Creamy dreamy melt-in-your-mouth homemade peanut butter FUDGE – naturally gluten free fudge made the old-fashioned way! And peanut butter doesn’t get much better than this. Make my easy-to-follow gluten free fudge recipe for a seasonal holiday treat or just for fun anytime of year!
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Peanut butter is one of my all-time favorite foods. It is almost considered a whole food. It’s minimally processed as peanuts are simply ground into a luscious velvety paste that is so versatile for use with so many different foods.
It’s peanuttiness is super with ingredients and other foods like…
- Celery and raisins
- Baby carrots
- Whole grain toast or English muffins (with or without jam or preserves)
- Pretzels or Graham Crackers
- Peanut butter is REALLY good in some stews… and on a lean burger topped with cheddar cheese and jalapenos, too. Anyone? 🤗
And yes – peanut butter is divine with chocolate and caramel, too. I couldn’t agree more. Everything in moderation, of course!
But peanut butter also makes for a FABULOUS FUDGE – a homemade treat that really comes together quickly and is a great addition to any holiday spread.
Just follow my easy-to-read instructions for Easy Gluten Free Fudge to create that creamy goodness everyone wants to sink their teeth into.
Year after year during the holidays, many people giggle when that memorable moment comes up in conversation. That moment on the screen in one of America’s iconic movies, The Christmas Story, after the family outing to buy the Christmas tree.
You know – the scene when Ralphie accidentally loses his grip on the hub cap full of lug nuts as he aids his father in a nighttime tire change.
When he lets two words tumble out of his mouth: “Oh fudge!” Except…he didn’t say “fudge.” 😳
The film depicts Ralphie correctly using the phrase that is thought to have been first uttered after a confectionery accident years ago.
Early documentation in the 1880’s suggests that someone “fudged” a caramel recipe and it quickly became a new delightful sweet treat we all love today.
Fudge of all flavors has become a beloved handmade candy in America for over a century. A simple mixture of sugar, milk, and butter (or mostly peanut butter as the fat source in this peanut butter fudge recipe), it is pretty easy to make for cooks everywhere.
The process of making fudge produces a smooth but firm candy with teeny tiny sugar crystals that virtually go unnoticed on the tongue – except for its divinely-sweet flavor!
You can find fudge in nearly every American tourist town and in many many homes over the holidays, especially during Christmastime. But hey – It’s great for a 4th of July indulgence, too!
Is Fudge Gluten Free?
This is a big question for many different foods. And many times, that answer depends.
The main ingredients of most fudge recipes are sugar, milk, and butter – all ingredients which are naturally gluten free. The only instances when these particular ingredients may not be gluten free are in cases where cross-contact of gluten-containing ingredients has occurred.
Examples of Cross-Contact for a Fudge Recipe
Work Surfaces: working on areas where gluten is present or using tools that may have been in contact with glutenous foods from previous recipes could introduce gluten into a fudge recipe.
Butter: A knife was used to cut butter that was spread onto regular gluten-containing bread and then dipped back into the butter to get a little more. The bread particles are now on the butter and likely pressed into it as well.
- The same can happen in jars of peanut butter, other nut butters, and in spreads like NutellaⓇ.
Brown Sugar: The old-time use of a piece of bread in brown sugar containers to keep it soft. Who knows where the bread particles begin and end in the container.
Milk: If an unclean measuring cup was used, gluten could be present in the milk measured for use in the fudge recipe.
Other Ways Fudge May Contain Gluten
Some fudge varieties simply contain gluten-containing add-ins. This might include any of the following examples:
- Regular OreosⓇ or other gluten-containing cookies
- Cereals and granolas that contain gluten
- Candy or candy bars that contain gluten
- Graham crackers or crackers or pretzels that contain gluten
- Regular cake batter, cookie dough, and pie crust pieces
- Some varieties of sprinkles
- Liquors that contain gluten
- Nuts or seeds or other ingredients that were processed on equipment that also processes wheat
So not all fudge is gluten free.
But you can easily make fudge that does not contain gluten by preventing cross-contact and by not using ingredients, kitchen tools, or work surfaces that could contain gluten.
What Do I Need to Make This Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe
For complete step-by-step instructions to make this fudge, see the recipe card below.
Here’s the list of the ingredients and kitchen tools you’ll need to make this peanut buttery fudge.
