Bites of coconuty, pecan-studded, chocolate-coated heaven.

By Kaitlyn Yarborough
July 22, 2020
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Southerners love a classic candy recipe—and come the holiday season, batches upon batches of bourbon balls, buckeyes, and peppermint truffles keep us in a constant state of sugar euphoria so strong even the Grinch couldn’t spoil it. We couldn’t even see him through the chocolate-scented haze if we tried. 

Not that it stops us from making our favorite Southern candies all year long, especially crowd-pleasers like divinity and cornflake candy—oh, and Martha Washingtons. If you’ve never heard of these classic balls of coconuty, pecan-studded, chocolate-coated heaven, consider yourself unlucky. Lots of holiday calories spared, sure, but that’s not really what life is about, hm? 

There’s not much of a robust history to be found on how Martha Washingtons got their name, but the old-fashioned candy was apparently a popular item sold by a chain of Martha Washington candy stores in late 1800s that later died out during the Great Depression. The chocolate balls—that look much like a truffle or bourbon ball—were nonetheless kept alive in community cookbooks and family recipe cards.

Starting with a can of sweetened condensed milk, some butter, and a couple hearty scoops of powdered sugar, the simple recipe makes use of favorite Southern pantry staples and requires very few ingredients or instruction. It’s the sort of recipe a grandmother loves to make on the fly come the holiday season or church potluck when cookies just won’t do. Once you bite into the melted chocolate coating and get a taste of the sweet, creamy, coconut-pecan filling, it’s all over. You’re done. 

No matter the day or season, these Martha Washington candies are worth a try, even if just wanting to taste them for yourself. Start with this super easy, six-ingredient recipe for the perfect Martha Washingtons, and eventually you can even customize by using dark chocolate for the outer coating, sprinkling the top with extra coconut flakes or sea salt, or even topping with a pecan for extra flair. Our favorite might be this similar recipe for coconut balls that adds almond butter and almond extract for something that feels a touch more elevated.

This classic candy recipe is one for the heirloom recipe box, that’s for sure. Make a batch and watch them disappear.