Lemon Drop Candies

Lemon Drop Candies


When life gives you lemons (I’m talking to you, Yolanda)… you mix them with vodka, or make candy out of them!  For this post, we will focus on the candy. We’ll save the drinks for another day, when some most of us have given up on our New Year‘s resolutions. I can remember eating so many lemon candies when I was younger that my tongue would start to burn. I would, of course, keep eating them anyway. I am a citrus fanatic. Generally when it is mixed with tons of sugar. That perfect mix of sweet and sour in candy… Yes!




After you finish reading (and sharing!) this post, you will be able to sneak as many of these bad boys as you can fit into your (and your child’s) pockets into the movies anytime you want!



There are a few well-known versions of lemon drop candies. Most famously the smooth on the outside, slightly-chewy on the inside version and the sugar-coated confection. I am partial to the more coarse, sugar-coated version.



Sugar work can be very rewarding. Some of the results that sugar artists create are exactly that– art. While I won’t be creating a 6-ft tall sugar replica of the Nashville skyline anytime soon, I do enjoy the basics like this hard candy recipe.



While the words ‘sugar work’ may send sour chills down your spine with anxiety, but with the right tools and basic knowledge, it becomes simple science! [I’m allowed to say that, as a Scientist.] Making candy is all about cooking the sugar. As you cook the sugar longer, you reduce the amount of water in the solution. This results in a harder product. Those more experienced in candy-making than I am may tell you that they cook their sugar base to the desired phase (soft ball, hard ball, soft crack, hard crack, etc.) by testing a drop in water to see what phase results. I am more comfortable with a good ol’ $10 bulb kitchen candy thermometer like my momma always used. I don’t even go digital with this. Old-school all the way. Never fails!



Once you have your stations ready (because I know you are preparing properly, right?), start cooking your sugar, water and cream of tartar. Let’s pause for a minute and discuss why we are including something that sounds like a condensed soup in our candy-making blend. When you melt granulated sugar, it will cool into a mixture of crystals, making your candy gritty and terrible. Cream of tartar, or potassium bitartrate, acts as a catalyst in the re-organization of the sugar crystals. Ta-da! Smooth sugar. <Michael Jackson dance in kitchen>



Once you have your sugar at hard crack phase (300 F), you will immediately remove it from the heat and pour it on the marble/silicone mat/oiled parchment lined baking sheet to work in the lemon essence, citric acid and coloring. Citric acid can be found in the canning area of most major grocers, as it is commonly used as a preservative. If your sugar is brown, you’ve gone too far with the temperature. You are in caramel land and there is no turning back. Do not pass go. You must start over. Use a buttered/oiled spatula to work in these ingredients. The candy will cool quickly. When cool enough to handle, you will mold the sugar into a rope of sugary amazingness. Using oiled kitchen shears, cut the rope into pieces into a pan of sugar. I have found that super-fine granulated sugar is my favorite coating. Super-fine sugar is available commercially, but I just throw some granulated sugar into my food processor and make my own. Powdered sugar also works great if you want a more smooth exterior.



Sift away the excess sugar and let the candies cool completely. That’s it! Make a couple batches and give some to a friend. They’ll love you forever.




Lemon Drop Candies

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: ~45 pieces

Serving Size: 1 piece

Lemon Drop Candies

Lemon Drop Candy Recipe from SouthernFATTY.com


  • 1 cup sugar, granulated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons citric acid
  • yellow gel food coloring
  • super-fine (granulated sugar in food processor), powdered or granulated sugar, to coat


  1. Prepare work stations-- sauce-pan, silicone mat/marble/oiled parchment paper on sheet pan, oiled/buttered kitchen shears, oiled/buttered spatula, pan of coating sugar. Have ingredients all measured and ready to incorporate before starting. Sugar isn't very forgiving!
  2. Heat sugar, water and cream of tartar (prevents crystallization) in stainless steel or copper saucepan over medium/medium-high heat.
  3. Heat to exactly 300 deg F, using a candy thermometer to verify temperature.
  4. At 300, immediately remove pan from heat and pour to silicone mat or marble surface.
  5. Mix in lemon extract, citric acid and a small amount of gel coloring. Incorporate with oiled spatula.
  6. When cool enough to handle (this will happen quickly), form into rope.
  7. Using oiled kitchen shears, cut rope into individual pieces. Let fall into pan of coating sugar. This prevents the pieces from sticking to each other.
  8. Sift excess sugar and allow candy to cool completely. It will harden after some time.
  9. Come back to SouthernFATTY.com and let us know how it went!


SouthernFATTY.com | Lemon Drop Candies



What sweet candy favorites do you have from growing up? Leave a comment below or Tweet and let us know!



