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Black licorice can remind us of a visit to our favorite old-fashioned candy store, with rows and rows of jars filled with colorful confections like fruit gummies, taffy, and bricks of fresh chocolate fudge. Licorice comes in all shapes and sizes—from shoestrings to straws and twists, to pillowy-soft and super-salty like those found in Nordic countries. Treat yourself to a fun afternoon of DIY candy making at home with our easy recipe below.



What Is Black Licorice?

Black licorice is a confection typically flavored and colored black with the extract from the roots of the licorice plant. Licorice root, botanically known as glycyrrhiza glabra, translates to “sweet root” in Greek. An ancient cure-all, black licorice has long been used to soothe gastrointestinal conditions and contains anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

The flavor of black licorice candy can taste sweet and slightly bitter, with notes of anise and fennel.

How Is Black Licorice Made?

Licorice manufacture begins by making a batch of licorice paste typically with liquorice extract, sugar, a binder, starch or flour, gum arabic, flavoring, ammonium chloride, molasses, and gelatin. The batch is cooked then extruded through a nozzle in a variety of shapes including: braids, straw, twists, shoestrings, and ribbons. Once they have cooled, they are cut into pieces of a desired length and finished with a glaze that enhances the shine of the product and keeps the pieces from sticking together in the packaging.

What Is the Difference Between Black Licorice and Red Licorice?

There are differences between black and red licorice that go beyond color and flavor. Black licorice is flavored with licorice extract (from the licorice plant), anise, or a combination of the two. It can also contain molasses, which is added to enhance the bittersweet licorice flavor. Red licorice does not contain licorice extract and is commonly made with artificial or natural food dye and fruit flavorings such as strawberry, cherry, or raspberry.

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How to Make Homemade Black Licorice

These homemade black licorice twists are guaranteed to transport you back in time—to your local dime store stocked with this chewy old fashioned candy treat. Once made, these gluten free licorice twists can be stored covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Cook’s Note: For smaller portions, cut into ½ x 2-inch pieces and wrap like caramels in wax paper with twisted ends.

Easy Black Licorice Recipe

3 dozen pieces
Prep Time
1 hr 25 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
Cook Time
10 min


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark corn syrup
  • ½ cup condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons anise extract
  • 1 teaspoon black food coloring
  1. Line an 8-inch square loaf pan with parchment paper; grease with butter.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, bring butter, sugar, syrup, milk, molasses and salt to a boil over medium heat. Once the temperature reaches 265°F on a candy thermometer, remove from heat and stir in flour, extract, and coloring. Pour into prepared pan. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, 30–45 minutes.
  3. Invert onto a cutting board, remove parchment paper and cut into 1/2-inch thick ropes, twisting to shape. Place onto baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator until set, about 20–30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. To soften, let sit at room temperature before serving.

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