Ice cream sauce fans, get ready to wow your family, your guests, and even yourself with this old-fashioned hot fudge sauce recipe that is The Best.
This deeply flavorful hot fudge sauce is the same sauce I made in huge quantities at both fine dining restaurants I worked in. It’s the kind of sauce that solidifies into chewy goodness in the fridge and melts to pourable perfection when warmed.
Hands down my favorite and (subjectively) the best hot fudge sauce recipe for pretty much any of my ice cream recipes!
It is seriously the best I’ve ever had–not kidding! Plus you can vary the flavor to suit your taste, too. Enjoy!
For ease of browsing, here are all of my dessert sauces. Thanks for stopping by!
Watch the web story for my Absolute Best Hot Fudge Sauce, you guys!
What makes this the best?
This ice cream sauce is not the best because it has the fewest ingredients. No, that prize goes to good old ganache which makes a fine ice cream topping, clocking in at 2 or maybe 3 ingredients.
If you’re looking for good, old-fashioned hot fudge sauce, though, you need look no further.
Here are the things that make this fudge sauce the best:
- It gets thick and a bit chewy when cold.
- You have to heat up in order to pour it.
- It has a deep, rich flavor that is exactly what is needed to set off a perfect vanilla ice cream. Or coffee ice cream.
- There is enough salt in it to round out the flavors, counteract any bitterness that might be present if you use a really dark chocolate, and to make the sauce sparkle on your tongue.
- You can vary the flavor based on your preferences.
It is truly an old-fashioned fudge sauce with you’re going to want to make again and again.
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Ingredients and Substitutions
NOTE: Please keep scrolling down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe. In this section, I’m just letting you know what you’ll need.
The ingredient list is actually relatively long, but the process is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you’ll need:
- butter: the fat helps to carry the flavor and provide body. If you don’t have unsalted butter, use salted, but you may have to dial back amount of additional salt you use
- sugar: provides the sweetness and helps to give the sauce the traditional “chewy” texture of old time soda fountain hot fudge sauce. You can substitute light brown sugar, 1:1, if you would rather
- corn syrup: light or dark. Helps to prevent crystallization and provides more of the chewy texture we’re going for
- heavy cream: provides body and volume as well as additional milk fat. The dairy solids in the cream will brown as you cook the base, adding to flavor complexity
- salt: enhances the flavor and counteracts any bitterness from the cocoa powder
- milk: provides more volume without adding much additional fat. Also adds more dairy solids that will brown as they cook
- cocoa powder: provides the chocolate flavor. Use the best quality you can get, although honestly any will do. I make mine with Hershey’s (or Ghirardelli when I can find it) and it’s fantastic, either way. DO NOT use cacao powder which is not roasted or heated during processing. It is too delicate to provide the punch of chocolate flavor we are looking for
- water (or coffee): gives you something to make the cocoa powder paste with. If you use coffee, it will help to deepen the chocolate flavor just a touch
- light rum: adds enough alcohol to bring out alcohol-soluble flavors without being a prominent flavor itself. You can certainly sub in your favorite liquor or liqueur here, depending on what flavor you’re going for. You can also leave the alcohol out entirely if alcohol is an issue for you. Coffee makes an excellent substitution here, and you will not be able to taste it in the final sauce
- vanilla: chocolate’s complement. Must have! You don’t have to use the top quality stuff, but adding vanilla helps to round out the flavors
- semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate: adds additional chocolate flavor plus some cocoa butter for body
How to Make Hot Fudge
There are two basic components to this sauce:
- dairy and sugar
- chocolate and flavorings
The goal is to boil the dairy to concentrate the flavors and reduce the liquid and then pour that over the chocolate and whisk to combine.
Here’s a closer look at that procedure.
The process for making this sauce is pretty straightforward:
- Bring butter, sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream, salt, and milk to a boil.
- Whisk cocoa powder, rum, water (coffee), and vanilla into a paste.
- Add the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips to a bowl along with the cocoa paste.
- Let the sugar/milk mixture boil until a light caramel color, stirring frequently.
- Pour the caramelized sugar/milk mixture into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Whisk until smooth.
- Strain and store.
Fudge Sauce Variations
This sauce can be flavored in many ways. Here are some ideas to try:
- Add a bit of orange zest and/or cinnamon to the boil
- Switch out the rum for orange liqueur.
- Use your favorite alcohol–a liquor or liqueur.
- Add some peppermint extract.
- Whisk in powdered freeze-dried raspberries or other freeze-dried fruits.
- Add some heat in the form of chipotle pepper or smoked hot paprika
Play with this sauce and make it your own.
