Colorful Cotton Candy Recipe

How to Make Cotton Candy — Without a Machine

Hardly anything brings us back to our childhoods more than cotton candy. There’s just something awe-inspiring about this seemingly physics-defying candy made from sugar and air. Plus, it has such a distinct flavor, cotton candy worked its way into a whole host of other treats and drinks, from ice cream to cocktails.

Once labor-intensive and costly to make, this spun-sugar treat exploded in popularity thanks to the industrial revolution plus the spread of affordable sugar. But who would have guessed we’d be back where we started, wanting to flex our DIY muscles, figuring out how to make cotton candy without a machine?

Luckily, learning how to make cotton candy without a machine isn’t as hard as you might think. It may not look exactly like what you’re used to, but home-spun cotton candy is just as delicious. Plus, it’s a great way for kids to get in the kitchen and get their hands dirty, with a sweet reward to top it off.

If you missed the last county fair or just need a fix for your sweet tooth, scroll down to learn everything you need to know about making cotton candy from scratch with this super easy cotton candy recipe.

Cotton Candy Fun Facts

  • What Americans call cotton candy is called “fairy floss” or “candy floss” in many other parts of the world.
  • The Iranian dessert pashmak, also a spun-sugar dessert, is sometimes called Persian cotton candy.
  • Machine-made cotton candy was invented in 1897 by – wait for it – a dentist! It premiered with huge success at the 1904 World’s Fair for today’s equivalent of six dollars a box.
  • In the United States, December 7 is National Cotton Candy Day.
Cotton Candy

A Cotton Candy Recipe We Love

To learn how to make cotton candy without a machine, you’ll need to heat, liquefy, and spin the sugar out into very thin strands. If you don’t want to be bothered by going out and buying a cotton candy machine, no worries! Making hand-spun cotton candy is pretty simple if you have the right tools. Just know that you’ll want to keep your batches small. This method is a bit more time-consuming (and messier!) than using a machine.

Ratios vary by cotton candy recipe, but at minimum, you’ll need:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Raspberry, lemon, almond, vanilla, or other extract or oil for flavoring
  • Food coloring
  • Cooking spray or vegetable oil
  • Candy thermometer
  • Parchment paper

Something to spin your cotton candy – this recipe suggests cutting the ends off an old wire whisk, while this recipe calls for a normal whisk.

Making Your Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy Recipe. Home-spun cotton candy

Approx. Time Needed: 45 minutes.

Follow these steps to make cotton candy at home!

  1. Prepare your workstation.

    You’ll be spinning the sugar on parchment paper, so clear some space on a counter or table. You may want to lay down plastic wrap or newspaper underneath the parchment paper to prevent messes with the hot, sticky sugar.

  2. Combine ingredients and heat to 320 degrees.

    Mix the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed pot, then stir over medium-high heat until all the sugar is melted. Use the thermometer to make sure the mixture has reached 320 degrees.

  3. Transfer sugar mixture into a large heat-safe bowl.

    This will keep the sugar from continuing to cook and burn.

  4. Spin the cotton candy – and work quickly!

    Dip the tines of your whisk into the mixture, then quickly drizzle the thinning sugar strands back and forth across the parchment paper until you have a sizeable “nest” of candy strands. The sugar will start to thicken after about 10 minutes but can be microwaved to return it to the right consistency. From here, you can either eat the cotton candy in clumps or spin it onto lollipop or popsicle sticks.

  5. Serve and enjoy!

    Depending on the cotton candy recipe you use, your cotton candy can be eaten from sticks or cones, on ice cream or other desserts, or even by hand.

More Ways to Enjoy Candy

Candy Club is always here for your sweet tooth. Browse our other DIY projects today to get your creative juices flowing, or check out our subscription boxes and have candy delivered right to your door! Because the next best thing to learning how to make cotton candy without a machine is enjoying candy without the hard work.