- Peanut Butter – The star of the show, you can choose whether you want some texture in your fudge or not. Use creamy or crunchy or some of both (my favorite choice). I use store brands or national brands. I prefer to use varieties that are lower in sodium and most often use Jif Naturals (just make sure it is stirred well prior to measuring).
- Marshmallow Creme – This helps to add lift and structure in fudge and helps to produce a creamy-textured fudge.
- Vanilla Extract – Vanilla compliments and accents the peanut butter flavors as well as the brown sugar in this fudge recipe.
- Granulated Sugar and Dark Brown Sugar – Both add sweetness, of course. Brown sugar specifically adds a caramel-esque touch from the molasses content, adding a mild layer of penuche flavor and deeper richness perfect in peanut butter fudge.
- Whole Milk – Milk is one of the main ingredients in fudge making – its the place where the sugar dissolves. Low-fat 2% milk would work well here in this recipe, too.
- Unsalted Butter – Just one tablespoon in this recipe to lend to the creamy texture desirable in fudge!
Equipment Used to Make Old-Fashioned Fudge
Usually old-fashioned fudge refers to the process in which a sugar mixture is boiled until it reaches a certain heat level. The target heat level is near the soft-ball stage, about 234-240°F for most fudge recipes and usually requires the use of a candy thermometer.
This is the list of equipment needed for this fudge:
- 8-inch Square Pan – my preferred pan size for this amount of fudge to hold its shape as it cools
- Aluminum Foil – for easy fudge removal from the pan and for easy clean up
- Medium Bowl – to combine peanut butter, marshmallow creme, and vanilla extract
- High-Heat Silicone Spatula Spoon or Wooden Spoon – to stir while heating the syrup mixture to high heat
- Heavy 3-Quart Saucepan – to heat the sugars, milk, and butter on the stove
- Candy Thermometer – to measure the temperature of the syrup mixture as it heats to the soft-ball stage
- Rubber Spatula – to scrape combined peanut butter-marshmallow creme mixture into hot syrup and to pat fudge into an even layer in the pan
- Sharp Knife – to cut fudge into squares
Do I Have to Use a Candy Thermometer?
Here’s the deal: for this fudge recipe, I feel more confident using one so the answer is…YES.
The goal of using a candy thermometer in fudge-making is to reach the soft-ball stage. What is that?
The soft-ball stage is a target temperature range used in making fudge and other candies to identify when enough heat has been applied to a sugar syrup mixture to produce a soft pliable ball: a minimum of 234°F up to 240°F at sea level. (More details about how altitude impacts candy-making below.)
However, without a candy thermometer, cooks can use a cold water test to see if their syrup has reached the soft-ball stage.
- To test, transfer a small amount of cooked syrup to cold water and observe what it does; if it holds the shape of a soft ball, but loses its shape when removed, the mixture has reached the soft-ball stage.
But fudge-making is a quick process. And I find that once the temperature reaches 230°F, not much time passes until it reaches the soft-ball stage: remember that’s a minimum of 234°F.
And in fudge-making, timing is almost everything. The amount of time the syrup cooks does directly affect how firm it becomes.
- If it doesn’t cook long enough, not enough water will evaporate leading to fudge that is too soft and gooey.
- If it cooks too long, the fudge will not have enough water and will result in fudge that is harder with a dry texture that crumbles. Not good.
You will find some recipes that simply tell you to cook and stir the syrup at a high rolling boil for 3 minutes or for 5 minutes, etc. I tried that before and my fudge didn’t turn out well. I suspect that my syrup mixture was too hot because it cut into shards and crumbles.
Using a candy thermometer takes some of the guesswork out of the fudge-making process and provides for a decadent desirably-textured fudge in the end.
Altitude and Candy Thermometers
I have lived in Indiana my entire life and for years didn’t realize how changes in elevation could affect candy making. The altitudes both of where I grew up and where I currently live are just over 800 feet above sea level, so it was never a cooking issue. Water boils at 212°F here.
As your altitude increases, the boiling point of water decreases. This is a very important detail in fudge-making. So take note!
For each 1000 feet above sea level, reduce the target temperature in candy making by 2°F.
Not sure what altitude you are at? Click here to find your current elevation!
Testing the Accuracy of Your Candy Thermometer
Since I use my candy thermometer only once or twice a year and since candy-making can be a finicky process, it’s best to test the accuracy of your candy thermometer often.
