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Salted Pumpkin Caramels

Contrary to popular belief, making your own caramel candy is a relatively simple procedure, which doesn’t require any special skills or years of experience to pull off.

You do need a trustworthy thermometer, some patience, and (most importantly), the ability to not stick your finger in the pot of boiling sugar while it’s cooking. But, other than that, this incredible salted pumpkin caramel recipe is absolutely something you can master. 

Notes From the Chef

Speaking of thermometers, it’s not a bad idea to have a couple options around to make sure you’re getting an accurate reading. As I explained, my candy thermometer was way off, which I wouldn’t have known about had I not double-checked with my others.

Of course, you can use the old drop some caramel in water trick to see what stage it’s at — but a verifiably accurate thermometer is recommended.

Besides getting the mixture to the right temperature, not much can go wrong, and I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy! 

More recipes: Try the latest and greatest recipes from Chef John!

Ingredients

2/3 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds

2/3 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 cups white sugar

2 cups white sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into slices

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into slices

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel

Directions

Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, tossing often, until they just start to turn a very light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a bowl to cool. Cooled seeds should taste sweet and nutty; browning too much may make them taste burnt and bitter.

Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, tossing often, until they just start to turn a very light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a bowl to cool. Cooled seeds should taste sweet and nutty; browning too much may make them taste burnt and bitter.

Butter an 8×8-inch heatproof dish; line with parchment. After pressing the parchment into the dish, turn it over, so that parchment is buttered on both sides. Pour pumpkin seeds into prepared dish in an even layer.

Butter an 8×8-inch heatproof dish; line with parchment. After pressing the parchment into the dish, turn it over, so that parchment is buttered on both sides. Pour pumpkin seeds into prepared dish in an even layer.

Whisk sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, and water together in a heavy bottomed 3-quart or larger saucepan; set aside.

Whisk sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, and water together in a heavy bottomed 3-quart or larger saucepan; set aside.

Next, prepare everything you will need to finish the caramels, and set all ingredients within reach. Stir pumpkin purée and heavy cream together in a small saucepan; place over low heat. Place butter slices in a small dish; measure cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt into another small dish. Measure vinegar, and place all ingredients near the stove, so that you can give your full attention to the caramel.

Next, prepare everything you will need to finish the caramels, and set all ingredients within reach. Stir pumpkin purée and heavy cream together in a small saucepan; place over low heat. Place butter slices in a small dish; measure cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt into another small dish. Measure vinegar, and place all ingredients near the stove, so that you can give your full attention to the caramel.

Now, place the saucepan with cream and pumpkin mixture over low heat on the back of the stove. Place saucepan with sugar mixture over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, then turn heat down to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 245 degrees F (118 degrees C).

Now, place the saucepan with cream and pumpkin mixture over low heat on the back of the stove. Place saucepan with sugar mixture over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, then turn heat down to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 245 degrees F (118 degrees C).

Slowly stream in the warm cream and pumpkin mixture, whisking constantly, being careful the mixture doesn’t bubble up over the sides of the pan.

Slowly stream in the warm cream and pumpkin mixture, whisking constantly, being careful the mixture doesn’t bubble up over the sides of the pan.

Continue cooking on medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture returns to temperature, between 240 and 245 degrees F (115 to 118 degrees C).

Continue cooking on medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture returns to temperature, between 240 and 245 degrees F (115 to 118 degrees C).

Turn off heat and stir in the butter, spices, salt, and vinegar until thoroughly combined.

Turn off heat and stir in the butter, spices, salt, and vinegar until thoroughly combined.

Transfer caramel very slowly into the baking dish, without disturbing the layer of pumpkin seeds. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle flaky sea salt crystals over the top, to taste.

Transfer caramel very slowly into the baking dish, without disturbing the layer of pumpkin seeds. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle flaky sea salt crystals over the top, to taste.

Cool to room temperature, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes. This will make the cutting easier.

Cool to room temperature, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes. This will make the cutting easier.

Cut into 64 pieces with a long thin knife, cleaning the blade with a hot damp towel if it gets too sticky to make a clean cut.

1-inch square pumpkin caramels with salt flakes on a clear candy platter

Chef John

Cut into 64 pieces with a long thin knife, cleaning the blade with a hot damp towel if it gets too sticky to make a clean cut.

Chef John

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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