When you want to relive your visits to the soda fountain where the fudge sauce was thick and rich and tasted of fudge and not “brown,” then please make it according to the original recipe which calls for light rum and vanilla.
Tools and equipment you might need
NOTE: Since this is dairy-based, it is not recommended to can this. I recommend the above canning jars are just for storing the sauce, not canning it.
An old-fashioned way to store all sorts of foods for keeping or giving. These hold just under 8 oz with some head room, so they're great for individual dessert servings, too.
Is the Rum Really Necessary?
Even just a bit of alcohol, whether it be rum or Kahlua or Godiva chocolate or whatever, brings out the alcohol-soluble flavors that would otherwise remain locked away.
The entire recipe, and it makes just over a quart, uses only 2 Tablespoons of alcohol. You can’t taste it, but you would miss it were it not there.
Jenni Says: If you are not averse to having alcohol but don’t happen to have any on hand, just use vanilla extract in place of the rum. I’ve done that before, and it’s delicious!
Hot Fudge Sauce Q & A
Since you add the boiled mixture to the alcohol mixture off the heat, none of the alcohol boils away. And even if you do boil it, while most will boil off, not all will. If for any reason you cannot have alcohol, you can substitute 2 Tablespoons of very strong coffee.
If you find that your sauce hardens into a block of fudge in the fridge and/or when you put it on cold ice cream, reheat the fudge sauce and stir in an extra 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup of cream. Allow it to chill in the fridge to check the consistency. As firm as it sets in the fridge is as firm as it’ll set up on cold ice cream
When you pour your fudge sauce on your ice cream and it seems too thin, all running off and into the bottom of your bowl, scrape the rest of the sauce back into a pan, bring it to a boil, and let it boil for a couple of minutes th thicken it up. If using a thermometer, bring the sauce to about 225F.
Your best best is to use a chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage. I specify using 60%, but you can also use a 70-72%. That will yield a less sweet and even more intensely chocolatey hot fudge sauce.
What Is the Best Cocoa Powder to Use?
I have had a couple of comments and emails saying that their sauce ended up just tasting like caramel and not like hot fudge.
The only thing I can think of that might cause this is that they used cacao powder and not cocoa powder.
Cacao powder is very delicate, and heating it might affect the flavor.
I don’t want you to waste your money making a hot fudge sauce that doesn’t taste like hot fudge, so do NOT use cacao powder. Save that for smoothies.
Here are my recommendations for the best cocoa powder to use in this recipe.
First is the one I used at the restaurant:
This is the cocoa powder we used to use at the restaurant. It is deeply delicious with a pretty high percentage of fat. That leads to richer flavor. I used to make the hot fudge sauce with this cocoa powder, so if you use a lot of cocoa powder and want to take some fancy, restaurant-quality cocoa powder for a spin, this Cocoa Barry is fantastic. Note this is FOUR POUNDS of cocoa powder!
And my pick for a great cocoa powder that is more widely available for home cooks is Ghirardelli.
This is the cocoa powder I use to make hot fudge sauce (and other stuff) at home. It is rich and delicious and will give your hot fudge sauce and baked goods a lovely, deep chocolate flavor. It is less expensive than the premium brands, but it costs a bit more than the brands that are widely available at the grocery store. Definitely worth having in your pantry. NOTE: The price is for 1 1/2 pounds of cocoa powder.
Do I have to caramelize the dairy mixture?
No, you don’t. But if you don’t take the 20-30 minutes to cook the dairy until it has caramelized, you will not have made the best hot fudge sauce in the world.
You will have made a very good one, but it won’t be the best.
Caramelizing the sugar/dairy does a couple of things:
- It evaporates out some of the water, concentrating the flavor and allowing for a thicker sauce and that old-fashioned chewy texture that is so incredibly addictive.
- The caramelized sugar and milk solids lend a deep, complex base flavor that you would not get if you don’t take this step.
What Temperature Should I Cook the Dairy To?
Reader Lindsey was kind enough to take the temperature of her dairy as it caramelized.
For her, the magic temperature was just shy of 235F (soft ball) stage.
I generally don’t use a thermometer and just rely on the color. But depending on how thick you want your hot fudge sauce to be when it cools, shoot for somewhere between 220F on up to the soft ball stage of 235F like Lindsey did.
The hotter you cook your sauce, the thicker it will be upon cooling. I generally go with the color of the dairy rather than whipping out my instant-read. Take the dairy to a light beige color, and it will still be fairly liquid (although thick) upon cooling. Take it to medium beige, and your fudge sauce will be more solid once chilled.
