Classic Peanut Brittle

Jessica B. Harris

Culinary Historian

Albert G. Lukas

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking

“No one knows the exact origin of peanut brittle, but most agree that the American version of the hard sugar candy embedded with peanuts is Southern in origin. One of the most popular tales attributes its creation to a cook who, while making taffy, mistakenly dumped in baking soda instead of cream of tartar, which yielded a hard, crunchy brittle rather than a soft, chewy taffy.”—JBF Award nominee Albert G. Lukas and JBF Award winner Jessica B. Harris


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 3/4 cups shelled, unsalted and split Virginia peanuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 or 3 pinches sea salt


Line two large baking sheets with nonstick silicone baking mats or parchment paper sprayed with vegetable-oil cooking spray.

Lightly coat the sides of a large, deep saucepan with cooking spray. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter in the pan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan; do not let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and cook the sugar mixture to 275°F, about 25 to 30 minutes; the mixture will be very bubbly. Stir regularly throughout the cooking.

Stir in the peanuts and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 295°F. Working quickly, remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda, stirring to blend. Pour the hot candy onto the lined baking sheets; it should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. While the brittle is still warm, sprinkle with the sea salt.

Let the brittle cool until completely firm, about 2 hours. Crack the brittle into 2- to 3-inch pieces.

Note: this brittle will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  Other nuts, like cashews or pecans, can be substituted for the peanuts.


Classic Peanut Brittle is excerpted from Sweet Home Café Cookbook © 2018 by NMAAHC, Albert Lukas, and Jessica B. Harris. Photography © 2018 by Scott Suchman. Reproduced by permission of Smithsonian Books. All rights reserved.


4 1/2 pounds