Pure Honey Cough Drops

by Daisy

I’m  a lightweight when it comes to cough drops.  The industrial strength menthol ones are intolerable to me.  I’ve always felt like such a weinie about it, but I can’t understand how so many people willingly put those things in their mouths.  For a dare, maybe.  For money, certainly, if the price were right.  Voluntarily?  Not me.

So I’m left with the ones that are essentially candy.  I was introduced to Luden’s cherry cough drops as a child, and it was almost worth the pain of a sore throat to get a bag of those.  I love them still.  But, they’re made of sugar, of course, and artificial color.

I know honey is good for the throat, and I’ve tried sipping on a teaspoon of honey from time to time, but it’s just gone too soon, so I thought I’d try to make that teaspoon of honey last a bit longer.  Here’s the result:

Honey Cough Drops

1/2 cup honey

candy thermometer

Put honey in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stirring constantly, bring the honey to a boil.

Put in the candy thermometer and continue stirring until the honey reaches a temperature of 300 to 310 degrees F. Honey burns fast, so don’t leave it, reduce heat to a simmer if necessary (if the honey seems to be heating up too fast, or you get a whiff of scorched honey).

(Almost there . . .)

Immediately remove from heat.

Check for the right consistency by dropping a few drops of the cooked honey into a cup of ice water.  Let it get cold, then feel the drops.  They should feel like hard candy.  If the honey is still soft, return to the heat and cook a little while longer, and do the ice water test again.  Do this until it’s right.

Continue to stir, off heat, until the honey cools enough to drop by teaspoonfuls onto a well-greased solid surface.  It still needs to be runny, but a little less runny than when you first took it off the heat.  Don’t wait too long or the honey will be impossible to remove from the pan. Work quickly.

Don’t skimp on the greasing or you will have a permanently cough drop-coated surface.

If you have a flexible, non-stick mat like a Silpat or something similar, it will help to release the drops from the surface once they are cooled.

If you are a candy-maker you probably have some non-stick molds for this, but for the rest of us, a mold isn’t necessary.

Allow the drops to cool completely.  Don’t do what I did and put some in the refrigerator to hurry them up.  They got too hard and cracked when I tried to release them from the plate.  Room temperature is good.  When they are cool, take a dinner knife and pop them loose.

They can be individually plastic wrapped.  They stick to waxed paper, so stay away from that.  They also stick to each other.  Store in a cool, dry place.

P.S.  Use your imagination to come up with add-ins.  I’ve thought of crushed, powdered vitamin C, perhaps, or herbal infusions.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Cipollina October 6, 2010 at 3:45 pm

A pinch of rice flour will help against stickiness! 🙂

James October 6, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Or a small bowl with a tablespoon of powdered sugar… roll each drop in the sugar before you wrap in the plastic wrap.

stacy h October 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm

awesome, thanks!!

Kate October 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I’m thinking maybe ground ginger as an add-in; it’s good for your throat too, and I think it would be yummy. Maybe ginger AND Vitamin C. And cinnamon. Mmmmm.

Mignon October 6, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Think I could do this for lolly pops for my littles? I have been wanting to make them natural cough lollies for some time and haven’t been happy about any corn ingredients.
Thanks again for a great blog!!

Mouse October 6, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Hmm…. adding lemon peel at the beginning and letting it simmer with the honey could be pretty nice….

Diane October 7, 2010 at 10:54 am

Thank you for this! I was going to suggest powdered sugar too, or cornstarch, but both of those kind of counteract the naturalness of the honey drops. I bet mint leaves, or lavender flowers, or citrus zest, or lemon balm, or maybe chamomile would all be wonderful in the honey, though I’m not sure if the little bits of herb would irritate a sore throat going down.

Tanya Walton October 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

this sounds great…and a great tip for this time of year…I also take honey and lemon in boiled water..the two combined produce natural antibiotic properties and also gives you a good vit c boost.

Tomato Lady October 8, 2010 at 8:33 am

Mignon–I’ve never tried it, but in principle it should work. Let me know how it goes if you decide to give it a whirl!

Vicky October 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Like DUH! I’ve been sucking down the new Luden’s Honey Cough Drops like there’s no tomorrow. I’m going to have to make these. I have several quarts of Elderberry juice I’m thinking perhaps a shot of that in the mixture, along with ginger and lemon. Yep another project to try out. Thanks for this great idea. I always have honey around for bread making.

Linda October 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe! This will be much used for sure. I have old jello molds for jello jelly beans that I’ve had for years. Never used them when the kids were small. However, they are now going to be repurposed for cough drops! Heading into our senior years we are trying to cut down on processed items and sugar filled ones also. Honey has been know for centuries for it’s healing goodness. Use it to this day in tea , honey and lemon for colds. Love all the input in the comment sections also. Great suggestions and I’ve printed them off as well.
Thank you!!