To test, just follow these simple steps:
- Fill a small saucepan about half-full with water, place on stove, and turn heat to high.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure that the bulb does not touch the bottom or sides of the pan. Bring water to a constant full boil. At sea level, it should read 212°F or 100°C. Continue to allow the water to boil for five minutes; has the reading changed?
- Make note of the temperature reading obtained during your candy thermometer test. Adjust your candy recipe target temperature up or down based on your test.
How to Make the Best Gluten Free Fudge
- Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, with edges long enough on two sides to serve as handles for easy removal later. Butter the bottom of the pan.
- Place peanut butter, marshmallow creme and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
- Stir ingredients from step 2 well to combine.
- Place granulated sugar and brown sugar in a heavy 3-quart saucepan.
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the saucepan.
- Pour the milk into the saucepan.
- Place saucepan over medium heat, stir contents to combine, and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Stir continuously to a rolling boil and then to 236°F.
- Once the desired temperature is reached, remove the saucepan from heat.
- Scrape peanut butter mixture into the hot syrup, and beat well with a spoon until blended and thick.
- Quickly scrape warm peanut butter fudge into prepared pan, spread and pat fudge to the edges and allow to cool.
NOTE: The numbered steps above correspond to the numbered fudge-making process pictures shown below.
My Essential Tips for Making Fabulous Peanut Butter Fudge
Now I often venture off and might not follow recipe instructions completely as I experiment with different foods. But fudge-making is different. The biggest key to success is to read through the recipe card below and follow the instructions to the “T.”
- If it’s been a while since you’ve used your candy thermometer (or it is new) run the candy thermometer test to check for accuracy. As discussed above, adjust the fudge recipe target temperature up or down based on your test.
- Know your current elevation! Decrease the recipe target temperature down (as discussed above) as elevation increases.
- Prepare the pan and measure out each ingredient BEFORE the cooking process begins. Fudge comes together quickly!
- Once the candy thermometer is in place, make sure the bulb does not touch the bottom or sides of the pan at all.
- Use a high-heat silicone spoon or spatula spoon or a wooden spoon to stir the hot sugar mixture.
- When you stir the sugar mixture over heat, do so gently, even throughout the rolling boil.
- Stir the sugar mixture continuously. Refrain from touching the sides of the pan where larger sugar crystals adhere and tend to grow.
- Watch the candy thermometer closely, especially once the temperature reaches 230°F.
- When the thermometer reads 236°F, stop stirring and CAREFULLY remove the saucepan from the heat to avoid disturbing the mixture.
- You still do not want any sugar crystals that are stuck to the sides of the pan to fall into the mixture (remember those crystals are larger and could lead to grainy-textured fudge).
- Stir the peanut butter mixture into the hot syrup and combine it well, trying to stay away from the sides of the pan. You’ll get a speedy arm workout as it thickens quickly. As soon as it is combined, transfer the fudge to the prepared pan, patting and spreading into an even layer.
Now, folks, fudge is fudge. It is candy. So highlighting nutrition is…well…harder to do in this case.
And peanut butter adds protein! Not a bad thing to include in candy!
Did you know that peanuts and peanut butter contain more protein than any other nut or nut butter? Yep! 7 grams of protein per serving.
Plus peanuts provide over 30 essential vitamins and minerals. Peanuts are…
- A good source of folate, magnesium, and Vitamin E
- An excellent source of manganese and niacin
Put that into your fudge!
Because the fat source in this gluten free fudge is peanut butter, the nutritional value is drastically different than if the main fat source was butter (largely saturated fat), which is commonly found in higher amounts in fudge recipes.
I am just delighted that this fudge is so LOW in saturated fat and cholesterol! 😁
Each 2-square serving of this gluten free fudge provides:
- About 117 calories
- Just 5 grams of total fat
- Only 1 gram of saturated fat and 1 gram of cholesterol
- 1 gram of fiber
- 2 grams of protein
- 18 grams of carbohydrate, 16 of which are sugar
Just because this fudge has a healthier fat profile doesn’t negate the sugar content. You may have many holiday treats to choose from. Remember: Everything in moderation!
Recipe FAQ for Easy Peanut Butter Gluten Free Fudge
Here are some common questions you may ask as you prepare this recipe:
In theory, Yes! I personally have not experimented making this recipe with an alternate nut butter. However, I believe almond butter or sunflower seed butter could be substituted for peanut butter and produce a delectable peanut-free fudge!
