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Making cotton candy is actually quite simple: A cotton candy machine spins sugar to create a web-like texture that sticks to a cone, stick, or pretty much anything as you wrap it around and around. The great thing about making cotton candy at home is that you can control the ingredients, flavors, and serving sizes. Many machines work also with hard candies, so you can make sour, tart, spicy, cinnamon-flavored, or sugar-free cotton candy. This versatile treatment can also be used as a fun garnish for desserts or drinks. Thanks to cotton candy machines, you no longer have to be at a carnival, amusement park, or movie theater to enjoy this sweet treat.
Cotton candy machines come in all shapes and sizes these days, from compact countertop models to large carts with a nostalgic flair. You can purchase commercial-level machines if you're planning on throwing events or you can find budget options if you're thinking of only occasionally dabbling in the carnival confection.
Here are the best cotton candy makers to help you whip up some sugary confections at home.
Best Overall: VIVO Electric Commercial Cotton Candy Machine
Easy to use
Includes spare parts
Comes apart easily for cleaning
Works with sugar-free hard candies
Bubble cover shield sold separately
What do buyers say? 90% of 1,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
This easy-to-use machine makes fresh cotton candy without the hassle. All you need to do is turn it on, pour in the sugar, and watch as it produces 2-3 servings of cotton candy per minute.
This works with hard candies, so you can make peppermint cotton candy to melt into your hot chocolate, or sour cotton candy to garnish your margarita. It even works with sugar-free hard candies, so everyone can enjoy cotton candy, even those avoiding sugar. Of course, you can also buy colored and flavored flossing sugar to make cotton candy that tastes just like the confections you find at a carnival or fair. When you're done, the machine comes apart easily for cleaning and comes with spare parts and a sugar scoop.
Dimensions: 20.47 x 20.47 x 16.34 inches | Capacity: 2-3 servings per minute | What's Included: Cotton candy machine, 20-inch stainless steel bowl, sugar scoop
Best Cotton Candy Machine Kit: Cotton Candy Express Fun Pack
Variety of flavors
Some users say the colors aren't vibrant
Not compatible with all cotton candy machines
Once you’ve picked out a cotton candy machine, it’s a good idea to get some supplies. Some of the machines include reusable or disposable cones, but you’ll probably need more. And then there’s the sugar. While some machines can use hard candies, if you want classic flavors and the best results (at least until you get the hang of using the machine) you might want to stock up on the sugar that’s designed specifically for cotton candy making.
This kit includes 50 disposable paper cones and three different flavors of floss sugar: cherry, blue raspberry, and grape. Once you’ve sampled these flavors, there are more kits that include flavors like banana, bubble gum, pink vanilla, piña colada, and even chocolate. How fun is that?
Dimensions: 17.75 x 5.75 x 3 inches | Servings: Makes 20-30 cones | What's Included: Three 11-ounce jars of floss sugar (cherry, blue raspberry, and grape), 50 paper cones
Best Compact: Nostalgia Retro Cotton Candy Machine
Comes with reusable cones
Can use sugar-free candies
Yields small batches
Hand wash only
Slow to heat up
Cute, small, and fun, this retro-looking cotton candy maker is what you need for kids’ parties or family movie nights. This compactly designed machine will fit on your counter or table to make cotton candy from your favorite hard candies or flossing sugar. Even better, you can even use sugar-free candies, so everyone can have their favorite.
This includes two reusable plastic cones and one sugar scoop, so you can have a sweet treat right after unwrapping. The clear rim lets you watch the cotton candy form, and it has suction-cup feet so it'll stay stable on your counter. Lastly, it disassembles easily for thorough cleaning.
Dimensions: 11.5 x 11.5 x 12 inches | What's Included: Cotton candy machine, (2) reusable plastic cones, sugar scoop, extractor head
Best Cart: Great Northern Popcorn Commercial Cotton Candy Machine Cart
Easy to move around
Storage for supplies
Includes spare parts
More effort to assemble
Great Northern Popcorn Company specializes in concession equipment built for the home user, and its cotton candy maker does not disappoint. There's no need to find table space with this model if you choose to buy its cart, which you can roll from room to room or take anywhere there’s an electric outlet. This is a commercial quality machine, so it works super-fast, too. It heats up in 6 minutes, then you just pour in the sugar and start twirling cotton candy cones right away. You can make up to two cotton candy cones per minute.
The kettle is stainless steel, so it won’t rust, stain, or retain odors, and it’s easy to keep clean since it’s removable. The power switch, heat switch, and voltmeter are conveniently located on a front panel, so there’s no need to hunt for the controls. There is a storage drawer with three bins for supplies, so you can tuck away everything you need to make cones for a party.
