Peanut brittle is a classic fall and winter recipe that takes advantage of seasonal peanut harvests. Peanuts are grown in large quantities across the southern United States and are harvested in late summer and early fall. Traditional peanut brittle recipes have strong connections to harvest time and seasonal celebrations.
Freshly harvested peanuts have a high moisture content, so they are cured by being roasted or dried to lower the moisture level. This drying and roasting process brings out the nuts’ rich, robust flavor. The peak months for flavorful roasted peanuts are October and November, making it the perfect time to make peanut brittle and other peanut-based confections to be enjoyed in autumn and throughout the holiday season.
Here is a recipe for delicious peanut brittle that is perfect for the holidays, with some tasty variation ideas using different nuts, fruits, caramel sweet, and an Italian twist (the croccante).
Classic Peanut Brittle Recipe
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Grease a baking sheet and set aside. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil.
Continue cooking without stirring until it reaches the hard crack stage, 300°F, on a candy thermometer. This should take about 5-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in the peanuts, butter, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix well to incorporate fully.
Immediately pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Let cool completely before breaking into pieces.
Peanut Brittle Variations
- Pecan Brittle – Use 1 cup chopped roasted pecans instead of peanuts
- Almond Brittle – Use 1 cup sliced almonds instead of peanuts
- Pistachio Brittle – Use 1 cup shelled pistachios instead of peanuts
- Mixed Nut Brittle – Use 1/2 cup each of pecans and almonds instead of just peanuts
- Toffee Brittle – Add 1/2 cup toffee bits along with the peanuts
- Spicy Brittle – Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or chipotle powder along with the peanuts
Fruit Peanut Brittles
Some tasty variations of peanut brittle incorporate fruits or caramel for new flavor twists:
- Cherry Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup dried cherries along with the peanuts
- Cranberry Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup dried cranberries with the peanuts
- Tropical Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup diced dried pineapple and 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- Apple Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup dried diced apples and 1 tsp cinnamon
- Blueberry Peanut Brittle – Fold in 1/2 cup dried blueberries after cooking the brittle
- Salted Caramel Peanut Brittle – Swap out 1/2 cup of the white sugar for store-bought caramel sauce
- Caramel Toffee Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup toffee bits when cooking and 1/4 cup caramel sauce once cooked
- Turtle Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup caramel sauce along with the peanuts.
- Caramel Apple Peanut Brittle – Add 1/2 cup diced dried apples and 1/4 cup caramel sauce.
- Caramel Popcorn Peanut Brittle – Add 1 cup of popped popcorn after cooking the brittle and drizzle with caramel sauce
The caramel and fruit variations lend some great new flavors to classic peanut brittle. Feel free to mix and match ingredients or come up with your own creative combinations!
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Croccante: The Italian Twist for The Traditional Peanut Brittle
Here is an Italian twist to this recipe. Italians have the croccante, which is very similar to peanut brittle. Croccante means “crunchy” or “crispy” in English. So, in summary, both Holiday treats mean the same, although they taste different. It’s so easy to prepare and so tasty that it’s worth the shot!
The croccante is an Italian nut brittle made with almonds or hazelnuts toasted in honey or sugar syrup. The nuts are caramelized in the hot syrup, then spread out and allowed to harden before breaking into shards.
Here is a recipe for traditional Italian croccante:
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup water
- Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast for 5-7 minutes until lightly golden brown and fragrant. Allow to cool completely.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, water and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.
Continue to cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer, about 7-10 minutes. Watch closely as the temperature climbs.
Once the mixture reaches 300°F, remove from heat and quickly stir in the toasted nuts until evenly coated.
Immediately pour the nut mixture onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread into an even layer about 1/4 inch thick.
Allow the croccante to cool completely at room temperature. Once hardened, break into shards or chop into pieces with a sharp knife.
Store croccante pieces in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy as a crunchy nut confection.
This traditional recipe yields a crispy Italian nut brittle, heavily featuring the delicious toasted nuts. The sugars caramelize around the nuts, creating a delightful crunch. Croccante is perfectly served on its own as a snack or dessert.
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