Martha Washington Candy

This Martha Washington Candy is an old fashioned candy that's perfect for the holidays. Each bite is loaded with cherries, pecans, and coconut with a chocolate shell wrapped around it. You can add colorful candy drizzles to the top and sprinkles to dress them up for a dessert platter too!

A bowl of Martha Washington Candy with a bite taken out of it.


 

Massive flavor in one bite, these delightful concoctions known as Martha Washington Candy will delight your guests and surprise your kids. Make these for the holidays for a history lesson, an afterschool treat or a dessert platter.

Coconut, Maraschino cherries, and nuts are mixed with powdered sugar and sweetened condensed milk to form a filling that is then coated in chocolate for the perfect finishing touch. It's a gooey, delicious flavor-filled candy with a long-standing tradition.

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What is Martha Washington Candy?

These candies were made by a candy company before the Great Depression. The candy company was called Martha Washington Candy. By the time the Great Depression ended in 1939, the candy company had disappeared, but the copycat recipes were handed down as a favorite family tradition.

A mixture of pecans, coconut and sweetened condensed milk coated in chocolate is the standard across all recipes but many variations to the recipe exist. Ours include Maraschino cherries which add so much flavor!

Ingredients for Martha Washington Candy

Ingredients for Martha Washington Candy on a marble background

See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.

  • Maraschino Cherries - These cherries are preserved in a syrup with sugar and dyed a bright red. While the originals were preserved in liqueur, that practice was prevented in the United States by prohibition and the current method of alcohol-free preservation was developed.
  • Butter - Since you are making candy, full-fat butter works best. You can use a butter substitute if you like.
  • Powdered Sugar - This is the best option because it results in a very smooth sweetness.
  • Vanilla Extract - Your favorite store-bought vanilla extract or homemade vanilla extract will work.
  • Sweetened Shredded Coconut - Make sure you get the sweetened variety.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk - Do not confuse this with evaporated milk. It is not the same.
  • Pecans - Walnuts will also work with this flavor profile.
  • Chocolate Almond Bark - Semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips will work too.
  • Sprinkles - Optional.
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How to Make Martha Washington Candy

A white plate with Martha Washington Candy on it.

Add the melted and cooled butter, well-drained and chopped maraschino cherries, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and pecans.

A bowl filled with a mixture of Martha Washington Candy and peppers.

Stir until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours until the mixture has firmed up and is a scoopable consistency.

A baking sheet with Martha Washington Candy cookies on it and a spatula.

Once set up, scoop it out in equal-sized balls using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop or a spoon and your finger.

A tray of Martha Washington Candy cookies with red and white sprinkles on it.

Place the scoops on parchment paper or wax paper on a sheet pan. Freeze for at least 30 minutes or until frozen.

Martha Washington Candy with melted chocolate in a glass bowl and spoon.

Melt the almond bark in a microwave in short 30-second intervals. Stir it after every interval until melted and smooth

Dip the frozen candy balls in the chocolate, tap off the excess, and place them back on the tray to set up.

Finished Martha Washington Candy. Top down view.

TIP: To add more flavor and to change the texture of the coconut and pecans, toast them! I have a great post on how to toast coconut and the pecans can be spread out on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes until golden and fragrant.

Tips for Best Results

To melt chocolate or almond bark in a microwave, use short 20 to 30-second intervals at most. Chocolate burns quickly and will clump up if overheated. Chocolate holds its shape as it melts. Stir it after every short interval in the microwave. Your goal a smooth liquidy chocolate. If you can stir it smooth, it's ready.

Mix the pecans and coconut and evenly distributed them throughout the candy. Those two items sometimes clump up and do not fully mix.

This candy is very rich and intense, so smaller is better.

How to Store/Freeze

To store the Martha Washington Candy, place it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. You can also store it in the fridge for a longer shelf life.

To freeze the Martha Washington Candy, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the freezer until frozen, about 30 minutes. Then transfer them in a freezer-safe container or zippered freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to three months. The chocolate may crack, but they'll still be delicious.

To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.

Martha Washington Candy in a bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Maraschino cherry?

These small cherries are grown in the Croatian coastal region known as the Dalmation Coast. They are then soaked in a brine with sugar and red dye and jarred for preservation. Contrary to popular belief, the current version of Maraschino cherry you can purchase in the United States is non-alcoholic.

Can I use alcohol soaked cherries?

Yes! Just make sure to remove any liquid from the cherries before and after chopping them.

How did the Martha Washington Candy get its name?

A candy company by this name created the original recipe, and as far as anyone can tell doesn't have anything to do with the actual person who was George Washington's wife and a renowned hostess at their home at Mount Vernon.

More Great Candy Recipes

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A bowl of Martha Washington Candy with a bite taken out of it.

Martha Washington Candy

This Martha Washington Candy is an old fashioned candy that's perfect for the holidays. Each bite is loaded with cherries, pecans, and coconut with a chocolate shell wrapped around it.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Course Candy
Cuisine American
Servings 45 candies
Calories 233 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup maraschino cherries drained and dried
  • 1 cup butter cubed
  • 3 ½ cups powdered sugar 1 pound box
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups pecans chopped
  • 16 ounces chocolate almond bark semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips will work too
  • Sprinkles optional

Instructions

  • Coarsely chop the dried maraschino cherries. Dap the pieces with a paper towel to dry any juice that comes out of the cherries after being chopped. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add in the butter. Cover with paper towel and microwave in 30 second intervals until the butter is completely melted. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and pecans. Stir until well combined and the pecans and coconut are evenly distributed.
  • Place in the refrigerator to set up for 2 hours.
  • Using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the balls and place on a parchment paper/wax paper lined rimmed tray.
  • Place the freezer for 30 minutes until firm.
  • While the candy is freezing, melt the almond bark in a large microwave-safe bowl in 30 second intervals and stir after each interval until the almond bark is smooth.
  • Using a fork, dip the frozen candy into the chocolate, tap the wrist holding the fork until the excess chocolate drips off and place on back on the parchment paper/wax paper lined tray.
  • Decorate with sprinkles if you choose and place in refrigerator to set up.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Notes

MARASCHINO CHERRIES: Make sure the cherries are completely dried. Excess juice makes it harder for the candies to keep their shape and firm up. You can use cherries are have been soaked in alcohol that's thoroughly dried off for a boozy candy.
PECANS: You can substitute these with walnuts if you prefer. The pecans would taste great if they were toasted before added into the candy. Do this by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F and bake on a baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes until the pecans turn golden brown and are fragrant.
COCONUT: You can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut for this recipe. You can also toast the coconut for extra flavor and to change the texture slightly.
ALMOND BARK: Almond Bark is so easy to work with that's why I prefer it, but candy melts or chocolate chips will work. The chocolate chips will take a bit longer to set though.
STORAGE: Store these candies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or 3 to 4 weeks if stored in the fridge.
FREEZING: Freeze the candies on a baking sheet first for about 30 minutes and then place them in a freezer bag or freezer container. Freeze up to 3 months and thaw by placing in the fridge overnight.

Nutrition

Calories: 233kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 1gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 57mgPotassium: 76mgFiber: 1gSugar: 25gVitamin A: 156IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 0.3mg

(Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.)

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