DIY Food

How to Make Black Licorice From Scratch

August 29, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Christina Lane from Dessert For Two makes a homemade version of a controversial candy that will convert you to the dark side. 

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Black licorice can be a polarizing issue in the candy store. Some people seek it out exclusively and prefer their entire bag of jelly beans to be black. Others will crinkle their nose at the mention of the word "licorice" and keep their distance. But in my opinion, that just means more for us!

Even if you think you're a card-carrying member of the Licorice Haters Club, I beg you to try homemade licorice. It's soft, chewy, and the anise flavor is much more subtle than it is in the commercial versions. Dare I say that it's delicious enough to make a convert out of you?

More: Can't get enough chewy candy? Here's more.

The base of black licorice consists of several different forms sugar: granulated sugar, dark corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and molasses. If you prefer a stronger black licorice flavor, use blackstrap molasses. If you're easing into the Licorice Lovers Club, go ahead and use plain baking molasses.  

Homemade Black Licorice

Makes 20 pieces

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons molasses (blackstrap or regular)

Pinch of kosher salt

6 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon black food gel

3/4 tablespoon anise extract (use up to 1 tablespoon for a stronger flavor)

Line a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving excess paper to form handles for easy removal. Grease the parchment paper with extra butter.

Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Ensure the gauge is not resting directly on the bottom of the pan. Add the butter, sugar, corn syrup, condensed milk, molasses, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Stir frequently to prevent scorching in the corners.

Once the mixture reaches 240° F, remove it from the heat, and immediately stir in the flour and the black food gel. Once these are fully incorporated, stir in the anise extract. 

Pour the mixture into the buttered loaf pan, and let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the licorice from the pan, and either dice it into squares or slice it into ropes and twist them.

More: Want a candy that's a little zestier? Look no further.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Christina Lane

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • orb
  • Carla Clark
    Carla Clark
  • Matt Hermenau
    Matt Hermenau
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  • Julie Taiber
    Julie Taiber


orb October 4, 2018
Editors, please consider relabeling this recipe as "anise caramels", rather than licorice, as that is what it is. Assuming the black strap molasses will provide the licorice flavor is basically incorrect, and while anise is used to complement licorice, it is not licorice.

Additionally, if I am not mistaken, most users finding this recipe are expecting semi-soft licorice twists or ropes, which are not made like a caramel at all, and good recipes for them are hard to find.
Carla C. April 7, 2018
I'm not sure why people seem to think black licorice is the only kind of licorice but I love licorice just not black licorice.
orb October 4, 2018
This has become a pretty common misconception, due to deliberate mislabeling by candy manufacturers. "Licorice" is a plant, from which the root has been used as a medicinal and food flavoring for centuries. It is a very popular flavoring, but unfortunately it has become expensive, leading companies to substitute the flavoring entirely with anise (which is a common complementary flavoring), while also creating other candies in the same style as traditional licorice treats.

