How-To & Diy

Homemade Tootsie Rolls

October 19, 2012

Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today, Heather Baird, the photographer and blogger behind Sprinkle Bakes, shows how to make an at-home version of Tootsie Rolls. Heather is the author of SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist.

When Halloween rolls around, I’m usually stuck in the candy aisle trying to decide what kids like nowadays. Besides a tangle of spider rings and an economy-size sack of chocolate bars, I usually leave with a bag of Tootsie Rolls -- more for me than for the trick-or-treaters. It’s something I always received in my treat bag as a kid.

I love re-creating nostalgic candies at home, and the idea of making homemade Tootsie Rolls has always appealed to me. I came up with my own Tootsie Roll recipe after trying several that seemed too sweet. I ditched the corn syrup for honey and traded in the semisweet chocolate for good quality unsweetened cocoa powder. The end result is a lightly chocolate-flavored chewy candy that is reminiscent of the real thing. And besides melting a little butter, it’s a no cook and no bake recipe!

The texture of a homemade Tootsie Roll is slightly less firm than its classic counterpart, but no less delicious. The honey is mostly masked by the cocoa flavor but I really love the little nuance it gives the candy. I used wildflower honey but different types of honey will impart different subtleties, so have fun choosing what to use! You can also add a little espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor, though this is a more grown-up option and not recommended for kiddie treats.

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Homemade Tootsie Rolls
Makes 22-24 pieces

½ cup honey
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 to 1 ¼ cup instant non-fat dry milk powder

In a large bowl, combine honey, cocoa powder and vanilla using a whisk. Add the melted butter and whisk until well incorporated. Add in the powdered sugar and pinch of salt; whisk again until well combined.

Using a wooden spoon, mix in the instant milk powder ¼ cup at a time until a dough forms. When you can no longer stir the mixture with a spoon, knead it with your hands. Keep adding in milk powder until a firm dough forms. You may not have to use all the milk powder. The finished dough should be firm and a little sticky but not so sticky that you can’t handle it. Roll the dough into a ball and place on waxed paper lightly sprayed with cooking oil or coated with butter or vegetable oil.

Let dough rest uncovered on the wax paper for 5-10 minutes. As the candy stands it will relax from a ball shape into a disc. Cut candy into ¾-inch strips and then into 2-inch lengths. If candy sticks to the knife, spray it with cooking oil or coat it with butter.

Cut wax paper into 3 ½ x 5 inch pieces. Wrap candies with the wax paper pieces.

Store candies in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Save and print the recipe here.

Heather will be answering questions about Tootsie Rolls on the Hotline for those of you who want to take on this project at home. For the quickest response, go to her recipe and ask a question from there -- we'll email her your question right away!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jeanette Kraus
    Jeanette Kraus
  • Anna
  • Elly
  • Catherine @ Crafty Kaki
    Catherine @ Crafty Kaki
  • Kathy Weider
    Kathy Weider
I'm Heather, an artist-turned-baker with a passion for desserts! I write the SprinkleBakes blog - a place where I show people how to add more sparkle to their baking. I live in Knoxville, TN. with my husband Mark and two pugs named Biscuit and Churro. My book "SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist" was published May 2012.


Jeanette K. December 25, 2019
As stated in the many comments below, could this recipe be either altered or taken down? That way more people waste their time on it as I just did?
Anna December 14, 2016
I've i've been wanting to try this recipe for very very long time so I decided to do it today that way I could give some homemade candies to my sons teacher before Christmas break.
Before starting I read everybody's comments and took their advice for the milk but no one said anything about the honey at home we always use real honey honey from bees from our local farm, we love this honey we always drink hot milk with it when we have sore throat's. Of course it was natural for me to use this honey for this recipe.
I must say I am very disappointed this candy only tastes strongly like honey actually it's not good at all not even a little we don't find Tootsee roll here in France And I was really looking forward to be able to have some I'm just not doing this recipe again I'm not even trying with some honey from the supermarket that have doesn't have any taste. Maybe with glucose syrup it could be good but then again I'm not willing to try it again
Elly November 28, 2015
I just tried to make these and they turned into a disaster. They where very sticky and tasted awful! I followed the instructions carefully and did everything it said.
Catherine @. June 25, 2015
Could you use coconut oil instead of butter? Would the coconut oil make them more "shelf stable"?

Either way they look delicious and I can't wait to try them! (As soon as I get my braces off!)
Kathy W. March 23, 2015
This sounds so mush like the 1 I do. I will try it. If u would like mine just let me know thanks. Kath
meg K. March 11, 2015
Wish there would be a comment in the recipe about making the powdered milk finer! Plenty of comments suggest it, but I didn't look down here until after mine turned out... I can't get past the graininess! :(
Amanda T. December 20, 2014
Not very happy with how these turned out. :-( my family and I love tootsie rolls and what better gift for the holidays but a homemade version of your favorite candy? Well I will not be gifting these after all. After kneading and adding countless amounts of powdered sugar I still could not kill the dry milk taste. Not satisfying at all. The powdered sugar does help with the stickiness while working it but nothing I did would cut back that dry milk taste. Before I added it the mixture did taste like a tootsie roll and I was very excited. Not they still stick to the wax paper wrapers and taste terrible. First pinterest fail for me. :-(
Sandra B. November 22, 2014
Thx for sharing this - I put it into German and covered the rolls with cocolate instead of wrapping them :) They don't look soo great, but hey - they taste awesome ;)

