Dirt Candy – Really?

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Dirt candy? The title of this recipe really confused me. I had to find out more about it. I found a restaurant by that name DirtCandy. It only serves vegetables. Interesting menu with items like: Korean fried broccoli – described as “crack in broccoli form.” Well, maybe they think so, I’m not so sure.

Now I’ve heard of a dirt nap, a few of our doggy companions have taken them over the years. And of course, we’ve all eaten candy as kids and adults. So how do these two words get mixed together to represent something edible?

Answer: I don’t know! What I do know is that this is the easiest “candy” recipe ever. Just two ingredients! No cooking, no candy thermometer to measure heat temps. And best of all, it’s kind of healthy. 

Here are a few words from the author Amanda Hesser,

“Dirt candy was a trick Helen (an intern at Food52) learned while working as a cook at Prune in New York City. There, they would cut butternut squash into tiny cubes, shower it with sugar and let it sit for a few days. 

Indeed, as Helen showed us, over the course of a few days the tiny cubes let go of their moisture and raw flavor and shrunk, yet retained their crisp snap. 

I’ve tried the recipe with both raw and white sugar. Conventional white works best. I’ve also extended the trick to beets and carrots, which work well, although the butternut squash sweeps the dirt candy field.”

Oh I get it now! Dirt – meaning coming from the earth like root vegetables. Well, that solves that mystery – I think.

Cutting up the butternut squash took a bit of time. I purchased a smallish squash and only used one-quarter of it. That one-quarter made two cups so I doubled the recipe.

It took a heavy hand to pour all that sugar on it. I just couldn’t do it so I backed it off a little.

When storing these in the fridge to “cook” for a couple of days, I used a small drainer that fits into my glassware. It kept the squash mostly above the moisture line. I also use it when I make ricotta, because it lets me add some of the drained whey back into the cheese should it be too firm. 

I wasn’t sure if the squash was supposed to be laid out flat, in one layer. I stacked mine in a glass refrigerator storage dish and it seemed to work out fine since you stir the mixture a few times over the course of the two days and with shrinkage, it ends up laying flat. 

Day 1 – sugar has turned to liquid and squash has shrunk in size dramatically. 

Day 2 – it looks about the same. 

I drained the sugar water that collected below the plastic a few times during the two days. The yield was really small even after doubling the recipe. I tasted the dirt candy and it was just okay. Nothing I would think of as “candy” though. Not sweet, even after adding all that sugar. 

Would I make this again? No. But keep reading, I found another recipe that I could truly call “sweet.”

Dirt Candy – Really?

Yields 1 cup

Author: Amanda Hesser

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  • 1 cup butternut squash cubes (1/4-inch)
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  1. Combine the butternut squash and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Let sit for 30 minutes. Mix again.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, stirring once a day.
  4. Taste and decide when it's ready. Enjoy your candy!

Ina Garten has a recipe called Caramelized Butternut Squash, and this is a great recipe! The squash does taste caramelized and sweet. Yummy. She saved the day with this great recipe for “dirt candy” in my opinion. 


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