar will crystallize on the other crystals.
Erica Watson says
I was wondering how did you make rock candy .now I know how to make it me and my grandkids can make that on family night
This is truly amazing!!!!!! The only thing I don't like is that it won't let me see the ingredients
This is truly amazing!!!!
best thing ever! XD
Hmm...i wonder if the sugar will stick on a heart shaped-wire? We can make a heart rock candy for Valentine's day! ??
@Zareena Definitely worth a try! It wasn't the easiest to make, but maybe I'll try again soon since it's been many years since my first attempt 🙂
Shannon B says
It worked!!! My kids (5 and 8) loved this project. It does take some serious patience but they loved checking the progress each day and seeing it grow. And of course eating the candy at the end!
Olivia Michaels says
I did this for a school experiment this year for extra credit 😀
Britney D McClenney says
I was wondering if we could use Kool aid packets as the flavor and color for the rock candy?
Hi Britney! I haven't tried this, but I do think it will work. The added sugar from Kool Aid should be fine and the color and flavor would work well!
Dorcas Berthold says
I’m about to re-use my syrup. Thank you for having the information I needed! I over flavored a few of mine so this time around they should be right.
They are so so good I never had rock candy before and it is so good I loved it a lot.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you for these detailed instructions. After a major fail, I found your post and we were so happy that our rock candy grew and looked awesome!
To redo it, it is per jar? Like do 1 jar at a time or do you add them all back in and then put the 1/4 cup of sugar?
@Karley- It's per jar. If they're all the same color and flavor, you could do them all together, but still add 1/4 cup per jar. It seems like a lot, but the crystals need a lot to grow!
I tried this but the whole jar turned into wet but fairly solid granular sugar the first day - did I add too much sugar?! I was halving the recipe so maybe I messed up…
Hi Allison! I haven't heard of this happening, but it could be that you used too much sugar and/or you didn't boil it long enough. Generally, if you "oversaturate" the solution with too much sugar, the extra sugar will just chill at the bottom of the jar as it cools, but if there was a lot of it, I could see how it could start hardening in the bottom of the jar and on the sides fairly quickly. Let me know if you try again!
I did it exactly like the recipe said and I'm 4 days in and not one Crystal it hasn't done anything
Hi Erica! Unfortunately, rock candy can be VERY finicky and though I've made rock candy tons of times, I've even had issues with it before. There are SO many factors that can effect growth. It IS odd you didn't have any crystal growth at all, so I wonder if enough sugar was added and if it was dissolved into the water all the way. Sometimes rock candy doesn't grow perfectly on the stick or string, but with enough sugar properly dissolved, there should at least be SOME crystal growth in the jar. Let me know if it progressed at all or if you need any further help trouble shooting!
First summer science project before 4th and 2nd grade complete! Thank you for the step by step instructions, it was fun for all of us to watch these grow.
Hello! Science teacher here. Was planning to try this with my chemistry class but our classes are only 50 minutes long. Can I make the sugar solution early, like at home before school and bring it in and it still work? They are my 4th period class. Can I make at home then microwave to liven up the sugar before class?? Thanks for your help!
Hi Cindy! With 50 minutes, I think you should have enough time to do the project in class... It may take 30-40 minutes to dissolve all the sugar into the water (but can be faster if you can get the water boiling before class starts!). Then it can just be poured into the prepared jars... it will take close to a week for rock candy to fully form, but will be fun to check in on every day to see the crystals forming! However, if you want to do it ahead of time, I think you could prepare the sugar saturated solution and then re-heat in class, but you may need to add a little more sugar when re-heating as sugar crystals may already be starting to form as it's cooled. But this should definitely work as I've re-used the solution leftover in jars to make more rock candy with no problem. Let me know how it goes!
I use to work in a coffee shop and we kept flavored sugars. A vanilla bean in the sugar for vanilla, etc. I wonder if you couldn't flavor the sugar before hand instead of adding a concentrate to it.
Hi Norma- I think that's a great idea!
Loved the directions with pictures! Just wondering, if you could put two sticks in at once, on opposite sides of the jar?
Hi KC! I haven't tried using 2 sticks at once, but as long as your jars are wide mouth jars, you should be able to do this!
Marlene Pollitt says
Love love loved your attention to detail. Thank you my five year old great grandson and I are definitely going to do this. Thank you