This weighs in at 46 pounds, so you know it’s heavy-duty, but it’s still easy to move for use and storage. A scoop, manual, and spare parts kit are included.
Dimensions: 38 x 20.5 x 35 inches | Capacity: 2 servings per minute | What's Included: Cotton candy machine, 20.5-inch bowl, storage drawer, stainless steel scoop, 2 spare ribbon belts, instruction manual
Best High-End: Olde Midway Commercial Quality Cotton Candy Machine
Heats up quickly
Includes spare parts
Hard to reach customer service
Plastic shield not included
This high-end machine has the advantages of a commercial-quality machine with a 950-watt heating element and a belt-driven motor, but it’s designed to be easy enough for home use. It makes two servings of cotton candy per minute, so you can feed all the kids at a party in no time.
This has a three-bin storage drawer and includes a sugar scoop and two extra motor drive belts to keep it running for years. There are separate controls for turning the machine on and for heating. A voltmeter on the front of the machine lets you know that it’s operating properly.
The stainless steel bowl is removable for easy cleaning, and four clamps hold it in place during operation to keep it steady. This does not have a plastic shield over the bowl.
Dimensions: 20.5 x 36 x 37 inches | Capacity: 2 servings per minute | What's Included: Cotton candy machine, three-bin storage drawer, ingredient scoop, (2) extra motor drive belts, instruction manual
Best Budget: Chef Buddy Cotton Candy Machine
Simple to use
Lightweight and portable
Heats up quickly
Yields small portions
Needs to be cleaned after each use
This easy-to-use machine won't break the bank and comes with everything you need—including 10 candy sticks and a suction cup base for quick swirls. In addition to cotton candy, you can also make sugar floss, since this machine can operate with regular granulated sugar. This premium machine features a detachable design for easy cleanup and heats up in only five minutes.
Its neutral design blends with any countertop, and its small build means you don't have to worry about it taking up too much space. It's also lightweight at around 4 pounds so you can take it with you to your next picnic or outdoor gathering. Customers say it's simple to use and easy to clean, and most importantly, you'll get fluffy, delicious cotton candy every time.
Dimensions: 10.5 x 10.5 x 9.25 inches | What's Included: Cotton candy machine, 10 wooden sticks, instruction manual
Best for Events: Funtime Candy Cloud Cotton Candy Machine
Design is great for parties
Heats up quickly
Cover sold separately
No directions provided for assembly
Funtime is a trusted brand that's been around since the '90s and is known for its stylish and functional popcorn machines that were inspired by the Coney Island popcorn machines of the 1920s. Its cotton candy machine has that same nod to the past with the efficiency and power you need for all your modern-day gatherings. If you're looking for a crowd-pleaser, this cart is it.
All it takes is 2 minutes to heat up the 950-watt spinner and then it can produce one cotton candy cone every 30 seconds. The stylish cart will make you look like a pro. Plus, there's a stainless steel storage tray for things like cones, sugar, scoops, and more. If you don't want the cart, you can also purchase the countertop model.
Dimensions: 38 x 20 x 36 inches | Capacity: 2 servings per minute | What's Included: Cotton candy machine, storage drawer, sugar scoop
If you're searching for a great cotton candy machine that doesn't take up a ton of space and makes cotton candy in minutes, then the VIVO Electric Commercial Cotton Candy Machine is right for you. But if you're searching for a cotton candy machine to feed a crowd and look carnival-worthy, we'd go with the Funtime Candy Cloud Cotton Candy Machine.
What to Look for When Buying a Cotton Candy Maker
By Sara Tane
These machines come in a wide variety of sizes, so understanding how much storage space you have for such an appliance is crucial to your buying decision. Cart styles, for example, are going to take up a lot of space, so having an indoor closet or shed space to keep it is ideal. These models can also be heavy, so be prepared to lift and roll upwards of 50 pounds.
A brand new machine can run you anywhere from $40 to $500, so it’s important to consider what you’re looking for before making a purchase. The compact versions are much less expensive, though they’re also much less of a statement appliance (not as fun for parties), and they don’t have as much wattage. The larger cart versions are party-ready and easy to transport, but they can run you a prettier penny. If you’re looking for that quintessential cotton candy cart look but you’re not looking to break the bank, you can always consider a rental machine (depending on what's available in your area). This typically includes sugar, cones, and an attendant to man the machine if you want someone else to be in charge.
Not all cotton candy machines offer the same breadth of power. Commercial machines can boast up to 1,080 watts of power, churning out two to four cones per minute. On the other hand, compact cotton candy machines offer closer to 480 watts, which means that they take longer to heat up and won’t be able to churn out as many cones as efficiently as a commercial version.
