Salted Peanut Caramel Clusters (Low Carb and Gluten Free)

Yum

I’ve been meaning for a while to play around more with erythritol to see if I could get it to make a proper caramel sauce. I had seen a recipe on another blog for low carb magic cookie bars that included caramel sauce made with erythritol, and it certainly looked the part, but I was skeptical. I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with this stuff, my favourite sugar substitute, and I’ve also done some research on it. Turns out that erythritol, unlike sugar, is non-hygroscopic, meaning that it does not attract moisture. This is why it doesn’t dissolve as easily as sugar and why it has a tendency to re-crystallize out of a water-based solution.

But I thought, or hoped against hope, that maybe this fellow low-carber had discovered some magical formula that would produce gooey, sticky erythritol caramel sauce. Being the frugal girl that I am, I didn’t want to waste the stuff if it didn’t work out, so I came up with a back-up plan. If it looked like my caramel was going to harden up, I’d throw in a bunch of nuts and turn it into a brittle. Or maybe cover it with chocolate and call it toffee. Either way, I was going to come up with something edible. And hopefully delicious.

The Results: Well, I was right about erythritol caramel sauce. It was gooey and sticky when it was warm, but it began to harden immediately as it cooled. I could tell it was going to do so since it hardened quickly on the spoon I was stirring with. So I fell back on Plan B. As I was scrounging for nuts in my cupboard, I came upon a bag of salted peanuts and I knew it would be a good combination. I tossed them in and then scooped spoonfuls onto parchment paper and let them harden into clusters.

Oh my word, these are heavenly! I can’t even say I am disappointed by the lack of a true caramel sauce, since these were an amazing sweet/salty treat. I just barely managed to keep myself from devouring the whole lot in one go. It didn’t make that many so I didn’t share with my kids, but my husband helped himself to a few before I chased him off. I did drizzle some with chocolate, but I rather think they were better without it. These are a must-make low carb candy, no question.

Salted Peanut Caramel Clusters

1/2 cup granulated erythritol
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup salted peanuts
1/2 oz high % cacao chocolate, melted (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the erythritol and agave nectar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until all of the erythritol has dissolved. Continue cooking until mixture becomes a dark amber colour, 6-10 minutes. Do not overcook.

Remove from heat, and add cream and vanilla. Mixture will bubble vigorously. Stir until smooth.

Return to heat and boil 1 minute more. Stir in peanuts and let cool for 3 minutes.

Scoop tablespoons of peanuts onto prepared baking sheet. If there is any caramel sauce at the bottom of the pan, drizzle over clusters. Let cool completely on baking sheet (lest you burn your tongue, like I did!).

Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. I melted my chocolate gently in a ramekin in the microwave.

Makes 16 clusters. Each cluster has a total of 8.2g of carbs but only 2.2g if you subtract for erythritol.

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Comments

    • Kristyl Downey says

      I varied this and made candied macadamia nuts: 1/3 cup Swerve, 1 TBSP heavy cream, 2 TBSP butter. Mixed and heated, added about 4-6 oz. macadamia nuts. Put out on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Very good sweet snack. Would be good with vanilla and spices, other nuts etc.

  1. BakingWithoutABox says

    Wonderful adaptation of the recipe you originally had in mind! I love with things sort of just come together into something better than we had originally planned. And those photos — stunning. Love that colorful background.

  2. Three-Cookies says

    Wow, nice concept. Almost like a deconstructed snickers bar, with much higher peanut content and improved design:)

  3. Mrs K says

    mmm…mmm This sounds so much like the Indian,"chikki",and turns out it is my favorite.The chocolate drizzle makes them even more inviting:)

  4. Grace says

    Sweet-salt combination is my favourite. The chocolate drizzle looks amazing even though you preferred without it. I learn so much about different ingredients when I visit your blog. I didn't realize you were diabetic, my brother is as well. I am tucking away some of your recipes to make when he comes home for a visit. I know he's going to love these.

  5. Joy says

    Given half a chance I would totally gorge these right now. Sweet and salty combinations are my favourite but I have to ask, what is ethyritol (I will not be surprised if I screwed that up)? I have never heard of it, much less know where to begin looking for it.

  6. Kate @ Diethood.com says

    OH YUM! I love peanut clusters and now I've been introduced to peanut CARAMEL clusters!?! Oh my, I love love love it!