Thx - Sandra
Renee September 3, 2014
Can you freeze these? And if so, for how long? Thanks. They sound delicious.
KathyHorniak May 27, 2013
I would try putting the powdered milk in the very powerful Vitamix blender on it's own to make it finer before using. It should work fine and give a better texture for this reciped. I use my vintage Vitamix to make powdered sugar out of regular grain sugar. It works instantly. By the way you can make flours out of any nuts, grains, popcorn, etc. If you cook gluten free it is fantastic as you create all kinds of flours! When you use the Vitamix the motor goes in one direction very fast and then you hit the switch and it slams the particles into the opposite directions. It works great! My husband refurbishes them if anyone is interested in one. I adore mine! Contact my husband [email protected] if you interested in one. They run around $250 to $350, as he also custom paints some of them in red. New Vitamixes go for around $600 and are made of plastic. The old ones are all stainless steel and folks love them. :) Kathy
Sophia H. April 19, 2013
We have an ice cream shop here in San Francisco, the original Swensen's before they became a chain. They make a version of chocolate ice cream called "Sticky Chewy Chocolate" it took me a couple bites to realize why the flavor was so familiar, it is the flavor of a tootsie roll, it is now one of our favorite flavors.
Amy M. February 20, 2013
Has anybody tried running the milk powder through a food processor to make it finer? That may cut down on the graininess.
titaemmie February 17, 2013
I think the original recipe has lecithin in it.
Lecithin is used for treating memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used for treating gallbladder disease, liver disease, certain types of depression, high cholesterol, anxiety, and a skin disease called eczema.

Some people apply lecithin to the skin as a moisturizer.

You will often see lecithin as a food additive. It is used to keep certain ingredients from separating out.
Amy S. January 29, 2013
Thank you so much for this recipe! My son cannot have food dyes, HFCS or any corn syrup so most candy is out:( We tried this tonight and he L-O-V-E-S it!!! When I first started mixing in the instant milk powder it was grainy like a few have commented, BUT I neaded it for a long time (which helped) and after letting it rest it got even better AND after wrapping and putting in the fridge, any bit of grainyness is gone. They turned out wonderful in my opinion! Oh, and I only had Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa, I was worried that it would be too sweet but it was perfect:)
JessBarton January 26, 2013
These are delicious! But I'm wondering how would you make them into the vanilla Tootsie Rolls you see with the other fruit flavored ones? I can't find a recipe anywhere :/ Any suggestions?
Joybee December 29, 2012
Cool! I used to love tootsie rolls as a kid. I will have to try this sometime.
Shan2218 December 9, 2012
I made these tonight and I had the same problem as MonikaH. It was completely grainy even adding the dry milk slowly and letting it sit for a few hours. It was also still super sticky...decided not to give up and added a bit of flour (1/4 cup very slowly) and it still never firmed up enough to where it was workable. Tasted good :P But was a mess, not sure why. I'd like to try again if there are any tips or ideas. Thanks.
Nancy L. January 13, 2013
I read that there is a difference between powdered milk and instant dry milk. Some recipes call for powdered milk vs instant dry milk like this one calls for. The instant dry milk should dissolve better than the powdered milk variety so I wonder if that is the difference you are seeing?? Did you use instant dry milk or did you use powdered milk? I am going to make this today using the instant dry milk. Also I would think adding more powdered sugar is the answer to firming it up. Add a touch more salt if it seems to sweet. Or try putting it in the refrigerator as I have seen as a required step in several other recipes.
Nancy L. January 13, 2013
I tried this recipe using instant dry nonfat milk. It did get a little grainy, but the more I kneaded it the more the milk dissolved. I added powdered sugar to decrease the stickiness which worked fine. I also added a bit of extra salt to cut the added sweetness but it was probably unneccessary. It reminded me of making butter cream fondant and the texture and properties were similar. My kids enjoyed making these, but they both spit them out (ages 3 and 5.) They do have a bit of a dry milk aftertaste which may be the explanation. I think I might try to come up with a version using heavy cream instead of dried milk and increase the powdered sugar and decrease the honey to offset the difference. Overall this recipe was a fun project to do with young kids and probably an added plus that they didn't want to devour the entire batch. lol
Nancy L. January 13, 2013
I tried the heavy cream version and what I ended up with is the easiest no cook chocolate fudge recipe ever. But it wouldn't really qualify as a tootsie roll. After several hours, the original tootsie roll recipe flavors started to meld better and the graininess minimized and my 5 year old now loves them. The 3 year old spit out the fudge recipe as well, so her initial reaction is probably no reflection on this recipe. I would still recommend trying to make these. The most fun was wrapping them up in little squares of wax paper and twisting the ends like the real ones.
Brandee K. January 13, 2013
Did you ever figure out what the problem was?
MonikaH December 8, 2012
Ok...I did something wrong! The mixture became very grainy after I added the instant dry nonfat milk! Help!
MonikaH December 7, 2012
Hi Heather,
I was planning to make these for Christmas gifts. How far ahead can I make them? What is their shelf life? Thank-you!
Kaycita October 31, 2012
I made 2 batches of this tonight for Halloween. Awesome. I tried using the knife and it was kind of a pain because it kept getting sticky even though I kept using butter. SO... I just pulled off bits of dough and rolled little logs. Worked great. This would be a perfect recipe for kids to do on their own that way. Thanks so very much!