Types of Cotton Candy Makers
The cart is the most common look for a cotton candy machine—you’ve likely seen one at a carnival or fair. This typically has wheels attached so that it can be rolled from location to location (as long as you’re near an electrical outlet). Carts typically come with storage drawers for keeping sugar, cones, and other supplies. The stainless steel kettle is removable, making these carts extremely easy to clean. These carts are large, sometimes close to 50 pounds, but if you’re looking for a fun and entertaining piece, this could be the right investment for you.
If you’re looking for less of a cart style, then your best bet is a compact machine. These can fit comfortably on a counter and do not have wheels or legs. As far as entertaining, it’s much less of a statement, so it’s ideal for someone who wants the option to make cotton candy at home, but isn’t trying to create a fun station at a gathering or party. This is a much more affordable option; however, it does not offer any storage for cotton candy supplies, and its wattage is slightly less than that of a cart.
To clean your cotton candy machine, simply remove the bowl and rinse it thoroughly in warm water. Then, turn on the machine as though you were making cotton candy; this will get rid of any leftover sugar that hasn’t totally washed off. This also ensures that there’s no more sugar on the floss head. Then, turn up the temperature setting and let it run for a minute; the high heat level will further bake off any sugar that could be remaining. Once there is no more visible sugar, get some water and slowly pour it into the hot bowl. This will get rid of any stuck-on sugar crystals.
Next, disconnect the machine from the power and let it cool down. Once the machine has completely cooled, use a clean towel to wipe any remaining moisture from the bowl and floss head. Make sure to wipe down the splash guard or bubble to clean up any residual sugar.
Of course, you can’t make cotton candy without sugar to pour into your machine. Available in a wide variety of colors and flavors, floss sugar is inexpensive, easy to store, and ready to use (no mixing required). Typically, a half-gallon carton can make about 60 to 70 cones. You can also buy floss sugar concentrate, which requires you to add cane sugar. This is a better option to help you save money if you’ll be making a lot of cotton candy, but it does require some mixing.
Almost just as important as sugar, you’ll need some cones or sticks to wrap your cotton candy around. Not only is this the best way to enjoy cotton candy (no sticky hands), but it’s also a sanitary way for the person making the cone to avoid touching the cotton candy (though wearing latex gloves is still recommended). These paper cones are durable, triple-wrapped, sturdy, and intended for one-time use.
How does a cotton candy maker work?
In a similar way that you can melt sugar on a stovetop and then spin strings of it from a spoon, a cotton candy machine melts a quantity of sugar at once, then spins it out into the finest of strands by centrifugal force inside a specially designed bowl. Cotton candy machines are designed to contain the spinning sugar in that bowl, sometimes with a protective lid or shield to help catch straying strands of sugar. When the power to the cotton candy maker is switched on, it keeps the bowl spinning at a constant rate, and all you have to do is master the art of twirling a stick or cone around the interior of the bowl to capture the light and fluffy sugar strands into a pouf on the stick.
What ingredients do you need to make cotton candy?
Cotton candy is basically spun sugar. So, all you need is a sugar source and sticks or paper cones for twirling, but be sure to check what’s possible for the cotton candy maker you choose. Some work with prepared floss sugars only, some call for a mix of floss sugar and cane sugar, some allow for added flavorings, and some can even make spun cotton candy from hard candies that you purchase by the bag. If you’re a novice to the magic of cotton candy, review the manufacturer’s suggestions, and think of starting with the floss sugar first. When you get the hang of it, then you can play around with flavorings and candies with greater confidence.
Are there any other supplies you need to make cotton candy at home?
Cotton candy is sticky, so you definitely need disposable sticks or paper cones for spinning. They offer that traditional, fun, candy-on-a-stick look that we all remember from carnivals and fairs— they’re more sanitary than any other method for scooping up the spun sugar. It’s smart to have an advanced plan for cleanup, too. Make sure you place the cotton candy machine where any stray sugar can be contained or easily wiped up. And whether you’re treating kids or adults to cotton candy, maybe even keep a few wipes handy for sticky (and happy) fingers.
How often should you clean your cotton candy maker?
The first rule for cleaning any kitchen appliance is to check the manufacturer’s directions. That said, cotton candy is sugar and sugar is sticky. As with anything sticky, gunk will follow inevitably, so common sense dictates that you should clean your cotton candy maker after each use and be sure to put the parts away dry.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is an expert on all things food, from desserts and cookbooks to cooking gadgets. She's the author of her own cookbook, "Make Ahead Bread," and loves to test out her favorite kitchen gadgets and appliances. She also has an extensive blog where she details these recipes.
The buying guide was written by Sara Tane, a food writer and private chef who has written nearly a dozen buying guides for The Spruce Eats. She's a classically trained chef who also understands what consumers and cooks need to consider before making a new purchase for their culinary adventures.