  7. Cara says

    I've been checking out your blog recently and you've really inspired me to get back in the habit of baking with erythritol (I gave it a shot a while back, but didn't experiment nearly enough!) I'm so glad to know there is hope for success!

  8. sweetpeaskitchen.com says

    These look great! I have never tried cooking with erythritol before…I will have to give it a try!

  9. The Cilantropist says

    Carolyn I love your sense of experimentation with foods to try to get them just the way you want them; even if it doesnt work out exactly right, it still ends up being great! :)

  10. Sara @ Saucy Dipper says

    These do look heavenly. Nice work. Thanks for the tips on erythritol too. While in theory it sounds good, I think I'd also be skeptical.

  11. Stephanie says

    What a cute little package! I love how these turned out, even if they weren't your initial plan. Oftentimes, those work out to be better, though, right? 😉

  12. Rich says

    Yeah, I'd say heavenly is a pretty good adjective to describe what those look like, too; Not bad for a backup plan!

  13. Pretend Chef says

    These clusters look so yummy! I would have zero self control when eating them. At Christmas time when the trays are set out anything with nuts in it can be guaranteed to be gone, by me, by the end of the week. Good thinking for having a plan B. Salted peanuts and caramel are always a good combo!

  14. Ang says

    Don't you love when you have a ding,ding,ding moment. That's a good cook/baker right there. Beautiful work and they look scrumptious!

  15. rosanna says

    You are amazing carolyn, I love all of your recipes!!!!!
    I'll also try to make this, with tagatese, I think it will work similar… I'll tell you.
    As for soy flour I still haven't found any recipe or tried anything. We must find out something…

  16. Elisabeth says

    Carolyn-Oh my! one of my sweet tooth weekness…caramel chocolate and salty peanuts. Good thing they are low-carb. A truly droolworthy dessert!

  17. Cindy Sampey says

    Hi,

    I just made these and followed the recipe to a T. When I spooned them onto the parchment paper, the syrup was very runny and ran all over the paper. Even now, about 1/2 hour they are a little firm, but I don't think I could pick them up without them falling apart. Was the syrup supposed to thicken up in the pot? Any ideas on what went wrong?

    Thanks,

    Cindy

  18. Carolyn says

    Hi Cindy,

    Mine firmed up really quickly so they definitely should be firmer than that. Try putting them into the freezer. Also, perhaps your caramel needed to be boiled a little longer. If you have a candy thermometer, next time try getting the temp to at least 270F on that second boiling.
    As for the runniness, I might not have been clear enough in my instructions to spoon out the peanuts with a little of the caramel first, and then drizzle remaining caramel over. Mine was runny too, at first, so I really just worked with the peanuts and then drizzled any remaining caramel over them as they were starting to harden.
    Thanks for letting me know, I am going to look over my instructions and see if I can make that bit clearer.

  19. Carolyn says

    Hi Tanne,

    Yes, concentrated erythritol does have a cooling effect on the mouth. But a reader once told me that 1/8 tsp or so of xanthan gum will take that away and I tried it in some icing recently and it worked, at least for the icing.
    But I will say, some of the sweets are worth it, even with the cooling effect. I don't find it unpleasant, it just takes some getting used to.

  20. Tanne says

    Thank you for the tip! The xanthan gum is really working, I tried one batch with and one without and there really was a difference.

    Thanks again for the recipe.

  21. Jeremy says

    Gave these a try and the final result was pretty good. I did learn a few lessons, though:

    1. Erythritol does NOT caramelize on its own! I didn’t have any agave nectar, so I tried it by itself first, but no luck. For the second batch, I used a tablespoon of brown sugar as a “starter” and that worked much better.

    2. Erythritol has a low smoke point. Medium heat was too much on my stove, I had to turn it down to medium-low. Be careful the first time you make them!

    3. The cooling effect of the erythritol is very pronounced. It doesn’t bother me too much, but my wife can’t stand it, so if you’re new to erythritol test it out first to see if it agrees with you. There’s also a fairly strong aftertaste, at least for me.

    That said, it was nice to have a non-disappointing low-carb dessert for once. Mine turned out a little grainy in texture (maybe the erythritol, maybe just my ineptitude), but taste-wise they were very satisfying.

    • Carolyn says

      Sure. Honey, molasses or even a bit of water. If you are using Swerve sweetener, it caramelizes nicely so you don’t need the other sweeteners and could use water.

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