  • Laurie

    Beautiful photos. I’ve been intimidated by the thought of making hard candy but I think I can handle this.

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Thanks! It certainly takes some focus. The sugar tends to linger around 250 and then jump up quickly. For me, it’s sorta like crêpes… I always destroy the first one!

      Be sure and let me know how they turn out.

      -Phillip @ SouthernFATTY

      • Tracey Callison

        Had to make these last night when I saw this. Burned the first batch, undercooked the second, then figured out that my thermometer didn’t measure accurately unless it had at least an inch submerged and nailed it the third time around. Playing with floompy sugar is so much fun! the taste isn’t quite lemon drops – a little too acidic, not bright enough. The extract I have is the neilson-massey; what do you use?

        • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

          Glad you tried them out! If you look closely through the article you’ll find where I managed to burn a batch (or two…) as well. Joys of sugar-work, I guess! Mine ended up being slightly acidic, but not overly-so. I used Bell (the canning/jar company) brand citric acid and actually just Kroger brand “pure lemon” extract. Maybe the cheaper stuff gave it a more commercial candy-like taste… The NM extract may be a bit more mild than what I used. Often times more expensive brands have a more ‘true’ flavor as compared to the generics. Maybe just add a bit more of what you have (1.5 t, maybe?) and cut the citric acid a bit? Hope you can get them to how you like them! These seemed to be a big hit around home and work.

          Thanks for sharing! It’s great to hear some feedback!


          • http://fpstudios.com Fluid Pixel

            Any tips for when the drops don’t form into balls. Mine was very very sticky until cooled, and even then flattened rather than stay shaped. I used fresh lemon, not Sure if it was too much lemon, or a problem with the temperature?

          • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

            Fresh lemon shouldn’t cause too many problems… You may just not get all that much of a citrus or tartness because it wouldn’t be condensed. Either way, I would first wonder about the temperature. Did you use a thermometer? That is critical to candy making like this recipe. It sounds to me like you made it to the soft ball phase (around 235 F) in the sugar cooking. You want to get it to a blazing 300 F to make sure it will stay hard when cooled.

            You can actually test this by dropping a tiny bit of the heating sugar into water to cool it quickly and then see how it feels (with your fingers after taking the piece from the water) before removing all of it from the heat. Give that a go or maybe move your thermometer to a different side of the pan. I’ve had that as an issue before.

            Lemme know if that helps!

          • http://fpstudios.com Fluid Pixel

            I suspect it was the temperature then. I did use a thermometer, but I had trouble getting a reliable reading as there wasn’t much mixture in the bottom of the pan and when I got a reading it had shot up, but perhaps wasn’t accurate. Will try a smaller pan next time! Thanks for the quick response.

          • Deb

            So if you used fresh lemon, did you use lemon juice and how did you know how much to use?

          • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

            I used lemon extract. I’m not sure fresh lemon juice would give enough flavor. You could try, though. Maybe put 1-2 lemons worth in the sugar so it cooks out most of the water and concentrates. Let me know how it goes!

  • Christina

    These look awesome! I’m feeling confident I can make these and actually eat them when I’m finished, can’t wait to try, I wonder could I use other flavor like, orange, or lime? I’m pinning right now :)

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Thanks, Christina! We had a lot of fun making them. Just watch that temperature closely. I have some raspberry extract around that I want to try next. I think they will probably be great in just about any flavor. Let us know how it goes!


  • http://sixcherriesontop.com Joni

    Ok, candy making is not my forte, but growing up, I was always the oddball who ate all the lemon flavored candies that everyone else left behind. Homemade lemon candy sounds amazing! I am pretty sure I don’t have a candy thermometer anymore, so as soon as I get a new one, I will definitely be attempting these. They’d definitely make a great gift idea as well!

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      A candy thermometer is definitely a must, especially if you are a bit uneasy. Just watch it closely and have everything ready before you start. Mise en place! I put mine in a little mason jar. They look great! Let me know how it goes!

  • http://pizzarossa.wordpress.com/ Rachael

    I am desperate to try this! Do you use cane sugar or beet sugar? The only white sugar I can find round these parts is beet sugar and I can never get it to work when it’s a water mix – it just crystallizes horribly.

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      So glad you want to try them! They’re pretty addictive. I used regular white granulated (cane) sugar, and sadly have not played around at all with beet sugar. I’ve heard of people having issues making candy with it before, and some have had success with adjusting the recipe for your altitude, in case that may be your issue. For every 1000 ft above sea level you may be, subtract 2 degrees from the desired sugar temperature. That would be my best bet to try.

      Good luck– Let me know how it goes!


