Ree Drummond's 2-Ingredient Fudge Spotlights Sweetened Condensed Milk

Homemade fudge always feels like an indulgent treat, not to mention it's a great gifting option for sweet-toothed friends and family. This candy is no-bake and often uses just a handful of ingredients, but the cooking technique can prove tricky — plenty of recipes call for a candy thermometer and constant attention. However, pro chef Ree Drummond has created a version that requires just two ingredients, takes mere minutes to whip up, and you don't even need a thermometer at all. The secret ingredient is sweetened condensed milk.

Thick, creamy sweetened condensed milk is made by cooking the water out of regular milk, then mixing the concentrate with sugar. This makes the product shelf-stable, as well as giving it its signature sweet taste. While there are many surprising ways to use a can of condensed milk in different recipes, it makes creating your own fudge especially easy.

For the Pioneer Woman's version, she simply combines a can of the milk with semi-sweet chocolate chips in a pan, and gently heats the mixture until it's smoothly melted. There's no need to add any extra sugar, as the condensed milk has plenty — and you don't have to worry about whether the fudge will turn grainy or set properly, either.

How sweetened condensed milk makes a smoother fudge

The reason you need a thermometer when making traditional fudge is that the temperature of the sugar needs to be monitored to achieve the right texture. You also need to stir carefully to stop large sugar crystals from forming and creating a gritty or grainy fudge that needs to be fixed.

Since Ree Drummond's recipe replaces the sugary base with sweetened condensed milk, you can achieve a smooth, creamy consistency without any fuss. Mixing it with chocolate on the stove only takes around three minutes. You could even melt the ingredients together in the microwave, if you prefer. The only catch is that you need to quickly pour the fudge into a lined tray, as it begins to thicken and set pretty fast. It will fully firm up when chilled in the fridge, or you could even leave it on the counter for a couple of hours.

Condensed milk makes the fudge tastier, too. As the milk evaporates during the cooking process, its sugars begin to caramelize. This gives your candy that deliciously rich and toasty flavor. If you have leftovers in the can, try using sweetened condensed milk to make two-ingredient truffles, where it offers a similar ease of preparation and heavenly caramelized sweetness.

Extra ingredients to elevate a basic fudge

Once you've made a basic fudge recipe using sweetened condensed milk, it's easy to take it to the next level simply by using a couple of extra ingredients. For example, Ree Drummond tops her fudge with peanut butter, crushed potato chips, and pretzels for a sweet-salty fusion that's full of crunch. Other classic additions include sprinkles, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or even a layer of peanut butter or caramel spread over top.

If you want to incorporate different flavors into the fudge itself, try adding a little vanilla extract, or another extract such as mint or orange, to elevate the chocolate flavor. You could even add some almond extract (in addition to a sprinkling of chopped almonds) if you prefer a nuttier taste.

You could also switch the semi-sweet chocolate chips to dark chocolate for a less sweet and more intensely cocoa-flavored result. Or try pouring in a little coffee liqueur or brandy for a boozy boost. To really get creative, have a go at combining more unusual flavors and textures, such as rose water with chopped pistachio nuts, or warming cardamom with chopped pecans. Your easy two-ingredient fudge just got a lot more interesting.