When you or your loved ones get a cold, the last thing you want to have to worry about is their suffering, right? You want that nasty cough to stop, the one that seems to keep them up all night long. You want them to be able to rest during the day without hacking all over the place.
Cough drops are easy enough to make at home, and you can feel better about the ingredients contained in them. There is a lot of sugar in this recipe, but it’s necessary not only for the “candy” part, but it also acts as a preservative. You will only be consuming 2-3 of these drops at the most a day as well.
Tips Before You Begin
There are a few tips you need to keep in mind when you are making your own homemade cough drops. For the most part, if you’ve ever made candy before, you won’t have any trouble making your own cough drops. The theory behind it is the same. As with making candy, you have to be very careful not to burn the mixture.
Stirring constantly is important. This isn’t one of those cooking tasks that you can start and walk away from. You really need to be vigilant in order to prevent your cough drops from turning into a sticky, burning mess and ruining your pans.
That being said, it’s also important that all the moisture be removed from the mixture during the cooking process. If you don’t do this, you won’t have a solid enough mix.
If you can swing it, pick up a good candy thermometer to help you get the temperature right. Like I said, making homemade cough drops is a lot like making candy.
If you don’t get your temperatures right, the whole thing can be ruined. The mixture needs to reach the perfect temperature – too low, and it will be too sticky. Too high, and you will end up with a pan of scorched syrup.
Even a simple $10 candy thermometer can make a huge difference – plus, you’ll then have a thermometer that you can use for making candy, making cough drops, AND deep frying, in most cases!
If you already have a candy thermometer, that’s great – make sure it’s calibrated before you use it. Although that sounds complicated, calibrating a thermometer is actually quite simple.
All you need to do is put the thermometer in a pan of water at a rolling boil. It should read 212. If it doesn’t, write down what it DOES say and then use that number to figure out what the equivalent would be.
When you are making your cough drops, you can drop them on a silicone baking sheet, or you can use molds. Make sure you have them ready to go before you start cooking.
When boiling your candy mixture, use a larger pan than you think you might need – the mixture will bubble and expand a lot as you boil it. It’s also a good idea to use a pot with a heavy bottom so that heat is evenly distributed.
A few more notes – sugar gets hot as it’s caramelizing. Be careful working around the boiling mixture and don’t taste it when it’s hot. It won’t feel good on your tongue!
Ingredients to Use
You’ll need just a couple of homemade ingredients.
I used modified versions of the original recipe I found to make it more child friendly for my kids. I like what I was able to come up with, and they do help my family’s cough quite a bit. For example, instead of plain sugar, I used mint sugar. Instead of plain honey, I used a lemon-ginger infused honey.
You can really use any kind of sugar and/or honey you want but I don’t recommend using JUST honey, as some recipes might call for. This can cause the cough drops to remain very soft and sticky. They won’t set up like they should. You can also use brown sugar, but again, it will make the cough drops stay a lot softer.
I have also seen variations on this recipe that call for an herbal infusion (or tea) made out of your favorite herbs instead of coconut oil. This is a great way to add more healing goodness to your cough drops and since you’re cooking off most of the liquid anyway, it doesn’t much matter what you choose to use.
Not sure what herbs to add? Thyme is a good option. It is a natural decongestant and helps reduce bacteria in your mouth and throat, making it great for fighting any kind of respiratory illness.
Similarly, sage can help relieve a dry cough, while plantain (also known as lanceleaf) is a great expectorant – it will help you get that mucus out!
Peppermint is another favorite. It has that strong menthol flavor and will cool your irritated throat and airways. Some people use chamomile, but I can’t say that I recommend it. It has a drying effect so it can irritate your airways more. Plus, chamomile is a common allergen so you might find that it irritates you even more.
Other things you can add to your cough drops include lemon juice, extra honey, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
Ginger helps to strengthen the immune system and can relieve pain, whole cloves are antibacterial. Cinnamon is warming and will give your cough drops a great flavor, and you already know that honey helps to soothe your throat. Lemon juice also adds a bit of zesty flavor, but it also is high in vitamin C.
So, here’s my new recipe…
Homemade Cough Drops Recipe
- coconut oil
- 1/2 cup lemon-ginger honey
- 3/4 cup mint sugar
- herbs optional
- Prepare a loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly greased with coconut oil.
- Over low heat, simply melt the oil and sugar and honey together over low heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and boil until it’s at a hardball stage, about 250 to 300°. A candy thermometer can come in handy here! The foam should come up the sides of the pan – when it does, remove it briefly from the heat and let the foam subside before you start boiling again. [mv_img id="20619"]
- Pour the mixture carefully into the loaf pan and allow to cool just long enough to handle, about 10 minutes. [mv_img id="9228"]
- Cut the cough drop mixture. It may still be hot in some places, so take care cutting it. Using a sharp knife, cut into 32 equal pieces. You can wrap them in wax or plastic paper if you desire, but I found that I didn’t need to, as my family needed these NOW and there wasn’t much of a risk of them sticking together. [mv_img id="9229"]
- Store at room temp in an airtight container.
Other Homemade Cough Drop Recipes
If you’re looking for a variation on the recipe above, check out these fun homemade cough drop recipes!
Honey, Lemongrass, and Ginger Cough Drops
These cough drops are similar to the ones I told you about above – but they’re made with ginger tea for an extra boost of antioxidants.
Sore Throat Meltaways
These cough drops have some pretty unique ingredients in them that can work wonders on a scratchy throat – raw honey and slippery elm powder are two of my favorites!
Homemade Orange Cough Drops
These cough drops have citrus in them for a bit of tangy sweetness.
Honey, Coconut Oil, and Cinnamon Cough Drops
These cough drops by the Coconut Mama are easy to make. They’re more or less the same as the ones I detailed above, but with cinnamon for a cozier feel.
How to Store Them
The shelf life on these should be about a year, with the amount of sugar, but I have always made small batches that are used up within a week or two. When you store them, make sure they’re kept in airtight containers in a dry, cool place. Moisture and excessive heat will cause them to soften.
This winter, my goal is to make a lot more homemade cough drops to have on hand. Not only is it a good idea to have a stockpile, but these drops also make fantastic gifts!
updated 12/19/2020 by Rebekah Pierce
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.