Calling these other candies "twists" or "ropes" or similar things used to be common, but lately they are all incorrectly labelled considered "licorice" despite being labeled "red vines" or similar.
Matt H. August 6, 2017
This isn't liquorice since it doesn't have liquorice in it.
Carla C. April 7, 2018
Umm anise is what makes 'licor'ice. So I'm confused. Hopefully the author can clarify. If you're being sarcastic might want to tag for those of us who literally can't read sarcasm. Thanks.
judy May 4, 2018
I was looking for the Licorice root as well. Anise is NOT licorice, I agree Matt. But probably the easiest to get and close. If people don't know licorice, then they won't taste the difference. But Anise is a little more floral than the earthy licorice root, I think.
orb October 4, 2018
Licorice is it's own flavor, it isn't anise. Often anise is added to complement licorice and many modern versions of licorice treats have been leaving out the licorice as it is expensive, this is why you are confused.
Annabella January 20, 2017
Not a very good recipe. I followed it to the very last part, and it kind of looks like and feels like caramel. Doesn't taste like licorice either, and I used a full tablespoon of anise flavor. Very disappointed. :/
Julie T. October 11, 2016
Even turning off heat at 240 degrees, it was impossible to cut. I tried a piece though, wanting to test flavor before throwing batch away (which I am sadly about to do), and I mostly tasted molasses, wheat, corn syrup, but not anise (despite using 1T anise extract) and certainly not licorice. I will try again with licorice root powder, anise oil, and try taking it off heat at 225. Super easy, however, and would have come off parchment even without buttering.
drez April 6, 2019
did it work? where did you get licorice root? i’m so glad i read your review before trying to make this. the addition of the wheat made me go 🧐
James P. August 25, 2016
is there a sugar free version out there that you know about?
R A. January 2, 2016
Selkie I just read your reply also-I'll do what you suggest also-thank you.
R A. January 2, 2016
Thank you for your replies Tammy and Becky. If I were to bring it to maybe 10 degrees less, lets say 230 instead of 240, would that work out better?
R A. December 28, 2015
OK what did I do wrong? I followed the recipe exactly but it came out hard from the refrigerator? Any help?
Tammy December 28, 2015
It almost sounds like it got too hot and went to hard ball candy stage. That's the only thing I can think of.
Becky H. December 28, 2015
You must have got it too hot, I did that on the first batch and it was hard candy, still good but not soft like licorice I did it over and got the nice soft consistancy was really careful about the temps...
Selkie December 30, 2015
If you were careful about your temperatures, it's possible the fridge was just too cold and dry for it. Take the slab of candy out of the fridge once it's set, leave it on a countertop or table (still on its parchment) and it will absorb moisture and warmth from the air and hopefully become more pliable.
Kimberly C. May 7, 2016
I added milk to mine made it soft
drez April 6, 2019
2% in place of sweet condensed?
Debbi C. October 7, 2015
This is NOT real licorice. It doesn't even have the herb Licorice in it!!!

Jill S. August 26, 2016
just what i was thinking. It is not licorice in any shape or form
Melanie H. August 2, 2015
I keep thinking why whole wheat flour.....
Julie L. July 18, 2015
I am wondering if you could make this with gluten free flour
bakeandbake July 10, 2015
Tried this recipe and liked it. However, for a licorice lover like me, I could barely taste the 3/4 tbsp anise. Might go so far as to double it next time, but I haven't used anise before. Makes a delicious and buttery taffy, though and was very easy!
zagros.licorice July 4, 2015
Licorice Extract | Licorice Root
Spray Dried Licorice Extract Powder | Solid (Blocks) Licorice Extract | Paste (Semi Fluid) | Soup root Extract Powder and Paste

Tammy February 18, 2015
I just made this recipe tonight and I made it gluten and corn free!! :) I used a gluten free all purpose flour and instead of corn syrup I used golden syrup which is a syrup made with just sugar. I also did not use food dye. It turned out sooo good! I now would like to try and make it substituting a homemade sweetened condensed milk made with coconut milk.
drez April 6, 2019
and ?? how did it turn out?
Henk N. November 25, 2014
I think the writer has to mention that this is an artificial way op makeing licorice. The real licorice is made from a plant called licorice... Or in latin the Glycyrrhiza glabra. The roots of this plant are boiled in water to extract the licorice flavors. These falvors are mixed with startch or gum arabic to give it a better concistancy. Some more info can be found here:
PurposefulShelly November 8, 2014
I have a bottle of Essential Oil-Anise....Would I be able to use the Essential Oil in place of the extract? I figure I would just use a small amount, like about 1/4 of a teaspoon, maybe an 1/8 of a teaspoon...what do you think?? Thanks
drez April 6, 2019
no way! essential oils are not to be ingested!!
Skye J. October 16, 2014
is there any way this can be made gluten free, vegan and corn free? or is that pushing it?? I'm obsessed with licorice but can't eat it because of the above dietary restrictions....
Tammy February 18, 2015
I just made this recipe tonight and I made it gluten and corn free!! :) I used a gluten free all purpose flour and instead of corn syrup I used golden syrup which is a syrup made with just sugar. I also did not use food dye. It turned out sooo good! I now would like to try and make it substituting a homemade sweetened condensed milk made with coconut milk.
Becky H. October 3, 2014
Just Curious I made a double batch of this and my husband loved it, but after a week or so the sugar crystallized and the licorice lost that great texture? Is this not meant to keep or??
Lauren September 22, 2014
This recipe is definitely not for people who eat healthy organic food. Wow, this is toxic: Corn syrup, granulated sugar and black food dye!
Mark K. September 25, 2014
yes you should go eat a raw turnip instead.
Maya M. September 27, 2014
Lol. Love your reply!