Cashew brittle is a glassy, deeply caramelized hard candy that’s deliciously sweet and salty. Use big, whole cashews for a stand out holiday candy!
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Cashew brittle is an easy and impressive candy to make at home. It’s brimming with flavors of roasted nuts, caramel, butter and vanilla-- with just enough salt to make it crazy addicting.
The cashew flavor is subtle and more delicate than peanuts, and the sweet meaty cashews add so much good texture. I love to pull and stretch the brittle a bit as it cools to make it a thinner candy; this creates a glass-like crunchy coating that drapes over the cashews and really makes them pop.
The best part is this recipe is basically a blank slate. There are so many delicious ways you can elevate your cashew brittle to make it the most standout and memorable candy at Christmas.
Coconut cashew brittle? Chile lime cashew brittle? Spicy curried cashew brittle?! I know, I know. I’m drooling too. Once you get the hang of the classic brittle technique, you can have so much fun throwing together your favorite flavors and creating the ultimate Christmas candy.
Read on to browse my huge list of flavor suggestions and get to work on your very own homemade candy!
what you need for cashew brittle:
- Raw whole cashews
- Corn syrup
- Baking soda
- Vanilla extract
how to make cashew brittle:
- Heat sugar and water until dissolved.
- Add corn syrup and bring to a boil.
- Cook syrup to the softball stage.
- Add cashews and cook, stirring, to the hard crack stage.
- Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt.
- Stir in baking soda.
- Pour onto a buttered sheet pan and spread to ¼-inch thick.
- Let cool completely; break into pieces.
- Wrap tightly in plastic or store in an airtight container.
a note on corn syrup:
When we talk about corn syrup for candy making or cooking, we’re not talking about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The corn syrup we buy at the stores is just glucose that is made from cornstarch. It hasn't undergone more enzymatic reactions to convert the glucose to unnaturally high levels of fructose.
All candy producers use glucose of some kind. Whether the initial source of starch is corn, wheat, potatoes, it doesn’t really matter. The starch is hydrolyzed into small chains of glucose. And this glucose syrup is critical in preventing crystallization in candy.
tips for cashew brittle:
- Always prep your ingredients and tools ahead of time. Candy moves fast!
- Use raw cashews if possible. The nuts will toast as they cook in the sugar syrup and develop all the roasted, nutty flavors you want. The recipe works with roasted cashews (it’s what I used in the photos), but they have a tendency to get a little too roasted. I prefer starting with raw.
- Once you add the cashews, make sure to constantly stir to avoid burning. If you’ve made candy before, this might make you nervous! But don’t worry about stirring the nuts and causing recrystallization-- we have enough corn syrup in the recipe to block the crystal formation and keep the brittle smooth and glassy.
- Corn syrup makes it harder for sugar to dissolve in water, which is why we add it after the sugar has dissolved.
- Once you add the cashews, stir constantly so they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Use a good instant-read thermometer. I love this one-- it's cheap and accurate.
- When you take the temperature, keep the thermometer submerged in the syrup but not touching the bottom of the pan. Move the thermometer all around the pot so you get a read on the average temperature rather than a hot spot in the syrup.
- I always keep a clean, damp dish towel nearby to wipe off the thermometer probe after sampling. No more hard candy build-up!
- After you pour the cashew brittle into the pan, immediately soak your pot and tools in hot water! It will begin to loosen the hard candy and make clean-up way easier.
- Let the brittle cool completely then wrap it in plastic to protect it from humidity. Hard candy like brittle is especially prone to absorbing water, and it will get sticky and crystallize if not wrapped tightly.
- Store it at room temperature or freeze it, but don’t store it in the refrigerator (high humidity will cause stickiness and crystallization).
can you freeze cashew brittle?
Yes! Just make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then pack it in a ziptop plastic bag with all of the air squeezed out. I prefer vacuum sealing it to remove all air and all potential for moisture, which will cause it to get soft, sticky, and eventually crystallize.
If vacuum packed and frozen, it will keep at least 6 months.
flavor variations to try!
