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  • Writer's pictureJazzmyne Buckels

Bourbon Pecan Brittle

Rich, buttery, and sweet with a kick is how I'd describe my Bourbon Pecan Brittle. It's definitely a must try! This recipe is super easy and makes a great gift or sweet snack to kill your candy craving.

The idea behind this recipe can be described with just one word - Dad. Like me, my Dad is not one with a super sweet tooth but he definitely loves sweet snacks, especially ones that contain nuts. One of his favorites is peanut brittle but I decided to switch it up one year for his birthday and created a pecan brittle. This recipes has evolved over time to incorporate some of my favorite flavors but it remains buttery, sweet and super easy to make. Start to finish this will only take you about 20 minutes of cooking time and makes 20 - 30 good sized pieces, depending on how big you break it. The hardest part is waiting the 30 minutes it takes for it to cool enough to be ready to break, but I promise, it's definitely worth the wait!



  • 1 cup light brown sugar

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar

  • 1 cup light corn syrup

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon (I use Southern Comfort)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 cups roughly chopped pecans

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature


  1. Oil a non-stick walled cookie sheet with non-stick spray and set aside.

  2. Add sugars, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar to a medium sized heavy bottom pan or cast iron Dutch oven fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring until sugar has fully dissolved.

  3. Continue to cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until liquid carmelizes and reaches 250 degrees. Stir in bourbon.

  4. Continue to heat until mixture reaches 290 degrees, then stir in butter, baking soda and pecans.

  5. Continue heating until mixture reaches hard crack phase on the candy thermometer then reduce heat to medium low heat.

  6. Continue to cook until it reaches 310 degrees, then remove from heat and immediately pour onto the greased cookie sheet. Tilt the pan so the mixture spreads out and is about 1/4 inch thick (note: it may not fill the entire pan).

  7. Let harden, uncovered at room temperature, until it is fully cooled, about 30-45 minutes.

  8. Using your hands, break the brittle into pieces. Sore in an airtight container.

Tips & FAQs

Tip #1 - After you are done cooking the mixture, be sure to pour it out quick and tap it from side to side to spread it out. Do not try and spread it with a spatula, it will cause your layer to be uneven.

Tip # 2 - When stirring, use a wooden spoon - wood does not transfer the heat and is a lot safer than using a spatula or metal spoon.

Tip #3 - The best pot to use when cooking this is a well seasoned cast iron dutch oven - they are so much easier to clean.

Tip #4 - To clean your pot and utensils, soak them in water overnight to dissolve the sugar then wash as normal with dish soap and warm water.

Tip #5 - When breaking up the brittle, used vinyl or plastic gloves to prevent fingerprints from dulling the shiny finish of the candy.

Why do I need a candy thermometer?

Having a candy thermometer for this recipe is key - it is very difficult to monitor the temperature without it.

What is hard crack?

Hard crack stage is the hottest stage in candy making before you begin making a caramel. On a candy thermometer, hard crack stage is defined as between 300-310 degrees F (148.89-154.44 degrees C). I highly recommended that you use a candy thermometer to reach this stage, since If you are few degrees too low, the candy will be remain in soft crack stage, and the brittle won't harden. If the candy becomes a deep, dark brown you’ve probably passed hard crack and the brittle will have a burnt flavor. If you don't have a candy thermometer, wait until the sugar reaches a golden brown then dip a spoon coated in the mixture in cold water. If the sugar turns stringy when you lift it out an hardens quickly or cracks, it's done.

Do I have to use cream of tartar?

Technically no, but the cream of tartar binds to the sugar and helps to prevent it from crystallizing as you cook it. This helps the brittle to stay smooth throughout the cooking process and results in a perfectly crunchy brittle.

What does baking soda do?

Baking soda gives is what gives brittle its crisp texture. When baking soda interacts with the sugar, it creates carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide then creates the airy, lacy texture you see when you snap apart a piece of brittle.

What do I do if the candy doesn't harden?

Typically this means that you didn't cook it to hard crack stage. When this happens to me, honestly, I just pitch it and start over BUT, I have seen others try to recook it. If you attempt this, you will need to break up what you have and return it to the pot. Cook on low, stirring frequently, until it melts. Let the mixture then boil until it reaches the correct temperature (300 degrees). If you try this make sure you STIR IT CONSTANTLY or you will risk it burning. If at any point it starts to smell like burnt sugar or gets too dark, you will have to start over.

Can I use different nuts?

Absolutely! Traditionally, peanuts are used in brittle. I just like the pecans because they have a softer texture that works really well with the crispness and texture of the brittle.

Can I skip the bourbon or use a different type of alcohol?

Of course! The bourbon is there for flavor only. You can swap it for whisky or skip it altogether.


Final Thoughts

Most of the time when I talk about food, I focus on the women in my family but my Dad can cook too and his Southern roots have a huge impact on my cooking style. This was definitely a fun one to create for him - after all, they say the way to a man's heart is food and I'd say my Dad is definitely one who appreciates a good recipe for sure! He is a traditional Southern man from Louisiana and has taught me a lot over the years. We joke who makes better gumbo or étouffée (definitely me, lol!) He has his own sweet specialties like cheesecake and crème Brule but he also has his favorites for the dishes I cook. He loves pecans - especially candied ones and loves sweet snacks, so this brittle was the perfect combination of his favorites. If you try this one out for someone special in your life- even if that someone special is you :-), leave me a comment below and let me know how it goes! It makes for a great gift and is an awesome holiday treat to share with friends and family!

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