Peanut brittle was one of those candies we always had around the house when I was kid because my dad was obsessed with it. Though I would sneak a bite of it every now and then (I was more of a chocolate guy than a peanut brittle guy), my dad would nibble on it nearly every night after dinner as we watched TV and serve it whenever it was our time to host “bridge club” with his friends.
But of course, it turns out that peanut brittle has a history that goes much farther back than the mid-1980s.
THE HISTORY OF PEANUT BRITTLE
Stella Parks, in her cookbook BraveTart, says one of the earliest peanut brittle recipes dates to 1843 from a Philadelphia woman named Deborah Fisher who sold “the Original Pea or Groundnut Candy” in her 8th street shop. Recipes for peanut brittle evolved using molasses as an ingredient, and the Boston cookbook The Art of Confectionery mentions adding baking soda “to render it tender.”
Other stories on the Internet say that peanut brittle was a Southern invention, made by an unknown woman in 1890 who accidentally used baking soda instead of cream of tartar when trying to make taffy. Its popularity is often associated with the American south—most of the country’s peanut farms are located in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.
HOW TO MAKE PEANUT BRITTLE
Homemade brittle is actually fairly easy. Start by placing sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan and heating it to make a caramel—which happens when sugar is heated to a specific temperature, melts and starts to decompose.
Once the caramel is ready, add baking soda (see below for why!), and then the peanuts. Pour the entire mixture onto a pan and spread out it while it’s still liquid (and hot).
As the candy cools, it hardens and becomes brittle. Once totally cooled, it can be broken into smaller pieces to enjoy!
The Role of Baking Soda
The introduction of baking soda to the molten caramel is what differentiates brittle from standard hard caramel candy.
The baking soda reacts with the caramel in its liquid state, aerating it and producing tiny pockets of air as it cools and solidifies. This results in a treat that is, well, brittle in nature.
DO YOU REALLY NEED CORN SYRUP?
This peanut brittle specifically uses corn syrup to make keep it smooth and keep the sugar from crystalizing. Often, making caramel can be a scary thing, not only because you’re cooking over direct heat (which can potentially cause the sugar to burn) but also because caramel candy can sometimes develop a gritty graininess.
Grittiness can happen when a stray sugar crystal doesn’t melt properly or is introduced while the caramel is cooking. The stray crystal causes the surrounding sugar to crystallize, resulting that gritty texture once the caramel has cooled.
The water added initially to the pot helps dissolve all the sugar to reduce this risk, while corn syrup interferes with crystals forming as well. These two things combined will ensure you have a smooth caramel.
I don’t recommend substituting honey, molasses or agave for the corn syrup. Those other liquid sugars have impurities that will burn at the higher temperature of making caramel, leading to a bitter tasting brittle.
WHEN (AND WHEN NOT) TO STIR THE CARAMEL
Make sure stir the mixture at the beginning of cooking to dissolve all the sugar. However, do NOT stir the caramel mixture once the butter and sugar have dissolved (if you stir it after the water has boiled off, you could create graininess).
If you are concerned about whether or not the caramel is cooking evenly, just swirl the pan a little bit to stir it. But don’t use a spoon or any utensil.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN THE BRITTLE IS READY
Using a candy thermometer is recommended — cook it to 340°F. But if you don’t have one, don’t let that stop you from making peanut brittle!
You want to cook the molten sugar until it reaches the color of an older penny.
You have a little leeway on the temperature, but if you are relying on color alone, I’d recommend cooking the sugar at a lower heat. It will take longer but you’ll have more of a cushion with the timing; you don’t want the caramel to burn and become bitter.
SUGGESTIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS FOR PEANUT BRITTLE
Peanut brittle is an easy candy recipe to adapt to your own taste. Feel free to substitute a different type of nut, such as pistachio or hazelnut, for the peanuts. Just chop the nuts to the size of peanuts if they are large.
You can also dip the cooled and broken brittle into melted chocolate if you like!
STORING AND FREEZING PEANUT BRITTLE
Store the peanut brittle in a zip-topped bag or an airtight container. Humidity and moisture are its enemy, so keep it as airtight as possible. You can also layer the brittle between parchment or wax paper so it doesn’t stick together. As long as you keep the brittle in an airtight container, it should last for up to 3 weeks.
You can freeze it for longer storage (up to 3 months) in an airtight container.
MORE HOLIDAY TREATS TO TRY!
- Christmas Crack
- English Toffee
- Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
- Chocolate Truffles
Updated December 2, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.
If you love sugar and you love peanuts, peanut brittle is naturally a treat you should have on hand, always. Thankfully, it's not at all a complicated process, and you can make it right at home&mdashwith or without a candy thermometer!
The most important part of candy making is to make sure your caramel concoction hits that hard-crack stage that happens when your molten sugar reaches 300°F. If you don't have a candy thermometer on hand, watch the video above to see what your sugar mixture should look like at that temperature: deeply golden-amber, and just beginning to give off the slightest wisps of smoke.