- Dark chocolate cashew brittle with sea salt: dip or fully coat in tempered dark chocolate, top with flaky salt (like Maldon sea salt)
- Coconut cashew brittle: add in 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut and 1 cup raw cashews
- Cinnamon cashew brittle: Stir ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon into the candy along with the baking soda.
- Spiced coconut cashew brittle: add 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut and 1 cup raw cashews, then stir in ½ teaspoon cayenne with the baking soda
- White chocolate cashew brittle: dip or fully coat in tempered white chocolate
- Spicy cashew brittle: Stir ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne into the candy along with the baking soda.
- Bacon cashew brittle: stir in ½ cup diced, cooked bacon just after the baking soda.
- Rosemary cashew brittle: Stir in 1 tablespoon finely minced rosermary just after the baking soda.
- Cashew curry brittle: Stir ¾ teaspoon curry powder into the candy along with the baking soda.
- Cashew sesame brittle: add in 1 cup raw sesame seeds and 1 cup raw cashews
- Cashew espresso brittle: Stir ¾ teaspoon espresso powder into the candy along with the baking soda.
troubleshooting homemade cashew brittle:
The bad news is candy making is very technical. But here’s the good news: candy making is very technical! If something went wrong, it always comes back to something specific. Usually it’s a temperature issue, so make sure you have a reliable instant-read thermometer (I love Thermopro). Other times, it’s a process issue or simply a humid environment.
Here are answers to some common questions:
why won’t my cashew brittle get hard?
If your brittle doesn’t harden, it means it wasn’t cooked to a high enough temperature. Make sure you go all the way to the “hard crack” stage, between 298°F- 313°F.
cashew brittle is too chewy:
Cook the brittle all the way to the “hard crack” stage, between 298°F- 313°F. Make sure you’re swirling the thermometer around the pot to get an accurate reading of the sugar, and not just a cold or hot spot.
cashew brittle is a little soft and sticky:
First, make sure you add salt at the end of cooking. Then, make sure you’ve cooked the candy all the way to the “hard crack” stage, between 298°F- 313°F. Finally, check your environment.
Sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it loves water and will readily absorb moisture from the environment. If it’s humid or raining out, it’s possible the candy is simply sucking moisture up from the air. Once the cashew brittle cools, quickly wrap it in plastic to protect it. Or wait for drier weather.
why isn’t my cashew brittle darker brown?
The candy cooked too quickly. It reached the correct temperature but didn’t cook long enough to develop the characteristic brown color and rich, roasted flavor. Next time, cook at a lower temperature so the sugar syrup has plenty of time to brown.
Also, make sure you add the cashews to the syrup at the soft ball stage (239°F). The nuts have proteins that are crucial to the Maillard browning reactions. If you stir the cashews in at the end, your homemade cashew brittle won’t be nearly as browned and flavorful as it could be.
more homemade candy recipes to try:
Watch our Christmas candy web story here!Print
Cashew brittle is a glass-like, deeply caramelized hard candy that’s deliciously sweet and salty. Use whole cashews for a gorgeous candy!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 20
- Category: Candy
- Method: Stove
- Cuisine: American
- 1 tbsp (½ oz) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (2 0z) water
- ½ cup (170g) corn syrup
- 1 ¾ cups (8 oz) raw whole cashews
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp fine salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- Lightly butter a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
- Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
- Add corn syrup and increase heat to high. Continue to cook without stirring, until mixture reaches 239°F (115°C).
- Add cashews and cook, stirring constantly, to 311°F (155°F). Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and salt. Sprinkle baking soda over top and stir until fully combined. Pour mixture onto prepared sheet pan and use an offset spatula to quickly spread about ¼-inch thick. If desired, use 2 forks (or gloved hands) to gently pull and stretch the brittle to be thinner.
- Let sit at room temperature to cool completely. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 134
- Sugar: 17g
- Sodium: 170mg
- Fat: 5.9g
- Saturated Fat: 1.4g
- Unsaturated Fat: 4.2g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 20g
- Fiber: 0.4g
- Protein: 1.8g
- Cholesterol: 1.5mg