Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Vanilla Bean and Cardamom

When I was a kid, the next best thing to going trick-or-treating and bringing home a huge haul of candy was pumpkin-carving night at home. We would go out as a family and pick out our pumpkins and then a week or so before Halloween, we’d set aside a night to carve them. While I was never very creative with my pumpkin, always opting for a traditional jack-o’-lantern look, I went through the motions so that I could get to my end goal: pumpkin seeds! Once we laid down the newspaper on the kitchen table, my parents cut a big hole in the top of the pumpkin and helped us scoop out the insides. While my dad helped my sister and me design and carve the pumpkins, my mom took that massive pile of pulp and seeds and made magic happen. A little while later my mom was pulling fabulous roasted pumpkin seeds out of the oven. She’d clean them up, throw some seasonings on them and then put them in the oven. By the time we were done making a mess of our pumpkins, the pumpkin seeds were ready for snacking. I can’t remember the last time I carved a pumpkin, and I don’t miss it, but I do miss pumpkin seeds. I decided to not let another year go by without enjoying them. I did, however, want to try something a little different. Turns out, peanut brittle-turned pumpkin seed brittle is a fabulous way of getting your seasonal fill of pumpkin seeds!

Did you know that the inside of the pumpkin seed – you know, the actual little kernel that you end up with when you shell the seeds – is called a pepita? I didn’t know this until an embarrassingly short time ago. I just figured this was along the same lines of sunflower seeds. The insides are called… sunflower kernels. Not so with the pumpkin seed. I apparently need to study up on my pumpkin seeds; I’m probably the last person on Earth who did not know this!

Now let’s talk about this brittle. I absolutely adore peanut brittle, and had been thinking about different ways to change it up a month or so ago for another occasion. Naturally, when I started thinking about doing something different with pumpkin seeds, a riff on peanut brittle is immediately what came to mind. I played around with some different ingredient ratios and experimented with honey and brown sugar, but finally settled on this rather classic rendition. I wanted to spice it up a bit so I added a few traditional fall and pumpkin-inspired spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, which gives it a nice little kick. Instead of using plain old vanilla extract, I used the beans from half of a vanilla bean, which is the perfect complement to the spices. It gives the brittle a smooth taste, and I just adore the little flecks of vanilla bean that you can see throughout the candy! Who says we have to wait until Christmas to enjoy some good brittle?!

If I go out and buy a pumpkin, do you think I could convince my mom to roast the seeds for me? Some things just taste better when mom makes them!

One year ago: Skillet Apple Crisp
Two years ago: The Best Chocolate Buttercream for Cupcakes
Three years ago: How to Roast Garlic
Four years ago: Wendy’s Copycat Chili

Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Vanilla Bean and Cardamom

Yield: About 1½ pounds

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

This seasonal brittle recipe uses pumpkin seeds instead of nuts and a variety of spices, including vanilla bean and cardamom.


1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ vanilla bean
2 cups pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), roasted and salted


1. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper; set aside. Spray a wooden spoon with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the pan as well. Discard the bean.

3. Place the pan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to a boil (still over low heat) and cook until the mixture reaches 330 degrees F on a candy (or instant-read) thermometer.

4. Remove from the heat and use the oiled spoon to quickly stir in the pumpkin seeds.

5. Quickly and carefully pour the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out as much as possible. Let cool completely and then break into pieces. The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.


26 Responses to “Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Vanilla Bean and Cardamom”

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on October 24, 2012 at 1:00 am

    I love that you used pepitas in this brittle – a fun twist on a classic brittle. Great looking texture in those pieces!


  2. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on October 24, 2012 at 2:12 am

    You’re brilliant! I just read how pumpkin seeds are really good for you so I’ll have to give this a try soon!


  3. Connie the Cookie Monster on October 24, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Oh my gosh ! that animation in the corner looks just like u!


  4. Felice on October 24, 2012 at 2:37 am

    I just have to say I love your blog. I actually stopped bookmarking recipes because it was really easier just to keep you on “speed dial” with your own folder. This brittle looks amazing. I have only made brittle once before but I am now anxious to try it again. Growing up in Australia we did not celebrate Halloween (or Thanksgiving) but I love carving a pumpkin. Unfortunately it doesn’t last very long here, so I usually try to aim for some kind of look that is meant to look saggy.


