Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer
Active Time
20 Mins
Total Time
1 Hour 30 Mins
2 pounds

Nut brittle is easy to make, travels well, and actually improves in flavor with age, making it the ideal treat to give as a gift or to fill your own candy dish at home. Some trace the history of peanut brittle to a resourceful Southern housewife who, in the late 1800s, added roasted peanuts and baking soda to a failed batch of taffy, creating brittle instead. Whatever its origins are, nut brittle became a much-loved holiday tradition, not only for its tempting flavor but also for how easy it is to prepare, even for a novice candymaker. Brittle that’s made with peanuts grew even more popular in the 1900s as farmers in Virginia and Georgia increased their production of the nut. We added that other Southern powerhouse—pecans—to this version, as well as a handful or two of cashews and whole almonds for a tasty change of pace.

How to Make It

Step 1

Rub an 18- x 13-inch baking sheet lightly with butter, or coat with cooking spray. Set aside.

Step 2

Stir together sugar, water, corn syrup, and fine sea salt in a heavy, 2-quart saucepan; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Place pan over medium-high, and cook, occasionally stirring gently with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Once sugar syrup is clear and thickened, cook, undisturbed, until the thermometer reaches 230˚F to 235˚F (soft-ball stage), 5 to 7 minutes.

Step 3

Stir in butter, and continue cooking over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until butter melts, syrup starts to caramelize, and the thermometer reaches 300˚F to 305˚F (hard-crack stage), 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat; working very quickly, vigorously stir in the mixed nuts and peanuts just until completely coated in caramelized syrup.

Step 4

Immediately stir in baking soda and vanilla. Once the baking soda hits the hot, caramelized syrup, it will lighten and start to get foamy. As soon as ingredients are combined, pour hot candy onto prepared baking sheet. Using the back of a wooden spoon, quickly and gently spread mixture, pushing into a fairly thin layer that covers most of baking sheet. (A few holes are fine. It doesn’t need to be a solid sheet of candy.) Quickly sprinkle entire surface with flaky finishing salt. Let stand until brittle hardens, about 1 hour. Break into pieces. Store brittle in an airtight container or a ziplock plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.

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