-I would avoid “natural” varieties of either of these in making fudge due to the oily texture commonly found in natural almond and seed butters; it may negatively impact the consistency of the fudge.
-It is my experience that the oil tends to separate easily even among almond butters and sunflower seed butters not labeled as “natural.” Therefore it is very important to stir the nut or seed butter very well before use in this recipe.
Yes, sometimes. It is fine to use store brand or major national brand varieties (Jif, Skippy, etc) that are labeled “natural” and also contain the statement “no need to stir,” or “no-stir.”
-Like other nut butters, I would avoid natural varieties without the “no-stir” statement for fudge; these types often form a thick layer of oil on top and the consistency may lead to a fudge that is too soft.
Yes. I would suggest making the following swaps to make this fudge recipe vegan:
-Replace the butter with vegan plant-based butter – such as Country Crock Plant Butter Sticks.
–Replace milk with non-dairy milk of your choice.
NOTE: When making these changes, the recipe also becomes dairy-free. 🙌🏼 A WIN for those seeking dairy-free fudge!
For the amount of fudge this recipe makes, I use an 8×8-inch size pan. I prefer chunkier pieces of fudge, and this pan is perfect for that.
-For thinner pieces of fudge, a 7×11-inch size pan or 9×9-inch size pan would work well.
Most fudge recipes like this one will maintain the same wonderful consistency and texture when stored properly.
-To Store: Place fudge in an airtight container appropriate for the amount and keep at room temperature or in a cool area away from moisture, heat, and sunlight for 1-2 weeks. Fudge may also be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks.
Yes! Fudge can be frozen for up to 3 months or longer when stored properly.
-To Freeze Fudge: It is best to freeze prior to cutting fudge into pieces. This will help to prevent ice crystals from developing in between pieces. Wrap the slab of fudge in plastic wrap and again in foil; place wrapped fudge in an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze.
-To Thaw Fudge: Remove fudge from the freezer, take out of the airtight container or freezer bag and place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, keeping foil and plastic wrap in place. When ready to cut, remove fudge from the refrigerator, remove foil, and allow to sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes prior to cutting. Remove plastic wrap and cut into pieces as described in the recipe card below.
Easy Gluten Free Fudge (Peanut Butter!)
- 8-inch Square Pan
- Aluminum Foil
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Rubber Spatula
- 3-Quart Heavy Saucepan
- High-heat Silicone Spatula Spoon or Wooden Spoon
- Candy Thermometer
- Sharp Knife
- 1 cup peanut butter creamy or crunchy or some of both
- 1 cup marshmallow creme
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar or light brown sugar
- 2/3 cup whole milk or 2% low-fat milk
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, making sure the foil is long enough to hang over two opposing sides for easy removal. Butter the bottom of the pan.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, marshmallow creme and vanilla extract with a rubber spatula; set aside.
- In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk, and butter. Place the pan over medium heat and begin stirring with a high-heat silicone spatula spoon or a wooden spoon. Stir constantly to help sugars dissolve and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Continue to stir and heat to a rolling boil. Take care not to disturb any sugar crystals that have adhered to the side of the pan.
- Continue to cook and stir, watching as the temperature rises. Once the temperature reaches 230°F, watch the thermometer very closely as the temperature will rise quickly. When the temperature reaches 236°F, stop stirring and remove the saucepan from the heat. NOTE: Once the sugar mixture is at a rolling boil, it may take 5-6 minutes to reach the desired temperature.
- Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the hot syrup, beating well with the spatula spoon or wooden spoon until thoroughly blended and thickened. Working quickly, scrape warm peanut butter fudge into prepared square pan, spreading and patting into an even layer. Allow to cool for two hours before cutting.
- To Cut Into Squares: Pull up on long edges of foil and lift fudge out of the pan; place on a cutting board. Run hot running water over a large heavy knife, pat dry and use to cut fudge into 8 even rows. Turn pan 90 degrees. Rinse the knife again under hot running water, pat dry, and cut fudge again into 8 rows, creating 64 one-inch squares.It’s ready to serve!
Your Own Notes
Enjoy this easy gluten free fudge over the holidays or anytime! When you try this recipe, please consider leaving a recipe rating and comment below!
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