Oh…you guys. I feel like I’m on a roll with my candy making adventures. This time it’s delectable caramel peanut butter fudge that is lit’rally the love child of soft, chewy caramel, and rich, creamy peanut butter fudge.
So this caramel peanut butter fudge is good. Reeaaalllly good. So good, in fact, that it disappeared rather quickly. Actually, I’ve never seen my kids (and my husband) devour something I made with such enthusiasm. I jotted a little mental note to myself to make a double batch next time. If you love peanut butter, you will totally love this peanut butter fudge. The best part is the sprinkling of coarse sea salt on top. Perfect balance of salty and sweet. (Stop licking the screen, please.)
The Secret To Making Perfect Caramel Peanut Butter Fudge
To make the smoothest, creamiest caramel peanut butter fudge of your dreams, pay close attention to these helpful tips.
Invest in a good candy thermometer
Making homemade candy requires a good candy thermometer and a heavy-duty sauce pan. The thermometer keeps you from over- or undercooking the candy.
Also, calibrate your candy thermometer by placing it in a pan of water and recording the temperature at which the water comes to a rolling boil. This will vary depending on where you live. Keep reading for more info.
Make adjustments if you live at high altitudes
Living in at high altitudes can be a little tricky when making homemade candy. At around 4500 ft, water boils at 204°F. At sea level water boils at a higher 212°F. In order to achieve the right consistency, it’s important make adjustments and cook the caramel to a lower temperature by a few degrees. (For specific instructions for please see this article.)
If in doubt, use ice water
To be double sure you have cooked the caramel to the correct stage, have a cup of ice water handy and drop some of the hot caramel into the cup, wait a few seconds and use your finger to test the consistency. If you go too far and cook the caramel too high, you can always add a little milk or cream to help prevent the caramel from hardening too much.
Don’t over-beat the peanut butter fudge
This goes for almost all fudge recipes. Fudge begins as a cooked sugar syrup to which chocolate (or peanut butter!) are added. To create the creamy texture we associate with fudge, that syrup needs to be cooked to Soft Ball (see above), cooled a bit, and beaten either by hand or electric mixer until the syrup looses its sheen. Over-mixing will yield crumbly or gritty fudge.
What if the fudge is too soft?
I’ve had several batches of fudge not set up properly. This is usually due to not cooking the syrup to the proper temperature before adding the other ingredients.
A quick fix would be to place the fudge in the freezer and allowing it to harden before cutting into squares, and storing the fudge in the freezer. This Caramel Peanut Butter Fudge is SO good chilled, by the way. So no harm if you have a batch that doesn’t quite set up.
Next time, be sure to cook to the proper temperature and double check using the ice water. I promise, it works!
What Can I Use Instead of Peanut Butter?
Whether you’re allergic to peanuts, know someone who is, or just want to switch things up a bit, you can totally substitute another nut or seed butter in this peanut butter fudge recipe.
My favorite peanut butter alternatives that would be fantastic in this recipe are:
- Almond butter – use natural, unsweetened raw or roasted
- Cashew butter – use natural, unsweetened raw or roasted
- Sunflower butter – use whatever you can find, or like best
- Tahini (sesame seed paste) – this has a slightly bitter flavor, but is SO GOOD paired with caramel and sea salt
- Other less common nut and seed butters – pumpkin seed, hazelnut (NOT Nutella!), walnut, pecan, soy nut
Can You Make Vegan or Non-Dairy Caramel Peanut Butter Fudge?
Yes! Simply use vegan buttery sticks in place of the butter. (Coconut oil, shortening, or other oils are not recommended.) Substitute your favorite unsweetened, non-dairy milk in place of the whole milk. Coconut milk is great because it is very thick and contains extra fat that other non-dairy milks lack. Rice milk is too thin and may not yield the best results.
My non-dairy recommendations:
- Almond, cashew, hazelnut, pecan, or other nut milks
- Oat milk
- Hemp or flaxseed milk
- Full-fat or light canned coconut milk or cream, unsweetened (not the kind you use in cocktails!)
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup corn syrup (or brown rice syrup)
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. sea salt, plus a little more for sprinkling the top
- ½ cup chopped peanuts
- Combine butter, brown sugar, whole milk, and syrup in a 3-4 quart pan. Turn heat on to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until butter melts and brown sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to start bubbling.
- Cover with the lid and cook, without peeking, for 5 minutes.
- After five minutes, gently remove lid, being careful not to drop any water back into the pan.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook until it reaches the Soft Ball stage, about 240° F. (Adjust temperature according to altitude.) Stir occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan.
- Once the Soft Ball stage has been reached, remove from heat and add the vanilla extract (it will bubble up, so step back), peanut butter, and sea salt. Stir briefly and let stand, off the heat, until it cools to 120° F.
- Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, beat the fudge until it thickens and loses its sheen. (Be careful not to over-beat, or it will be too stiff to work with.) Beat in ¾ of the chopped peanuts, reserving some for the garnish.
- Transfer to a loaf pan lined with buttered foil or parchment paper. Spread to the edges and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped peanuts and a little more sea salt. Let completely cool before cutting into 1-inch squares.
- Store candy in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks or more.