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I Made The South Korean Candy From "Squid Game", And Even As Someone Who Cooks For A Living, It Nearly Took Me (And My Kitchen) Out Completely

Game on.

If you're on TikTok, I'm betting you've probably seen the ultra-popular Dalgona Candy Challenge, which has burst onto FYPs everywhere as a result of Netflix's latest mega-hit: Squid Game.

Netflix

Like each challenge in Squid Game, this specific one stems from a South Korean childhood game involving dalgona candy (or ppopgi): a sweet, crackly, caramel-adjacent street food similar to honeycomb. Street vendors in South Korea churn out these treats at lightning speed — commonly made in a metal ladle and stirred with a chopstick — and some will even reward lucky customers with a free dalgona if they can successfully remove the stamped shape from the candy itself.

Chung Sung-jun / Getty Images

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If you haven't seen Squid Game yet, here's some additional context (without any major spoilers). Just like with ppopgi IRL, the contestants in the series are tasked with carving varying shapes out of tinned dalgona candy using only a sewing needle. But...very unlike the game that inspired this challenge, should the Squid Game contestants fail, they're killed. Fun!

Netflix

It didn't take long for every human being on TikTok to get in on the action, and thus, the Dalgona Candy Challenge was born. Granted, the stakes are significantly lower, but the content is...*chef's kiss*. Case in point: this person, who went ABOVE and beyond in every single way. 11/10.

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And this person, who did not! (But honestly, I've watched this 16 times already so, kudos to them.)

As a food writer by day and recipe developer by night, it's physically impossible for me not to try out each and every viral TikTok food...so, I decided to go on my own dalgona candy journey. Folks, let me just say, the real "challenge" is successfully making one of these bad boys without A) setting off every smoke detector in your home, B) burning yourself, or C) making a dalgona candy that looks nothing short of radioactive. Exhibit A 👇

Ross Yoder

To be clear, even this took me several attempts — five, actually — but through my mistakes, I've learned some tips that you simply must know before you go off and do this yourself. DON'T BE LIKE ME! Read directions first.

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And I know! You may be asking: but WHY would I want to make this? It looks and sounds like a nightmare. And my answer is: 1) I'm 99.9% sure you have the ingredients already: sugar and baking soda. That's it! 2) If you get it right, the candy is legitimately delicious — if perfectly-toasted marshmallows and honeycomb had a baby, this would be it. 3) If you don't do it, you DIE!! (I kid.)

1. Preheating your cooking vessel is crucial.

Ross Yoder

Really can't stress the importance of this tip more!! My first three attempts — using a room-temperature, stainless steel measuring cup — took so long. How long? 10 minutes, actually, which is simply nuts. Successful attempts involved preheating my little stainless steel measuring cup until just hot, about 30–60 seconds. I'd have my liquified sugar ready in a matter of minutes, and I found that the sugar clumped less and melted more evenly.

As I mentioned before, dalgona candy is traditionally made in a metal ladle, which gives the sugar more surface area to cook on and results in more even caramelization. If you, like me, don't own a metal ladle, you can use a metal measuring cup. I found that 1/3 cup was the perfect size to use with 2 tablespoons of sugar, but if you're cooking multiple candies, you might want to go up a size or two. If you don't have metal measuring cups either, a small skillet will do — just make sure to stir the mixture constantly so the sugar doesn't burn.


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2. For the love of god, don't overdo it on the baking soda.

Ross Yoder

You're going to want to go in on the baking soda. You just will. I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't.

Why? It really doesn't take much baking soda for this to go from fun candy-making project to full-out elementary school volcano experiment. It will overflow, you will likely burn yourself, and the resulting carnage will 100% set off your smoke alarm. Plus, I found the texture and overall look of my dalgona candy way better when I added less baking soda.

Most recipes out there instruct you to use a "pinch" of baking soda...which, TBH, might just be the most infuriating measurement out there. My pinch is going to look a whole lot different than your pinch, so please, please, please just use a measuring spoon. If you're using 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/16 of a teaspoon was the best ratio I found (which is just half of your 1/8 teaspoon — math!).

3. Unless you have magical non-stick powers, wait before stamping out your design.

Ross Yoder

If you impatiently slide your cookie cutter into that hot, molten caramel as soon as you pour it out, your dalgona candy will look like this. ☝️

The exact time you'll need to wait before you can safely stamp out your shape is entirely dependent on the thickness of your candy, but you'll want to insert your cookie cutter as soon as the surface is tacky — not molten — but not completely set. Any sooner, and your cookie cutter will stick. Any later, and you'll crack the entire thing. Stressful, huh?

If you're smooshing your dalgona candy with a flat object, like a glass or measuring cup, wait 15–20 seconds before stamping out your design. (I didn't do that, because perfection is overrated.)

If you're leaving your dalgona blob as is — which worked just fine for me — waiting 25–30 seconds before stamping should do the trick.

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My fingers are crossed that you're feeling more prepared now than you would have been after watching #DalgonaCandy TikTok videos of...varying success. So, I'll go ahead and leave you with my very, very detailed recipe below. Fact: unless you're superhuman, you're not gonna get this right the first time. The fun is in learning as you go and experimenting along the way. (Same with life, right?)

Ross Yoder

(And if you completely bomb the actual Squid Game challenge element, it's ok. I certainly failed, but trust me, this stuff is truly delicious — toasted marshmallows could NEVER.)

What You Need | Ingredients & Equipment:

Ross Yoder

Makes 1 dalgona candy

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/16 teaspoon baking soda

Equipment:

Cutting board

Silicone baking mat or parchment paper

Metal ladle (or 1/3 cup metal measuring cup or small skillet)

Wooden chopstick or small spoon, for stirring

Cookie cutter with your desired shape

Instructions | How To Make Dalgona Candy:

Ross Yoder

1. Line a cutting board with a silicone, non-stick baking mat or a piece of parchment paper, to prevent sticking.

2. Place ladle, measuring cup, or skillet over medium-low heat and pre-heat for 30–60 seconds, until hot.

3. Carefully pour the sugar into your hot cooking vessel, and immediately stir with your chopstick or spoon. Stirring the sugar constantly as it caramelizes will help to prevent crystallization. If the sugar begins to clump up, that's ok — continue to stir and everything will eventually melt.

4. After 2-3 minutes of continuous stirring over medium-low heat (and approximately 15–20 seconds after the last bits of sugar have dissolved), you'll be left with a mixture somewhere between amber and golden-brown. Carefully remove the cooking vessel from the heat, add the baking soda, and stir vigorously for 5–10 seconds.

5. As soon as the mixture is a frothy, pale amber, carefully pour it out onto your prepared cutting board. If you'd like to "flatten" your dalgona candy, here's where you could press an object like a glass or measuring cup on top of it to press it to an even circle. If not, use your chopstick or spoon to gently form the mass into an even thickness.

6. Wait until the dalgona candy is becoming tacky — not molten — before pressing your cookie cutter into it. If you flattened your candy, wait 15–20 seconds. If you didn't, wait 25–30 seconds. Gently press your cookie cutter into the candy until it almost touches the bottom, then carefully remove it.

7. Resist the urge to dig in until the dalgona candy is completely set — around 5 minutes.

Note: to clean up any sticky caramel bits, let everything soak in very hot water until easily cleaned with a sponge.

If you make this, LMK in the comments! (Show me all those beautiful dalgona candies 😍)

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