The Damsel in Dis Dress October 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Just found you! Your site is right down my alley. I’ll be back.

Handful October 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

A keeper!

abby jenkins October 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

Honey sure is the magic elixir! I realized yesterday that since I switched from local honey in my coffee to molasses (as an iron supplement) my seasonal allergies are back! Time to bring back the honey.

Nicki November 10, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I just made a batch of these for my sick kiddos. They were a hit! I have a slight sore throat, too, so I’ve been enjoying them. I told the kids they are ‘honey candy’ and they fell for it!

I added orange zest and a little fresh squeezed orange juice. Yum! Thanks for the recipe. I blogged about it today.

Rebecca December 4, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I tried this twice and the honey burned both times. I cooked it on low almost the entire time for the second try and it burned before it got up to 300. I constantly stirred and I don’t know how this happened 🙁

Tomato Lady December 5, 2010 at 7:12 am

Rebecca–Yikes! Sorry that happened. I don’t know what to suggest except maybe try and see if it has reached stage before your thermometer gets to 300? Heavier bottomed pot?

Sonya January 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm

If this recipe burns quickly for you, add a tablespoon or two of butter or oil to the boiling honey. That’s what I did and it turned out great!

Melissa February 21, 2011 at 6:06 am

So glad to have found this. I have a recipe I use when we get sick which involves honey with lemon and eucalyptus essential oils (1 drop of each to each Tablespoon of honey), diluted in warm water. The oils would be more concentrated than any juices, so they should incorporate a lot better while providing greater benefit, just stirring them in as soon as you take the honey off the stove, right before molding. I will definitely be trying this soon. And I love the idea of making the kiddos some lollipops this way.

joss April 30, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I’ve been infusing raw honey with slices of peeled ginger root for a few days now, wondering what to do with it; I think I’ll give this a try.

Al May 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm

would a high altitude effect the process, I just finished making them, they tasted great for the first few seconds then a heavy scorched taste took over. Bleh. I just moved here to the “Mile High City” and all my cooking is a little off. Wasnt sure if its a factor in candy making too. Thanks!

Tomato Lady May 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Al–There is a fine line between hard crack and scorched. It’s a hard line to find sometimes. Sorry yours tasted scorched! I’m not very familiar with high altitude cooking, but I imagine that could be a factor.

joss May 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Our honey burned also and the drops taste scorched; we are at sea level. I wonder if the thermometer just has hard time with so little liquid, even in a tiny pot. I’ll try it again with the butter suggestion.

cate September 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm

In Mexico people make homemade honey candy with mint in it. It’s excellent!

Phelan October 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I am going to do these for a school project i hope they are good!

Phelan November 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm


Juli November 21, 2011 at 8:14 am

Thank you so much for this. I am pregnant, and have a terrible cold and cough. They say cough drops are allowed, but I feel so much better with natural. And, wow! They are delicious. Do you think I could put molasses in them as well? I love tea with honey and molasses when I am sick.

Tomato Lady November 21, 2011 at 8:33 am

Juli–Thank YOU. (And congrats, too.) Sorry about the cold. I always stay sicker longer when I’m expecting, it seems. Here are some molasses candy recipes: http://www.vintagerecipes.net/recipes/desserts/candy/molasses_candy/ They look tempting.
Hope you feel better very soon!

Katharyne Belew January 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm

You can make an easy candy mold by filling a shallow baking pan with cornstarch. Make indentations in whatever size or shape you want. Pour the candy/cough drop mix into the indentations and let it cool. Once cooled you can just pick them up, no more prying them up with a knife!

Tomato Lady January 22, 2012 at 12:07 am

Katharyne Belew–Love this idea!

Carleen February 15, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I’ve always made spiced honey…I would boil honey, lemon slices with whole cloves stuck in them along with 2 cinnamon sticks and store it in mason jars and use it as a cough syrup …maybe I’ll take it a step further and make it into these cough drops…thanks for the idea

ROSE March 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm


Tomato Lady March 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Rose–Medicinal, yes, likely so.

DT May 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Thought you might find it amusing that while I was diligently stirring the honey , I heard the buzzing of bees. I had to stop the cooking and help escort 10-15 bees out of the house!

Daisy May 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm

DT–Aaah! That’s one I’d never heard!

Betty June 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Tomato Lady, Juli, etal:
If medicinal oils are put in AFTER the honey is cooked their properties remain. Juli pregnancy can push your body or make it more susceptible to a pH decrease, which opens the door for illness. A great and fast remedy is to drink equals parts fresh lemon juice with Grade B maple syrup in “good” water (9 T of each in a 16-18 oz cup fill remainder with (hot) water). Repetitive doses will bring your pH up and back where it belongs (7.35 to 7.53) and “presto” you are healthy again. (NO bugs can live in an alkaline pH environment, especially bacteria, viruses, and fungi)
Thank you Tomato Lady for this honey recipe. I have been using maple syrup to make my hard candies with a bit of success and wanted to work with honey.
Again, thank you.

