Sichuan Peppercorn Peanut Brittle

January 17, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Mandy Lee from Lady and Pups shares a recipe for an extremely spicy, extremely addictive brittle. Plus, you get to use your hammer -- twice.

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A while back, my husband brought back a bag of something completely non-sensical from work: "mala" peanut brittles. If you are at all familiar with terms from the Sichuan region in China, you know that “mala,” which means “numbing and spicy,” directly implies the presence of notoriously hot Sichuan peppercorns. They are great in savoury dishes, of course, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Sichuan peppercorns would make sense in something like caramel-coated peanuts.

They do. Oh yes, they do. The first thing that hits you is a prominent floral flavor from the finely crushed red peppercorns. Then, it quickly marries to the nuttiness of the caramel, the peppery spiciness, and saltiness of the peanuts. Your taste buds will be profoundly confused: What is this salty, sweet, peppery, and numbing thing that I'm eating, and more importantly, why can't I stop?! You just can't stop eating it. It's that kind of food.  

Luckily, replicating it in my own kitchen wasn't at all difficult. All that's needed is some high-quality red Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili flakes, and you are in for a wild ride. If you are into totally senseless and mysteriously addictive snacks, this craziness will hit the sweet spot, guaranteed.  

Peppercorn Peanut Brittle

Makes, roughly, a 12 x 9-inch sheet of brittle

Sichuan peppercorn and dried chili peanuts

2 teaspoons chili flakes, preferably from Sichuan or Korea
2 tablespoons beaten egg white
3 cups (390 grams) roasted salted peanuts
1 1/2 teaspoons red Sichuan peppercorns, finely crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt


1/3 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 teaspoon salt

Note: 1 1/2 teaspoons of red Sichuan peppercorns will give the brittle a forceful punch. If you are more of a Sichuan peppercorn beginner, you can start with 1 teaspoon first and see how that suits you. Also, the recipe is based on the assumption that store-bought salted peanuts are usually lightly salted. If for some reason your roasted salted peanuts are potato chip-salty, you might have to reduce the 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1/4 teaspoon.

Preheat the oven on 350° F. Finely crush the Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. In a large bowl, fold the beaten egg white and salted peanuts together until evenly coated. Then, add the crushed peppercorn, chili flakes, and salt, and fold again until evenly mixed.

Spread over a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes, scrambling them with a fork once in between, until the surface of the peanuts are dry. Let the peanuts cool completely on the baking sheet.

Cover the peanuts with 2 layers of plastic wrap, then smash them with a hammer to crush about 1/3 of them into small pieces, leaving the rest of the peanuts whole or in large pieces.

Transfer the peanuts to a bowl and mix with the baking soda. Put the unsalted butter on top (this will make it easier to add the peanuts to the caramel). Set aside. 

Apply a little bit of cooking-spray over a sheet of parchment paper and a spatula, or rub both with a bit of oil. Set aside.

In a large pot, add granulated sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt, and cook over medium-high heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon only occasionally, and cook until the mixture turns from completely clear to a light amber color. This will take very roughly 15 to 20 minutes, but keep your eye on the sugar. 

Once the sugar turns light amber, turn off the heat immediately. Give it a couple more seconds (the color will continue to darken very fast), then add the peanuts with the baking soda and unsalted butter. Quickly stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it’s evenly mixed, and the foaming has subsided. 

Pour the mixture onto the oiled parchment paper and spread it with the oiled spatula. If it’s cooling too quickly and becomes un-spreadable, cover it with another piece of parchment paper and a kitchen towel and and press it down with your hands. 

Once it's flattened, chill your brittle in the fridge for 15 minutes to cool it down. Shatter the brittle with a hammer, or cut with a knife. Keep in an air-tight container for 1 week. 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mandy Lee

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Yao
  • Chickenfog
  • judith scott
    judith scott
  • Carol
  • Mandy @ Lady and pups
    Mandy @ Lady and pups


Yao January 22, 2014
Would oil work instead of egg white please? We have egg allergy, =(
Mandy @. January 22, 2014
Hi yao, the egg white helps the spices "stick" to the peanuts as it dries in the oven. But if you want to substitute with oil, I guess it should be fine because eventually, everything will end up in the brittle anyways :)
Chickenfog January 19, 2014
I'm thrilled to see Szechuan peppercorns being used in unconventional applications. However, please correct this

"directly implies the presence of notoriously hot Sichuan peppercorns. "
SP are not hot. They are often (almost always) included in hot dishes, but they do not bring heat. They bring floral, medicinal, numbing. The latter is why they are so fabulous w/ hot (spicy) food. Can't wait to make the brittle!
judith S. January 19, 2014
any replacement ideas for CORN SYRUP?!
BakersFancy January 23, 2014
Hey Judith, corn syrup is nt the same as high fructose corn syrup as I'm sure you know already but you can try using honey, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, or golden syrup as substitutes.
Carol January 17, 2014
I wonder if this could be made with almonds. Absolutely cannot eat peanuts, but love Sichuan peppercorns!
Mandy @. January 17, 2014
Carol, oh no... I'm afraid almond doesn't have the same flavour as peanuts, but without an option I guess it wouldn't hurt to try.