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!
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.
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
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.
How to Make Martha Washington Candy
Add the melted and cooled butter, well-drained and chopped maraschino cherries, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and pecans.
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.
Once set up, scoop it out in equal-sized balls using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop or a spoon and your finger.
Place the scoops on parchment paper or wax paper on a sheet pan. Freeze for at least 30 minutes or until frozen.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Yes! Just make sure to remove any liquid from the cherries before and after chopping them.
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
- Candy Cane Cheesecake Bites
- Cinnamon Rock Candy
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Crockpot Candy
- Chow Mein Candy - Haystacks
Martha Washington Candy
- 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
- 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.
(Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.)