Holiday Giving: Burnt Sugar Toffee with Chocolate and Toasted Walnuts

December 5, 2011(updated on August 30, 2021)

This deeply caramelized burnt sugar toffee is finished with a sheet of melted chocolate and toasted walnuts. It’s perfect for holiday gift baskets and cookie exchanges.

I started out life totally indifferent to chocolate. For my first ten years, I’d eat it when it was offered, but always preferred sweets that were based on vanilla, fruit or toffee flavors. Pecan was my favorite ice cream flavor, and when Eleanor’s platter of holiday treats arrived each year, the first candies I went for were the homemade caramels.


I did eventually come around to chocolate’s many charms, but I’ve still got a soft spot for caramels and toffee-based candies. In past years I’ve made those graham cracker toffees and pepita brittle. Last week, after having the page bookmarked for years now, I made this skillet toffee.

burnt sugar toffee

I made just a couple changes to the original recipe. I swapped in toasted walnuts for the almonds and I cooked it just a bit longer than called for. As I’ve aged, I’ve found that I like my candy to have an edge. I want sweets to have complexity and so when I cooked the butter and sugar together, I took it to the brink of of being burnt. It’s sweet and sharp and utterly entrancing. It’s one I plan on making for many years to come.

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Burnt Sugar Toffee with Chocolate and Toasted Walnuts


  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts


  • Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar and salt as the butter melts.
  • Stir constantly with a silicone spatula, regularly scraping down the sides. It will bubble and hiss as you stir.
  • Cook until the toffee mixture has achieved a deep, golden brown color. It will darken a bit more once you take it off the heat, so stop a shade lighter than you want the end product to be.
  • Once you’ve reached your desired level of doneness, remove pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. It will sputter and spit when you add the vanilla, so be careful.
  • Pour the toffee into your prepared baking sheet. Let cool for approximately 10 minutes before evenly sprinkling the chocolate across the top. When the chocolate begins to melt, use an offset spatula to spread it out into an even layer.
  • Sprinkle nuts across the warm chocolate and pat gently with your palms to embed the nuts into the chocolate.
  • Let the toffee cool for 4-6 hours, until it becomes stiff and brittle. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. This candy will keep well at room temperature for weeks (if it lasts that long).


Recipe adapted from Skillet Toffee recipe on The Kitchn.

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41 thoughts on "Holiday Giving: Burnt Sugar Toffee with Chocolate and Toasted Walnuts"

  • I look forward to your gifts in jar posts… they are always great! I’m adding this one to my list for this year. (Along with your rosemary cashews that I seriously have been waiting all year for!)

    I also love the widemouth jar photo up top, those always remind me of my Gram: a running joke between her and my mother was to call them loudmouths (and I suspect that may have had something to do with my garrulous nature as a child…)

  • I was wondering if it is possible to replace walnuts with hazelnuts, since my kids are allergic to them?

  • Oh, Marisa, you just made my day. I have been wanting to make some toffee for the holidays since my mom is a toffee nut. I love the idea of a burnt sugar version. Genius. It looks great in a jar, too! But of course.

  • Jerk.

    You’ve singlehandely ruined my diet plans. 😉 Instead, I will be making this for my husband to take to (mostly) to work. The ladies he works with are EXCELLENT guinea pigs…I mean, testers…

    I mean, coworkers who are willing to consume mass quantities of sweets in the name of my cooking ego. 😉

  • Great idea. I’m attending a gifts in a jar class, with pie in a jar being featured next Saturday. I’m looking forward to trying some of your great ideas to take along and share. THANKS – this was just what I was looking for!

    1. Sounds like you didn’t cook it nearly enough. The sugar should dissolve into the butter entirely and take on a deep, toasted color.

      1. So I think I understand what happened to you, because it happened to me today when I tried to make a second batch. What happened is that the sugar separated from the fat and started to crystallize again. The way you can save a batch that’s done this is to slowly add some corn syrup or other invert (meaning liquid) sugar like a cane syrup. Reheat the separated toffee and add up to 1/2 cup syrup (start with just a tablespoon or two and add more until it re-emulsifies), whisking all the time. The toffee should come back together after a few minutes

        1. This happened to me too.:/ It still tastes yummy, so I’m going to finish and see. There is some toffee in the pan cooling but it’s smothered in separated butter. 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

  • I’ve been trying to think of something else to make for an extra little gift for friends & family and this will be it! I think I’ll need to exercise some caution, though, or I’ll gobble it all up myself!

    1. I would not recommend it. When you use brown sugar (or any unrefined sugar, for that matter), it becomes very hard to tell whether the toffee is done. This leads to undercooking, which leads to frustration and heartache.

  • Just made this tonight, it looked so delicious I managed to overcome my intense fear of candy making and huge success! I also substituted pecans, because I didn’t have any walnuts on hand. Absolutely delicious, I don’t give it 24 hours…

  • So…I burnt the toffee. I was about to decide it was done when it suddenly went really dark and started smoking A LOT and stunk up the whole room. I still put it on the pan, and I don’t want to waste it. Can I still eat it or will that give me cancer?

  • How many one quart canning jars will this recipe fill? It sounds wonderful & I have many jars to fill and have been looking for the perfect recipe! This is it!!! Thanks You!

    1. Kimberly, it’s been a few years since I’ve made it, so I really don’t know. I think maybe two, if you don’t pack it in too tightly.

  • My chocolate did not harden to the toffee. Although it tasted good the presentation wasn’t so good.

  • I make a similar toffee every year, and two things you should do to ensure the candy turns out great is 1) don’t adjust and readjust the heat… it needs to stay constant, and 2) use the “hard crack” test… drizzle a tiny bit of candy mixture in glass of cold water and bite on it to see if it is crunchy. If it is grainy or soft, it isn’t ready to come off the heat. I’m giving this recipe a try and using white chocolate and pecans 🙂