Unless you plan on eating it straight from the jar with a spoon, always reheat the sauce before serving.
If you don’t have time to boil a big old pot of ingredients on the stove for a long time, you can just make some ganache.
I also recommend trying my Quick Hot Fudge Sauce Recipe which takes a couple of shortcuts to get to long-cooked flavor in way less time.
You could also try this great quickie version from my friend Chris. It’s an excellent blender hot fudge sauce, so it comes together super fast.
And if you want to go really old school, make some chocolate syrup. I swear it is So Good either on ice cream or in chocolate milk.
Aside from pouring it over ice cream, you can also use the sauce to make chocolate milk or hot chocolate. Just stir enough into hot or cold milk until you like the chocolate-ness level and enjoy.
Here are some other ideas:
- Top a cheesecake with it
- Serve it with cake or drizzle it over an iced cake to get that “drip” effect
- Use it as the fudge layer in my chocolate cheesecake pie (Please do this!)
- Use it to layer with soft ice cream before freezing to make a swirled ice cream
- Top an ice cream mud pie like my friend Laura did
- Make chocolate pound cake or some fudgy brownies, top with a scoop of ice cream, and then drench the whole shebang with fudge sauce before topping with some stabilized whipped cream
- Please pour it over this French vanilla ice cream. I implore you!
- Even though you might want to eat it straight from a spoon, consider making some chocolate pudding instead!
Enough talk! Please go and make some of this sauce. And then come back and tell me how much you love it. Make a sundae, and don’t forget to put the cherry on top. I promise you will feel just like a kid again.
If you have any questions about this or any other recipe or post on the site, there are a few ways to get in touch.
You can leave a comment on the post, and I’ll be back in touch within 24 hours.
If your question is more pressing, don’t hesitate to email me, and I should be back in touch within 4 hours (unless I’m asleep) or often much more quickly than that.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids. Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend:
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
I hope you’ve learned something from this post or that you’ve decided to make the recipe.
It would really help me and other readers out if you’d rate the recipe using the star ratings in the recipe card.
It’s also very helpful to me and to other readers if you leave a comment and/or a recipe review.
Thank you so much for being here and for helping others find my recipes by sharing on your social platforms!
- 4 oz unsalted butter, (1 stick, 112 grams)
- 8 oz granulated sugar, (1 slightly generous cup, 224 grams)
- 11.75 oz (by WEIGHT) light or dark corn syrup, (1 cup, 329 grams)
- 16 oz heavy cream, (1 pint or 2 cups, 448 grams)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5.3 oz whole milk, (about 2/3 cup, 149 grams)
- .67 oz cocoa powder, (1/4 cup, 19 grams)
- 1.3 oz water, (2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, 36 grams)
- 1 oz light rum, (2 Tablespoons. 28 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 8 oz excellent quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60%, 224 grams)
- Place the butter, sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream, salt and milk in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the cocoa powder, water, rum and vanilla into a thin paste.
- Place the cocoa paste in a large bowl.
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces (or use excellent quality chocolate chips or paillettes) and add to the bowl.
- When the dairy comes to a boil, regulate the heat so it maintains a slow boil but doesn't boil up in the pan.
- Stir the dairy frequently and boil until it reaches a light caramel color, about 20-30 minutes (less time if you half the recipe). You don't necessarily want the mixture to be super thick, but you do want it a a few shades darker than when you started.
- Once the dairy is a lovely shade of deep beige, pour it into the bowl with the chopped chocolate and cocoa paste. Allow it to sit for a minute or two and then whisk until smooth.
- Strain it just to make sure it is completely smooth.
- Store in jars in the fridge.
- If you used fresh dairy, the hot fudge sauce will keep for a good 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. If your dairy was close to the expiration date, use the sauce up within 5-7 days.
Add some orange zest and cinnamon to the cocoa powder paste
Add a little bit of mint extract or a very few drops of mint oil
cinnamon plus some cayenne or ground chipotle would make a great Mexican-style fudge sauce
Keep sauce tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It will probably be good for longer than that, but use your best judgment.
You can freeze the sauce for longer storage.
This sauce is not suitable for canning unless you are well-versed in canning dairy products.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition InformationYield 32 Serving Size about 2 Tablespoons
Amount Per Serving Calories 175Total Fat 10.6gSaturated Fat 6.8gCholesterol 29mgSodium 88mgCarbohydrates 20.1gFiber 0.7gSugar 13.6gProtein 1.3g
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Enjoy the fudge sauce, and have a lovely day.
See my best old-fashioned fudge sauce web story here.