Mike August 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Betty, Tomato Lady, Juli, etal:

Can anyone comment on the relative hardness of the honey-only candy? I have only used granulated sugar (200g.) and brown rice syrup or corn syrup (100g.) and (60g.) water to make hard candy and I find brown rice syrup makes harder candies. I have yet tried honey nor maple syrup. Would it be advisable to alter/play with the ratio of granulated sugar to ‘syrup’ to find the lozenge most resistant to temperature and moisture variables?

Daisy August 27, 2012 at 6:14 am

Mike–If you are interested in a very hard and moisture resistant lozenge, honey is not the one for you. It gets hard enough for a short storage time, but is susceptible to humidity over time.

Barbara October 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Hmm. 300 degrees F on my thermometer is burned honey. 🙁

Jessica November 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Once wrapped up in plastic wrap how long will they last? I was thinking of making it for the entire season but don’t want them going bad on me. Would it be best to store in a cool dark place vs. the fridge? Thank you!!

Daisy November 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Jessica–Probably the fridge in an absolutely airtight container. Be warned they don’t have a very long shelf life as any bit of moisture (honey is a humectant–it attracts moisture) will soften them.

Andy B December 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

The obvious ingredient this recipe could do with is PROPOLIS! The magical properties of tree resin chewed by bees is fantastic for all sore throats. I use it as a gargle, but it would be so much more palateable in a honey lozenge… which brings me to this web page – searching for a recipe! 🙂

grace January 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm

does heating the honey kill the good stuff in it? i was under the impression thats why its good to only eat unheated unprocesssed honey? just curious

Daisy January 3, 2013 at 7:13 am

grace–Yes, probably so, at least to a degree.

Lucille Otero February 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I just did this recipe I added teaspoon lemon juice, cinnamon,ginger.Took it off stove as soon as it hit 300. turned out beautiful.Made a whole cookie sheet ful.Husband is in his glory.

Daisy February 7, 2013 at 7:09 am

Lucille Otero–That sounds perfect! Great tips, thank you.

Andrea April 13, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I Love that you use honey for these. I might use some organic lemon and either fennel seed or thyme- or both maybe. Fennel could help you cough out the phelgm, and thyme is a strong antiseptic and is very good for coughs. A steam of thyme and chammomile is also good for clearing coughs.
These are 2 other recipes from an excellent source; I have not tried the first one yet- found it late in the season, but the second one we have made. They last a LONG time, we did skip the liquorice (and substitued fresh lemon juice) because of blood pressure issues though. These are a grainy texture, not a candy style lozenge, but they work well for many issues-any thing that has to do with a mucus membrane: digestive complaints, heartburn, healing up the gut after a bout of the flu (one can only drink so much tea), also urinary tract infections will also be helped from slippery elm bark. It’s such a safe herb. It is actually a food in itself and was used as a porridge, to sustain General Washinton’s soldiers in times of great need.

Kellie October 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Anyone ever try cinnamon in it?

Shane July 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

I will be giving these a try this weekend with some local raw honey. I have dabbled in homemade candy before & typically break everything up & toss them in a container of powdered sugar.

The little added powdered sugar doesn’t hurt anything & works really well. I’m thinking of making 2 batches. One with just honey and one with a teaspoon or so of lemon juice added after I take the honey off the heat.

Typically when making candy, I add a small amount of corn syrup to stabilize the sugar crystallization. Is this necessary when you use honey?

MaidMirawyn November 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Great idea; thanks!

As for adding herbs, honey has unrivaled “keeping power” IF no water is added. So dried herbs are great, but anything liquid with speed up spoilage.

One great way to add the benefit of herbs without having bits of honey is to infuse the honey first. Add dried herbs (not crushed or ground) and allow to sit for at least a couple of weeks. Strain (which would be way harder with crushed or ground herbs) and store in an airtight container. You can use it for food, topically, or in herbal medicines.

Mary November 29, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I’ve tried this recipe 3 times and each time I cannot get the honey to 300. I keep it simmering at low, but it still scorches long before it hits 300. If I stir too much it gets very foamy. I feel so frustrated, I really wanted to make herbal lozenges for christmas gifts.
Does sugar get up to temperature faster? Perhaps I should just cave an do a combo of sugar and honey. I have 2 gallons of honey though, so I really had wanted to just use that.

Daisy November 30, 2014 at 7:16 am

Mary–I sympathize. There’s a very fine line between scorched and not. I don’t know, but I can only speculate it has something to do with filtration levels; of course the best honey is non-filtered and yet it may scorch sooner (think clarified vs. unclarified butter). Try an experimental batch with some sugar and see if that helps.

deb October 10, 2015 at 4:51 pm

All the nutritional value and benefits of unpasteurized honey are lost at that temp

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