Mmm, peanuts. Mmm, caramel. Well here we have the best of both worlds in what has to be the easiest candy I have ever made! It gives the flavor of peanut brittle (I’ll share that recipe with you soon, I promise) but can be thrown together without a thermometer and pretty much three ingredients. Make this the next time your friends come over, you won’t be sorry. It would also be a great hostess gift. My friends and family like it when I bring baked goods, but when I bring candy, they go crazy.
I have a confession to make. These peanuts are not supposed to be clumped together. Each individual peanut was supposed to be covered in hardened caramel. I was devastated when I took these off the fire, perhaps a few seconds too late. Then I tasted them, and that feeling went away fast. They’re awesome! So don’t worry if you make a mistake. You’ll probably like these anyway (what’s not to like?).
Never made candy before? Don’t fuss! This is the perfect place to start. You’re still boiling and bubbling sugar (see above), you’re still adding the nutty peanut, you’re just not messing with fussy crystallizing sugars and candy thermometers. Not that we don’t love those, but they’re not great for first timers. The only thing you need to be careful of with this recipe is stirring. Keep on stirring. Don’t stop. I know this is easy: three(ish) ingredients and one pan, but that caramel can burn if it’s not moved around enough. Have you ever tried cleaning burning caramel off the sides of a pot? I have; it’s not so fun, trust me. Pay attention and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get this right the first time.
If you’re confused by the instructions, don’t fear! That’s why we have everything broken up into short steps. That’s why we have pictures of each step. It’s easy, I promise! Now try it. You definitely won’t regret it. The people you share it with will love you forever.
Candied peanuts, adapted from David Lebovitz
- 2 cups peanuts
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Kosher or sea salt (amount depends on the saltiness of your peanuts)
1. In a large tall-sided saute pan, add peanuts, sugar, and water.
2. Turn heat to medium and stir the peanuts with the sugar and water. The sugar should dissolve into the water. The water will start bubbling. Continue stirring.
3. Keep stirring. The water should evaporate slowly.
4. Keep stirring. When there’s no more water, you will notice that it looks kind of sandy and is getting harder to stir. The caramel is light in color. Lower the heat slightly and stir until it is dark.
5. Keep stirring, scraping caramel from the bottom and coating each and every peanut in it. Tilt the pan away from the fire as you stir to regulate the heat.
6. Sprinkle with cayenne and salt.
7. Using a spatula, scrape the peanuts onto a silicone covered baking sheet. Flatten as much as possible and let cool. [See picture below. I didn’t do a great part flattening this. Next time I’ll use a baking sheet to flatten from the top – the peanuts are very hard to break these apart if they’re not in a single layer.]
7. When cool, break apart peanuts (I used my hands, but you can use a mallet if you want smaller pieces)