What is English Toffee?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

English Toffee often delights the gourmet, but as well, sparks debate about its origins. Toffee of any kind could be made either in a hard form, covered in nuts and perhaps chocolate, or it could be somewhat soft and chewy. Food historians suggest both forms of toffee originated at about the same time in the early 1800s.

A layer of chopped walnuts if often added to English toffee.
A layer of chopped walnuts if often added to English toffee.

Americans are used to considering English toffee as a hard, buttery candy that may be coated in nuts and chocolate. Alternately, English toffee might be a slab of toffee merely topped with chocolate and a sprinkling of nuts. The first form can be easily found in the popular candy Almond Roca®, but the slab form is also recognizable and popular.

English toffee may be topped with chocolate.
English toffee may be topped with chocolate.

In England, English toffee is often served individually wrapped. It frequently has nuts added, but it may not be the hard form more familiar to Americans. Instead it may be sticky and chewy, and what most Americans would refer to as taffy, such as saltwater taffy.

Most often the ingredients for any of the variants are relatively similar. What differs is cooking time, and whether the candy is pulled. Most recipes are a mix of butter, and brown sugar, molasses or corn syrup. The candy is boiled until it reaches a certain temperature.

For example, the slab type of English toffee is usually boiled to the hard crack stage about 310 F (154.44 C). It is then poured out in a thin layer, preferably onto a marble board. It is allowed to cool almost completely before chocolate chips are added and smoothed over the toffee as they melt. A layer of nuts, usually almonds or walnuts, is added to the chocolate before it hardens as well.

This form of English toffee is then cracked into pieces, which can vary in size. It will keep well for several weeks when packed in reasonably airtight containers away from heat sources.

Thickness of the English toffee slab can vary. A thicker toffee can be prepared by pouring the candy into a smaller pan instead of onto a marble board. There is no one desired thickness layer.

English toffee similar to Almond Roca® is made by cutting the toffee into small pieces prior to it cooling completely. The pieces are dipped in chocolate and then nuts. Some recipes add nuts to the sugar/butter mix as well. The pieces may be wrapped, or when fully cooled can be packed together.

The slab form of English toffee has also inspired the English toffee cookie. This is technically not candy. It is rather a think layer of shortbread covered and baked with toffee nut mixture and then covered with chocolate chips, which melt over the toffee. Many find this a superlative cookie to offer friends during the holiday season.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@ocelot60- After reading your post, I'm wondering if you used salted butter in your English toffee recipe. This would definitely cause your candy to have a strange flavor, because unsalted butter is usually recommending for making English toffee.

If you also used crushed nuts in your recipe, there is a good chance that they may have been salted, too. Having used two different ingredients that contained salt would definitely cause the problem you described, because you basically doubled up on the salt in your recipe.

A good way to avoid too much salt in nuts used for making English toffee is to get unsalted nuts that are packaged specifically for use in various recipes. These are usually in bags and can be found in the baking and cake supplies isle of any grocery store. They are usually available as whole nuts that you can crush yourself, or in pre-crushed form.


I made English toffee for the first time last year, and I wasn't very happy with the way it turned out. The flavor just didn't seem right to me, because it tasted like it was too salty. Does anyone have some tips for correcting this problem when making English toffee?

Post your comments
Forgot password?