  5. Radhika on October 24, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Dear Michelle,
    I’ve been lurking on your site for a long time-2+ years…and never ever left comments, because I thought there were so many people leaving you their thoughts, you might be tired answering them 🙂
    But i have to sat this-I love trying your recipes, and have made many that came out really well. Thank you!
    Keep on baking and inspiring others.


    • Michelle on October 25th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Radhika, Thanks so much for taking a moment to say hello! I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying the recipes!


  6. Lori on October 24, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I didn’t know what a pepita was either! Thanks for posting this peanut free brittle. I will have to make this for my family. My youngest son has a peanut allergy so I usually substitute soy nut butter for peanut butter in baked goods. This is a new twist!


  7. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on October 24, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Love the brittle! Such a great spin to the classic!!


  8. Abby@ Totes Delish on October 24, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I didn’t know what pepitas were until recently either, so you’re not alone! I love the look of this brittle, sweet and salty : )


  9. Paula on October 24, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I did not know the kernels were called pepitas! Such a cute name. This is a lovely idea for using up the pumpkin seeds and I love the additional spices, not to mention all those lovely flecks of vanilla beans! Great recipe.


  10. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on October 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Love this! Such fun combination of flavors!


  11. Melissa @ Bless This Mess on October 24, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Super excited about this! Just made some yesterday from our jack-o-lantern carving seeds and loved it. I was looking for a good pepita recipe though.The addition of spices is so smart. I thought about it but didn’t really know where to start. I think this will be on our dessert table for Thanksgiving.


  12. Pennie D on October 24, 2012 at 11:30 am

    What a great twist on an old favorite. Will have to make these for my gift boxes, as well as keeping a batch, or two, for myself.


  13. Heather on October 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I also only just learned that pumpkin seeds were called pepitas!


  14. Amy K on October 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Curious about the lack of baking soda in the recipe. Isn’t that what gives brittle its brittleness?


    • Michelle on October 25th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Amy, I have made brittle recipes both with and without baking soda. I actually tried a version of this a couple of weeks ago with baking soda, but didn’t care for it much.


  15. Beleigh on October 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Oh my goodness, that looks absolutely INCREDIBLE! I love, love pumpkin seeds. Mmmm.

    Beleigh, Hearing Aids Colorado


  16. Laura Dembowski on October 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    My dad used to carve the most amazing pumpkins. He did Winnie the Pooh, Garfield, Pikachu. I wonder if I can talk him into more carving. I’ve had pumpkin seed brittle from Williams Sonoma but this looks so much better! The pepitas are better for this recipe, but are the exterior shells edible at all?


    • Michelle on October 25th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      Hi Laura, The whole seed, shell and all, is edible. I will say that they taste best roasted and not raw.


      • Kimberly on October 25th, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        I was gonna ask if you’d ever tried this recipe with the whole pumpkin seed…I roast mine every year, but I NEVER take the outer hull off. I found that boiling them in salted water before roasting helps get everything nice and crisp and seasoned and I don’t need to worry about the other shell. I just made some pumpkin muffins with the seeds included and I think I’ll try this recipe with the whole seeds too! Thanks again, love your blog!!


  17. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen on October 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I absolutely adore the fact that you used vanilla bean and cardamom in here. Those are two of my favorite ingredients to work with!


  18. Home Inspections Chicago on October 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Childhood traditions and memories are the ones that mean the most!


  19. Tracy on November 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Pumpkin brittle has been on my to-make list since last Christmas, when I decided that I had to come up with my own peanut-free version of brittle! Yours looks lovely, and I love the addition of vanilla bean!!


  20. Marge Binienda on February 1, 2013 at 1:51 am

    You article is well written. I enjoy reading your blog.


  21. Odessa Anliker on February 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    This is just amazing. I wish I could do the same.


  22. Linda mrlton on October 3, 2014 at 3:08 am

    This sounds wonderful and healthy at the same time. And no you are not the only person who didn’t know about pepitas!


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