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Making Szaloncukor

Since Hungarian Christmas candy seems to be in short supply this year, why don’t you make some?

Since we sell szaloncukor, I don’t have to make it. But it was a traditional activity in Hungarian homes and I think it is fun to try my hand at some family traditions! People just didn’t run out and buy szaloncukor when they wanted it; they made it! Maybe this is the year to surprise your family and make it too! In 2017, I made szaloncukor. Honestly, I haven’t made it since because this is just such a busy season for me but I will do it again. I just need more helpers next time and have it be a family bonding activity.

We recently were on a Christmas Market Tour in Hungary and we had a blast! One of the things we did was make szaloncukor together and we had fun! Our fillings were plums soaked in pálinka then wrapped with marzipan, and a quince filling. We dipped them all in chocolate. Pictured on the left, Sue, Steve, and Virginia are busy working on the project. We all took turns in different parts of the process! We had 15 pairs of hands involved and it took everyone’s help!

Here is what I did when I made them on my own a few years ago but feel free to adapt it to suit your situation:

I bought the tissue paper (and fringed quite a few) when I realized I did not have food safe paper. So I set about on a quest to get the right paper because I wouldn’t want anyone to get sick from a process that is not deemed food safe. I went to a restaurant supply store and they recommended I visit GFS (Gordon Food Store). Incidentally, I now have a box of paper that will last me my lifetime as I can wrap at least 900 more pieces of szaloncukor with what I have left! If you need some for your szaloncukor project, stop by and I will hand you a stack!

I started looking up recipes for szaloncukor. I am not really a candy maker because I do not operate with enough precision for that process. At first I intended to make the very original candy—the one that was not dipped in chocolate in those very early years of szaloncukor. I planned to coat some with chocolate and leave some plain just to try it both ways.

In the meantime, I managed to find sheets of aluminum foil and I was prepared to be satisfied with that but my cousin found and mailed to me some colorful foil candy wrappers to me so I could really do it up right! (Thanks, Vicki!)

I spent more time looking up quite a few recipes for pralines, bon bons, szaloncukor, truffles and nothing really sounded like what I was expecting as far as taste or texture. I think that is one of the challenges with translations. A well-known candy maker from Hungary refers to szaloncukor as pralines but praline recipes in the U.S. do not resemble Hungarian szaloncukor. So, I kept looking around. I thought about unwrapping the store bought szaloncukor I had and rewrapping it in the old fashioned way but I just didn’t feel like that was really putting all of my effort into the project.

I finally decided upon a bit of a compromise. And, because I cannot stay true to a recipe, I also adapted a close recipe to my family’s preferences a bit too. I made three favors: toasted coconut, toasted coconut-almond, and peanut butter and color coded them so we knew what flavor we were going for. I am sure there are other colors of foiled wrap but these looked great on the tree. Even though the flavors I picked aren’t really traditional, they are really tasty! I know my preference for peanut butter is definitely due to my Americanized taste buds but what can I say? They taste like “Buckeyes” and, since I grew up in Ohio, that taste is a part of my childhood! Don’t get too hung up on being perfectly authentic. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I don’t believe there are rules to what can be in your szaloncukor. In fact, on my recent trip to Hungary I saw szaloncukor with pálinka (a Hungarian distilled spirit) and even erős pista, a well-known Hungarian hot pepper condiment. It seems experimenting with szaloncukor flavors is the Hungarian thing to do!

Need some recipes for filling? Check out Tunde’s website HERE!

What did I learn?

  • Shapes about the size of a mini tootsie roll or jolly rancher hard candy really the best to wrap. Remember, you are dipping the candy into the melted chocolate which adds to the size of what you are making. Smaller is better!
  • It doesn’t much matter what flavor is on the inside as long as you like it. If you don’t care about what is on the inside and you are looking for a fun decoration to add to your tree, save yourself some time and stick half of a pecan inside or even a small pebble, wrap it up, and call it good! But, of course, part of the fun is eating the candy!
  • Making szaloncukor is not for the faint of heart! Essentially it is candy making with an emphasis on the paper. You do not have to fringe the paper because it is very tedious but it does look a bit more traditional that way. Fringing the paper takes quite a bit of time. This is definitely one of those things that you want to do with a friend or family member. One shortcut for fringing the paper is to use herb shears…each cut makes 4 or 5 strips! I didn’t know this before I tackled this project but a reader tipped me off to this idea! (Thanks, Val!) Here is a photo of what they look like. They are called 5 Blade Herb Scissors and I found them at Rural King, a farm supply store but they are surely in a kitchen store or in Bed, Bath, and Beyond!

Szaloncukor is a great tradition to start or continue! It is a way to share Hungarian heritage and these little bundles of joy can also be presented as a gift. Homemade gifts are fun to receive and these are very practical and a fun way to embrace a long-standing Hungarian tradition and incorporate it into your life.

Have you ever made szaloncukor before to hang on your tree? I would love to hear how your project came out and even see your photos. I do love the way the old fashioned wrappers look!


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