Spicy pecan brittle

Spicy pecan brittle DSC2872

This is the season of giving, and one of my favorite things to give is candy. Texans have a long tradition of making and sharing candy at the holidays, and my family is no different. When I was young, a Christmas visit wasn’t complete until a tin of homemade candy had been passed around, and we’d enjoy everything from pralines to divinity.

One of my favorite candies, however, is nut brittle. Typically in the past, I’ve usually made it with peanuts. This, of course, is the traditional nut brittle and it’s no wonder as those nuts go very well with the crisp candy coating. That said, there are a couple of people on my list this year who can’t have peanuts because of allergies, and so I decided that my nut brittle this year would have to be made with something else instead.

Spicy pecan brittle | Homesick Texan

Texas’s state nut is the pecan, so it didn’t take me long to decide to make pecan brittle. While you don’t see it quite as often as you do peanut brittle, pecan brittle definitely has its place in the pantheon of Texan confections. Matter of fact, when I was doing research I found a host of candy-store advertisements from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and whenever they mentioned pecan brittle, they showcased it as an especially rare treat.

Besides candy, one of my preferred ways to prepare pecans during the holidays is to toss them with warm, earthy spices such as cinnamon, smoked paprika, and cumin. This makes the nuts both savory and sweet, so I decided to add those same spices to my batch of brittle as well, which gave the candy an added depth. And to finish, I sprinkled my brittle with flaked sea salt, as I love the combination of salty and sweet.

If you’ve never made candy, it’s not that difficult and pecan brittle is especially easy. The most important thing is to have a candy thermometer as this makes the job pretty straightforward, as the thermometer will let you know when the candy is ready. Besides a thermometer, when you make the candy it should be a cool, dry day, otherwise the brittle may not set up properly.

Spicy pecan brittle | Homesick Texan

This spicy pecan brittle has been very well received so far, and I’m looking forward to packing tins and sending it to those that I love. That said, if you’re like me, the only problem you’ll have with the brittle is making sure you have enough to share as its salty, spicy, sweet flavor is so good you might be tempted to eat the whole batch yourself! Just remember if that happens to you—it’s always better to give than receive!

Spicy pecan brittle DSC2872
5 from 3 votes

Spicy pecan brittle

Servings 6 servings
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped raw pecans don’t use roasted as they will burn
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Special Equipment: Candy thermometer


  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease. Place in the oven at 250° F for 10 minutes.

    In a bowl, whisk together the salt, cinnamon, smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne, and baking soda. Keep the bowl close by as you will need this mixture later in the candy-making process.

    In a saucepot on medium heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water until well combined and let it come to a boil. Attach the candy thermometer, and while occasionally stirring, cook the sugars until it reaches 300°F, or the hard crack stage, about 10-15 minutes. When the temperature reaches 275°F, remove the baking sheet from the oven if you haven’t already, and be sure that it’s close by as you’ll need to act quickly when the candy is done.

    (While I highly recommend using a thermometer, if you don’t have one, to test if the candy has reached the hard crack phase is to spoon a little into a glass of water. If the candy turns into threads and is hard and brittle when removed, it is at the hard-crack phase.)

    As soon as the sugar reaches 300°F, remove from the heat and stir in the butter, the pecans, and the vanilla. Keep stirring. When the butter has melted, stir in the spices and baking soda. Continue stirring, and the candy should turn a lighter color and get a little puffy, after about 5 to 10 seconds. This means the candy is ready to be turned out to cool.

    Working quickly, spoon the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread it thin. Sprinkle over the candy the flaked sea salt, and allow to cool, about 1 hour. Once cool, break into pieces.

Recipe Notes

If you have a silicone spatula, I recommend stirring and spreading with it as it will be easier to clean, but you can also use a wooden spoon, too. To clean your pot, thermometer, and spoon, fill the pot 2/3 of the way with water and a bit of dish soap, place the pot with the thermometer and spoon inside of it on the stove, and bring to a boil. When the water is hot, the hardened candy will clean off the pot, thermometer, and spoon.

  1. Rocky Mountain Woman

    perfect! I'm making this on the weekend…

  2. Lisa Fain

    Rocky Mountain Woman–Making candy is a wonderful weekend project. Enjoy!

  3. This is next up at our house. But an important question. Raw pecans or roasted. We roast ours for most purposes, so we have both on hand. Will the heat of the sugar mixture be too high and burn already toasted pecans? My guess is yes, but wanted your thoughts.

  4. Lisa Fain

    JustKJ–Excellent question! Yes, you want to use raw pecans as roasted/toasted pecans will probably burn. I'll change the recipe to note that. Thank you!

  5. mr waturi

    I know you are just warming the cookie sheet, but what temp should the oven be?

  6. Gregory Anderson

    thanks from Balcones Hts, TX; home of former Crossroads Mall at 410 and Fredricksberg, nee San Antonio. Big Smile.

  7. Lisa Fain

    Mr. Waturi–It should be 250°F. I'll update the recipe to reflect this. Thank you!

  8. Lisa Fain

    Gregory–You're welcome!

  9. Anonymous

    Can't wait to try this! We order our pecans from a place near Bastrop TX. I may try to talk my husband in to driving over. It's actually sunny today on the upper Gulf coast. You mention tossing pecans in spices. Do you have a recipe for spicy pecans? Thanks, Colleen

  10. Lisa Fain

    Colleen–My first book has a recipe for spicy pecans.

  11. Jason B.

    They also make a GREAT pecan, jalapeno brittle at the Dutchman's Hidden Valley outside of Hamilton, Texas!

  12. Lisa Fain

    Jason–Good to know!

  13. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I just love the smoked paprika in here. This brittle looks lovely!

  14. Lisa Fain

    Katrina–Thank you! I'm a big fan of smoked paprika, too.

  15. Robert (Pyro Pigs) Frazier

    Thanks.. love spicy sweets….. be interested in a recipe for a chipotle, apple cake?

  16. I made this with "homegrown" pecans yesterday. Great flavor and a wonderful riff on peanut brittle. Almost had a praline taste to it.

    Also, Lisa, great mention in today's Wall Street Journal!


    I'm sure they are serving this in Heaven, where my Texan father is eagerly awaiting his share! Thanks so much.

  18. LOVED these! So easy to make however mine were a bit greasy….could be the Colorado altitude so I might cut back on the butter by a bit next time. Thoughts?

  19. Lisa Fain

    Robert–Do you have one to share?

  20. Lisa Fain

    Sisker–Thank you and I'm so glad you liked it!

  21. Lisa Fain

    Rock the wrinkle–You're welcome!

  22. Lisa Fain

    Kaye–If you found it too greasy, I'd probably cut back on the butter.

  23. Kristy Woodson Harvey

    This looks so yummy! Can't wait to try this recipe! Glad to know that the pecan is Texas's state nut too! Happy holidays! xo Kristy

  24. Kelly Mahan

    Amazing! Looks like a yummy snack to get us throught the afternoon!

  25. Lisa – could I use cane syrup instead of corn?

    • Lisa Fain

      Liz–Well, I haven’t tried it and a quick Google search said that it’s not good for candy making, so my guess is no.

  26. Cathy Hathaway

    Do you think doubling the recipe would work out ok? I’m making gifts for my transplanted Texas friends who’ve moved to the Pacific northwest.

    • Lisa Fain

      Cathy–I’ve never doubled it but as long as you bring it to the right temperature it should be fine.

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