This pumpkin seed brittle comes directly from my little black pastry chef recipe book. It is crunchy, salty-sweet, and the perfect garnish for Fall baking. I’ll give you all the tips and tricks to make perfect, thin pepita brittle every time!
Pumpkin Seed Brittle is the perfect Fall dessert garnish. It hits all the right notes. The sugar is caramelized so it’s not too sweet, there is a little salt to heighten all those flavors, it is irresistibly crunchy, and it’s beautiful. What more could a slice of pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice layer cake ask for than some pepita brittle? Not to mention, almost every recipe on my 25 Best Pumpkin Recipes for Fall!
In my professional pastry chef life, I use pepita brittle for a whole manner of dishes. There are the usual suspects like with a slice of pumpkin cake and a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, but I also love to use it unexpectedly. My favorites have been with a pumpkin panna cotta and pulled thin to cover the whole dish of a baked pumpkin custard as a twist on crème brûlée.
Table of Contents
In my video I show you the exact right moment to remove the caramel from the heat and also how I pulled these beautiful thin, abstract brittle pieces!
What is pumpkin seed brittle?
Pumpkin seed brittle is made by making a wet caramel mixed with a little butter and baking soda. The baking soda gives it the light brittle texture. Use toasted or untoasted pumpkin seeds depending on your preference.
How to make thin pumpkin seed brittle?
- Pulled Brittle: For the pumpkin seed brittle you see here, I pulled the hot sugar mixture thin using gloves. You’ll want to pour it in one spot on a non-stick baking mat to give you enough time to pull all the sugar before it sets. It is difficult work, but worth it!
- Rolled Brittle: Pour out the brittle on a nonstick baking mat, place another silicone baking mat on top and roll thin using a rolling pin. Be careful that no hot sugar mixture spills out the sides. This will leave the top and bottom of the brittle with the slight bumpy texture of the silicone mats.
- Spread Brittle: You can pour out the brittle as thin as possible on a silicone mat. Then spread it out using an offset spatula lightly sprayed with cooking spray. This is going to be imperfect and a little messy, but in the end it will be beautiful.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is the key to candies like caramel. I like to use extra-fine granulated sugar to ensure an even melting or dissolving. They are also less likely to crystallize. But any granulated sugar will do! So don't stress.
- Water: Water is important in pumpkin seed brittle making to dissolve the sugar. Tap water is fine. I usually use cold water just because I want a slow and steady sugar syrup heating process.
- Light Corn Syrup: The corn syrup is here to stabilize the wet caramel. You can substitute the light corn syrup with glucose, or omit it completely. If you omit the corn syrup, you run a greater risk of the caramel crystalizing and ruining your brittle.
- Pumpkin Seeds: I use untoasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds in this recipe but you could reduce the salt and use salted pumpkin seeds instead. If you are roasting your own seeds, be sure to remove the green part from the hard outer shell.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It heightens the flavor here and will keep your brittle from tasting dull or overly sweet.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. In candy making, the butter adds a smooth, richness to caramels, pralines and brittles.
- Baking Soda: Do check the freshness of your baking soda! It does lose potency over time. If it's not fresh, send it to the back of the refrigerator to absorb some odors, or clean your marble countertops with it!
- Corn Syrup: You can substitute the light corn syrup with glucose, or omit it completely. However, if you omit the corn syrup, you run a greater risk of the caramel crystalizing and ruining your brittle.
- Nuts, Seeds, Dried Fruit: Feel free to use any seed, nut or dried fruit combination you wish. I love the tart addition of dried cherries or cranberries.
- Salted Pumpkin Seeds: You can certainly substitute roasted salted pumpkin seeds for the plain pepitas if you wish. I would omit the additional salt added to the caramel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Making perfect brittle is all about timing. Adding the baking soda will speed up the caramelization process. Knowing this I remove my brittle from the heat when it is just at an amber color. Adding the butter and baking soda will take it to that perfect dark amber in the blink of an eye.
Pepita brittle will be bitter if too much baking soda is added or the baking soda does not have enough time to react with the caramel. The bitterness that you taste is unreacted baking soda. Pick out any clumps you see or break out those pieces. Whisking in the baking soda can also help ensure an even distribution and reaction.
Pumpkin seed brittle will get soft in humid environments or if the caramel was not cooked enough. Be sure to remove the caramel from the heat at amber, right before it begins to smoke. If the brittle is too light, it will be sweet and will absorb more moisture from the air.
Store pumpkin seed brittle at room temperature in an airtight container between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Even this will be no match for a humid day, so try to make it during the drier months and don’t store it by the stove or oven.
Pumpkin seed brittle will keep at room temperature for up to a month. In a humid environment it will lose its crunch well before that.
You can certainly substitute roasted salted pumpkin seeds for the plain pepitas if you wish. I would omit the additional salt added to the caramel.
Chef Lindsey's Recipe Tips
Once the caramel reaches that perfect amber all the remaining steps must be completed immediately. Caramel waits for no one. Have your mis-en-place ready! This is French kitchen speak for, “have all your ingredients measured and your tools next to the stove.” I like to think it also means, have the process ready in your mind, so you are moving confidently. This is especially important when hot sugar is involved!
Pumpkin Seed Brittle
- In a medium pot, stir together sugar, water, corn syrup and salt being careful not to splash it up the sides. Bring mixture to a boil. If sugar crystals do splash up the sides, run a clean pastry brush or paper towel dipped in cold water around the sides until they are clean. Allow the water to wash the crystals down into the cooking sugar mixture. Be sure to do this just as the mixture comes to a simmer so as not to risk crystalizing the cooking sugar with the side granules.
- Cook to golden brown caramel (less than you would for caramel sauce). It should be amber colored. It should not still look yellow.
- Remove from heat, whisk in butter followed by baking soda then pumpkin seeds.
- Pour onto a nonstick silicone baking mat. You can also pour it onto parchment paper.
- Either pull the brittle using gloves, roll thin between two silicone mats or spread with an offset spatula sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Allow to cool.
Before You Go!
Check out our other delicious, chef-developed recipes for Desserts!