What Is Nougat and What Is It Made Of?

Plus, how do you make it at home? 

Torrone (Italian Nut and Nougat Confection)
Nut and Nougat Confection. Photo: Chef John

If you have a sweet tooth, you've probably enjoyed a nougat-filled chocolate bar or two. But what exactly is nougat – and what is it made of? Learn all about the classic candy, including how to make it at home.

What Is Nougat?

Nougat is a fluffy, aerated confection that is made of sugar or honey and egg whites. It often contains fruits and nuts. Traditional nougat resembles fudge and is a far cry from the processed candy fillings you might be familiar with, which are generally made with hydrolyzed proteins and corn syrup.

When people refer to "nougat," they can be talking about a standalone confection or a filling (or layer) in a chocolate bar. You may have encountered versions of nougat in popular brands such as 3 Musketeers, Snickers, and Milky Way.

The sugary treat is commonly served during Christmastime in Europe.

What Does Nougat Taste Like?

When it's made correctly, nougat is intensely sweet and creamy with a slight marshmallow-y flavor. It should be pleasantly chewy with lots of fluff, thanks to heavily beaten egg whites.

Types of Nougat

There are three main types of nougat: white, brown, and viennese.

  • White nougat, the most common variety, is likely what you're familiar with. It's made with beaten egg whites, sugar or honey, and sometimes other ingredients to add flavor and texture (such as nuts and candied fruits).
  • Brown nougat – which is made with caramelized sugar instead of egg whites – is harder, crunchier, and darker than the white variety.
  • Viennese nougat contains beaten egg whites, sugar, hazelnuts or pralines, and cocoa.

Nougat History

Nougat's origins are a bit murky, but many food historians have traced it to the Middle East. Early nougat recipes were found in a book that dates back to 10th century Baghdad. These early versions were called nāṭif.

From its origins in the Middle East, the confection later spread to Spain and Italy in the 15th century and France in the 17th century.

Spain

Spanish nougat, or ​​turrón, is at least 500 years old. There are two main varieties: Turrón de Alicante – made with egg whites, honey or sugar, and toasted almonds – has a white hue and crunchy texture. Turrón Jijona is a golden, smooth, thick paste with a peanut butter-like texture.

Italy

Italian nougat, or torrone, was created around the same time as its Spanish counterpart in the 15th century. According to legend, the first torrone was sculpted in the shape of the Cremona cathedral bell tower (called Torrazzo or Torrione) for an aristocratic wedding in Lombardy. The annual Torrone Festival is held in Cremona to this day.

France

French nougat dates back to 16th century Provence. Unverified local lore suggests "nougat" comes from the "tu nous gates," which means "you spoil us" in French. There are two main nougat types in France: Nougat de Montélimar, a soft white variety, and Nougatine, a crunchy dark variety.

How to Make Nougat

Making nougat is a labor of love, but the finished product is well worth the extra effort. It requires a candy thermometer, a whisk, and a lot of patience. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you begin:

  • Nougat is sticky. Oil your hands before working with the mixture, and oil the knife often when you're cutting the hardened candy into squares.
  • Use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment if you have one. There's a lot of beating and mixing, so it will definitely come in handy.
  • Store your finished product in wax paper so the candy doesn't stick together.

Try this recipe: Torrone (Italian Nut and Nougat Confection)

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