Peanut Brittle

CATEGORIES: Candy, Christmas, Kate

In spite of all the new and fancy holiday treats that come out every year, I’m a sucker for good old-fashioned Christmas candy, the kinds of treats Grandma and the little old ladies who are fabulous cooks make. Fudge. Toffee. Caramels. And…yes…peanut brittle, which is kind of on its way out in terms of trendiness, but so delicious and addictive, especially if you throw chocolate into the mix.

This is a great recipe for beginning candy makers–it’s trickier than mixing marshmallows and chocolate chips for fudge, but it’s not nearly as rip-your-hair-out frustrating as English toffee. I’ve honestly never had it not turn out, which I definitely CAN’T say about other old-fashioned candy that I’ve made. Plus, once the peanuts start cooking in the sugar mixture (it smells a-MAZ-ing) and you have some holiday music playing, it’s impossible to not feel the holiday spirit.

Peanut Brittle (and Chocolate Peanut Brittle)
Recipe from Our Best Bites

2 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
3/4 c. water
2 c. raw peanuts*
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Chocolate chips (optional)

*You’ll find raw peanuts in the baking section of the grocery store, usually called raw Spanish peanuts. They’re not roasted or salted or in their shells or anything–just raw peanuts. If you taste one, it’ll taste like a raw pea, which gets into the fact that a peanut is a legume and not an actual nut, but that’s beside the point… 🙂

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until clear and syrupy.

Attach your candy thermometer to the pot in a place where it can measure the temperature of the candy but isn’t touching the bottom of the pan. Add peanuts and cook over medium heat until the candy reaches 300 degrees, stirring occasionally; this will probably take about 30-45 minutes. However, you’ll want to stick close by in case it cooks more quickly. Also, if you’re almost to 300 degrees and you start to smell burning, go ahead and remove it from the burner simply because most candy thermometers most of us have aren’t 100% calibrated.

While the candy is cooking, spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and place on a heat-safe surface. When candy is done cooking, add butter and incorporate completely into the mixture and then stir in the vanilla, salt, and baking soda, which will make it foamy (don’t freak out, that means it’s working). Pour quickly onto the baking sheet and spread evenly onto the pan. It won’t spread to the edges; you just want it to be about 1/4″ thick.

Now…this is where pure evil comes in.

I don’t put chocolate on all of my peanut brittle because there are people out there who feel like changing peanut brittle in any way is heresy. However…has the combination of chocolate and peanuts EVER led us astray? I love it because it’s a lot like toffee, only easier and way less temperamental. If you’re feeling the urge (and I really think you should), sprinkle some chocolate chips over the hot peanut brittle and just spread it out with a silicone spatula.

Allow the peanut brittle to cool completely (and the chocolate to become completely solid, if you’re using chocolate) and then take a butter knife and start jabbing at your slab of peanut brittle. Feeling a little pent-up aggression? Do the people who grossly misuse the self checkout at the grocery store make you want to jab your (or their) eyes out? Prone to road rage? Been to Walmart on a Saturday lately? Now’s your chance to get it all out! As you jab, it will start to break apart and then you can break it into smaller pieces as you figure out how big you want your pieces to be.

You can serve it in a tin or on a cute holiday plate at a party or you could package it in cellophane bags and tie them with ribbons or tuck the bags into some Christmas lanterns. Or hide it in your cupboards and when your kids/boss/significant other/parents/in-laws/mailman are driving you crazy in the weeks to come, you can grab a piece and hide in the bathroom with a rogue People magazine and a diet Coke. Never done it, I swear.



  1. Weecakies–I'm at sea level. When I lived at a high altitude, 300 degrees was perfect and it took quite awhile to cook. Here at sea level, 290-295 would probably be about right and it took significantly less time.

  2. What altitude are you cooking at? Are you at sea-level? I would like to cook it to the proper temperature where I am. Sounds yummy, especially with the chocolate chips on top 🙂

  3. This looks sooo yummy! Can't wait to make it. I've heard of cashew brittle, so maybe that could be a good substitution for Manda.

    Just wanted to mention that you can calibrate your candy thermometer by placing it in a pot of boiling water and reading the temp. If it's not at 212° F, then you can adjust how you read it accordingly.


  4. Manda–I'm sure you can beause I've seen them before, I've just never done it! 🙂 Macadamias might be tricky because a) they're hard to find raw and b) they have a very high fat content, so that might change things a little, but the ingredients are so cheap that I don't think it would be too hard to experiment.

    Megan–You can…but it's tricky, potentially dangerous, and you have to be able to make some subtle distinctions in candy consistency. It involves dropping a bit of the candy syrup into cold water and seeing how the consistency changes. I seriously bought the cheapest candy thermometer (I think it was 2 bucks) at Walmart like 7 years ago and I'm still using it, so to me, it's totally been worth it.

  5. oooh, look at me, being first!
    Can I use nuts that are not peanuts? I hate them. Can I make almond brittle or macadamia nut brittle or something?

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