  • Donna

    I make a cinnamon hard candy using cinnamon oil. I add the coloring and cinnamon oil to the pot before pouring in pan. Why don’t you add lemon extract, citric acid, and coloring to the pot before you pour into pan?

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Good question! I’m not sure if you are asking why I don’t add it before cooking or just after cooking in the pot…

      If you mean before cooking the sugar, I don’t add it because citric acid can break down with the intense heat that cooking sugar requires.

      If you mean directly after in the pan, I avoid that because disturbing the sugar too much at that high of temperature risks crystallization (broken candy!).

      Although, I think it would be just as safe to remove from the heat and mix in the coloring and flavor elements after the mixture is no longer heating, I’ve become accustom to mixing it in after pouring on my mat to shape and work the sugar. I am always worried that disturbing the sugar too much in a hot pan will cause crystallization and result in candy failure.

      Good things to think about! Thanks :)

  • Donna

    Thank you for responding. I was asking about adding flavorings etc. after cooking candy then pour into pan. I’m going to try making it this way and I’ll let you know if it’s a yea or nea, might take me awhile before I make it.

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      I don’t see why you couldn’t do that. As long as it has been removed from the heat. Let me know how it goes!

  • Laney

    I just made these last night, and oh my goodness, they are amazing! Just like I remember as a kid. I decided to chance it and add the color/flavor/acid to the pot after turning off the heat and cooling half a minute, and it turned out fine. Thank you so much for the recipe! I foresee so many variations…

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      So glad to hear it! I would love to try some different variations in the future. So far, I’ve only done a few expected ones. Let me know if you find anything fun. Enjoy!

  • Ron Reimer

    If I were to use real lemon juice instead of the citric acid/lemon extract combination, what would the measurement be for that?

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Real lemon juice may not have the concentrated kick that extract allows for. A few people have said that they have planned to try juice, but I’m not sure what they results were. I would give it a go with a lemon or two worth. My concern would be the addition of too much liquid to the sugar changing the texture. Excluding the citric acid would leave you with a much different flavor. If you want the tartness, you’ll need it. Good without still, I’m sure. Let me know how it goes!

      • Cate

        I actually just made some a couple of minutes ago. I just replaced the water with the lemon juice 1:1 with the rest of the recipe the same and they taste just like the old-school lemon drops. I’ll admit, that I haven’t waited for them to cool completely so the final texture might be a little different, but they’re still pretty good. Lemon candies are the best!

        • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

          That’s great! So glad they turned out well. Save a few for me :)

  • allie67

    Do you need to spray the silicone mat with cooking spray/oil before placing the sugar liquid on it?

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Nope! Just dump it right on. Just be careful with what you use to mix it. Nothing sharp that will cut the silicone.

  • allie67

    Can I use regular food coloring if I don’t have gel?

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      It should be ok. The gel is just a different base solution that I found to incorporate more easily. Good luck! Let me know how it turns out.

  • smichael

    Hi, The lemon candy is great, I tried it using other flavoring oils and they taste great but when I put it in a jar they all melted to the bottom in one clump can you please advise why this happened.

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Glad the taste was there! What other flavors did you try? I’m about to do some blood orange flavored ones (Subscribe to the blog updates to see the next post with blood oranges this week).

      What you are describing almost always is the result of cooking the sugar to the incorrect temperature. The get that hardness, you have to be sure the sugar reaches between 300-310 F before removing it from the heat. My guess is that your batch ended up only reaching something in the “firm ball” phase. I’ve had thermometers go bad before and read like it has reached a higher temperature, but when I checked with another it was wrong. Maybe consider a new one if you are sure it showed 300 F when you removed it. I really prefer the block-type, as opposed to the bulb style. The one I prefer can be found by clicking here. Also, be sure the candies have cooled completely before you put them in a jar.

      Hope that helps! Let me know how the next batch goes.


      • Alyssa

        Also be careful to calibrate your candy thermometer to your elevation of its different from where your thermometer was manufactured. If they made your thermometer at sea level in San Fransisco, but you live in Denver where the boiling point of water is 10-12° lower, ensure accuracy by measuring the boiling temp of plain boiling water at your altitude, mark it, and do the math from there!

        • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

          Good point!

  • Deb Swearengin DeLucia

    Sounds wonderful, can’t wait to try! Is there a recipe out there for French Creams? These were a Christmas favorite as a kid and I would love to try to make them. I had years ago for a recipe for a melt away wafer that is similar but not sure if I could find it again and it was quite a bit softer than the French Creams.

    • http://www.SouthernFATTY.com/ Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com

      Thanks, Deb! I’ve never tried to make my own French Creams. Great idea, though! I’ll add it to my list to try to master and get posted.