For this recipe, the last two steps happen very quickly, so please be sure to read through the whole process before starting to avoid burning the brittle!
Having grown up with sesame brittle, I added some sesame seeds to my version of this brittle for a little more nuttiness and a childhood nostalgic flare&mdashfeel free to skip or substitute in an equal amount of extra peanuts. If you've made this recipe, we'd love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below!
Munching Peanut Brittle may be the single best thing you can make in your microwave
The microwave is a very useful tool for cooking, especially when you want to warm leftovers, reheat this morning’s coffee, or melt things like butter or chocolate. But most of us would never think of it as a tool for true confectionary. After all, anyone who has ever tried candy making knows that the process is all about precision timing and exact temperatures and is super finicky and fussy. Too much humidity in the air and your candy won’t set, look away from the pan for just a second and it will burn or boil over. And there is the ever-present fear that you could really burn yourself badly.
Here is a candy recipe that solves all these problems. And it does it by using the microwave!
I first was made aware of this recipe when I was entering my husband’s family recipes into my digital recipe files. Amidst the recipes for gelled “salads” and biscuits, sheet cakes and pot roast, was a tiny card marked “Munching Peanut Brittle.” It had no attribution. The instructions called for it to be made in the microwave. I was intrigued and meant to make it, but then I got distracted by the rest of the project and it left my mind.
Until the pandemic. And then, suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the recipe and pulled it up. Microwave peanut brittle. How could it even work? I had to try.
Turns out it’s about the easiest recipe imaginable, and once I tweaked it a bit for today’s high-powered microwaves and adjusted some of the flavorings, it became one of those recipes I couldn’t stop making. It takes less than ten minutes of active time, and the results are always perfect.
The baking soda is what gives it that “munchable” texture: it makes the mixture foam a bit and traps air so that the brittle isn’t dense or hard but easy to bite and totally satisfying to chomp on. The key is really to stir in the baking soda at the last moment and then pour out onto your pan, and let it flow like lava. Don’t touch it! You can, however, tilt the sheet pan to help it settle if you want.
You can use this technique to make brittle with any nut or seed that you like. Regular roasted peanuts are great, but honey roasted might be my favorite version. You can also try toasted pine nuts or toasted sesame seeds, or even toasted flaked unsweetened coconut, or a mix of nuts and seeds. Or try coating the finished brittle in melted chocolate.
- Unsalted butter, softened, for baking sheet
- 2 cups sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups salted peanuts, 7 ounces
- Vegetable oil, for spatula
Butter a rimmed baking sheet set aside. Stir together sugar, 1/2 cup water, and the salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until sugar begins to melt and turn golden, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has melted and mixture turns golden amber, about 10 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in peanuts. Immediately pour peanut mixture onto buttered baking sheet. Quickly spread mixture to 1/2 inch thick using an oiled metal spatula. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes. Break brittle into pieces. Brittle can be stored in an airtight container, up to 2 weeks.
How do you make Grandma’s Peanut Brittle?
- Butter a large high sided cooking sheet.
- Over medium heat bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, water, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Using a candy thermometer cook until it reaches 240 degrees. Add Spanish peanuts and cook until the thermometer reaches 290 degrees.
- Note: I like to remove mine around 280-285, this is where I like the coloring and the crunch but my Grandma likes 290.
- Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Pour immediately into the buttered pan, and tilt the pan so that the brittle covers the entire pan corner to corner. DO NOT use a knife to push it around, your brittle will not look as nice.
How to Make Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle Recipes
Peanut brittle is much simpler to make than you may figure. It’s simply a question of consolidating a modest bunch of ingredient1s and afterward blending until they arrive at 300 degrees F. on a treat’s thermometer. Here are how to make peanut brittle:
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup white corn syrup
- 1 ½ cups white sugar
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 ½ teaspoon preparing pop
- 1 ½ cups of crude peanuts
- Splash two treat sheets with non-stick shower covering.
- In a 4-quart pot over medium-high warmth, join the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Warmth to bubbling and include peanuts. Keep cooking until peanuts become brilliant in shading and syrup blend dabs off nuts when raised out of the dish. Rapidly blend in the salt and heating soft drink until very much mixed.
- Pour the blend onto the readied treat sheets. Permit blend to spread all alone. Cool totally, and break into pieces. Store in sealed shut holder or plastic pack.
Peanut Brittle Recipe
- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup White Karo Syrup
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 2 Cups Raw Spanish Peanuts
- 2 Tbs Butter
- 2 Tsp Soda
- 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
In a large stock pot, bring sugar, karo syrup, and salt to a boil, stirring frequently
Add raw peanuts and continue to boil until the sugar mixture darkens to a golden brown color (10-15 minutes)
Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets
Cut the heat, add butter, soda, and vanilla and stir rapidly.
Quickly pour the hot candy mixture onto the greased baking sheets
Spread out with a spoon or spatula and let it cool.
When cooled, break the mixture into small pieces with a hard utensil and enjoy!
I made the beer/ cayenne type as described by other reviewers. I used 1/2 tsp cayenne and it was plenty, pretty spicy. It's really yummy.
Great recipe!! I loved the mix of dark and light corn syrup! I was a little worried about how thick the mixture became when I added the peanuts & butter, but I trusted the recipe and watched my candy thermometer, and everything turned out just fine! Once hard, it broke apart beautifully, without tons of crumbs. I also love that it doesn't stick to your teeth like some recipes. I will definitely keep this recipe handy for future use!! TIP: once everything is spread on your baking sheets, get your pot and utensils into hot water and start cleaning ASAP- the hot water will melt the sugars down for easy clean up -).
This recipe uses true candy-making techniques and is not for beginner cooks. A candy thermometer is essential and you will need to stay by the stove the entire time. Keeping the pans in a warm oven makes it easier to spread the candy at the end. I bought unsalted peanuts and 1.5 teaspoons of salt added with the sugar seems about right. I've made this recipe several times over the years and I keep coming back to it! I used all light corn syrup.
After reading all the reviews I made it ! I made a half a batch and follow the temperature to a "T" . The recipe is awesome and relatively easy . This is my first time making Peanut Brittle and the result is great . I will make this again , the final product is so addictive that my husband had to hide it from me ! LOL . I had only one little issue , my Peanut Brittle after cool at the end , got a little sticky to the touch . I don't remember this in other PB I have ever tasted . If somebody so sweet could help me please ? Then my PB life would be perfect !! Thank you for a wonderful recipe !!
I followed the ingredients' list but did my own process. I stir the sugar, syrup and water together. After that I don't stir. After vigorous boiling, Take down the crystals on the side of the pot by brushing with a pastry brush in water or put a lid on the pot to create steam. Don't stir after that. I take it up to almost 380 f. It wants to burn then. Take it off the stove and add your butter, vanilla, soda and peanuts to stop the cooking process. Quickly spread out on greased pans with a wooden spoon coated on the back with butter. This is caramelized much further and the taste is more intense. The colour is chestnut-like. I want to try the other cooks' beer method. I haven't tried the method in the recipe as I've burned peanuts putting them in too early but I have to keep an open mind. I've never seen a recipe where you constantly stir at the last stage. I will have to try it.
Just wanted to point out that rating a recipe negatively because you messed up the instructions or your hubby played Xbox when he was supposed to watch the pot gives a false overall rating for the recipe. I couldn¿t understand why Epicurious had less favorable recipe reviews than some blogs that aren¿t even about food. Rate the recipe, not yourselves to keep ratings more accurate for those of us who use them!
4 forks WITH TWEAKS! First, I used just light corn syrup because I didn't want to buy both. Second, I halved the recipe, so that might affect cooking time. Third, I can't imagine cooking this without a candy thermometer. You have to have everything ready before you begin - measure out your baking soda, add the vanilla, have a small bowl ready to go. Grease your cookie sheet and put it in a 200 degree oven. Measure out the peanuts, but the butter on them. Then start cooking the sugar/water/corn syrup. My mixture got to 260 in less than 10 minutes. This was my second attempt. In my first attempt, I got it boiling and then started cleaning dishes. When I went to check the temperature about 10 minutes later, I watched it burn right in front of my eyes. You have to stick the thermometer into the mixture as soon as it starts to boil and then watch it like a hawk. I was left with a burnt mess on the bottom of my pan and then had to scrub it with boiling water for at least 20 minutes to get it clean. So the second time I watched it very carefully, then when it got to 260, moved it to another burner already set at medium low and added the peanuts/butter, and then continued to watch it carefully until it got up to 295. I ended up turning the heat up to medium high to get it to 295, and it did take about 15 minutes. Then I added the baking soda / vanilla, pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven, and poured the mixture onto the cookie sheet, pushing it around to get it as thin as possible. I waited about an hour, broke it up, and have delicious peanut brittle.
By far my favorite peanut brittle recipe! I make this all the time -- the texture is perfect. I especially like the beer / cayenne version recommended below, but with much less cayenne (maybe 1/2 or 3/4 tsp.). Otherwise, the pepper overpowers the other flavors. Enjoy!
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups salted dry-roasted peanuts (about 1 pound)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and lightly coat with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high and cook until deep golden, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter, baking soda, and peanuts (mixture will foam). Stir until mixture is no longer bubbling and caramel is smooth, 1 minute. Transfer to sheet and spread with a lightly greased spatula. Let cool until firm, 15 minutes. Break into pieces.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 2 1/2 cups dry-roasted salted peanuts (12 ounces)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
Butter a large baking pan set aside. Combine peanuts, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Insert a candy thermometer. Continue boiling, without stirring, until temperature registers 295 degrees, about 6 minutes. When sugar begins to brown, stir nuts gently to ensure even cooking. Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in the butter and baking soda the mixture will begin to foam up, so mix quickly. Pour onto the prepared baking pan.
As soon as candy is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to stretch the brittle as thinly as possible over the baking pan. Allow the brittle to cool completely, about 45 minutes, then break into bite-size pieces.