Soft, chewy, crunchy and full of amazing pumpkin and bittersweet chocolate flavor – these Crunchy Chocolate Pumpkin Caramels are easy to make and have just the right amount of sweetness, and are perfect for gift-giving during the holidays as caramel rice krispie bars or as caramel toffees! Pumpkin Pies as Caramel Bites!
I grew up eating rice krispie slices and Mars bar slices, so I didn’t have my first rice krispie treat until I was much older. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not disappointed! I’d have a rice krispie slice over a rice krispie treat any day.
So I decided to take regular rice krispie bars and give them an addictively delicious Fall makeover, that would make them PERFECT for Thanksgiving! Or any time during pumpkin season.
Regular rice krispie bars (or slices) are made with chocolate and caramel mixed with rice krispies, then topped with a layer of melted chocolate. They taste just as amazing as they sound.
But these Crunchy Chocolate Pumpkin Caramels (or Pumpkin Caramel Rice Krispie Bars) take them to a whole new levels of autumn awesomeness. The base for these chocolate pumpkin caramels is a caramel base that I made from scratch which was mixed with pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice and then rice krispies! Then this base is pressed into a prepared dish and then after it sets in the fridge, a dark chocolate ganache is spread on top. It’s that simple, but they make the most decadent, gift-worthy, fall-inspired pumpkin caramel rice krispie bars!
Making the caramel is really the “hardest” part of this recipe, but the good news is that it’s really not that difficult. All you need is patience and a sugar thermometer. BUT, to make things even easier, I’m providing you with some tips to make these chocolate pumpkin caramels even WITHOUT a sugar thermometer.
The pumpkin caramel layer for these pumpkin caramel rice krispie bars was adapted from The Kitchn’s caramel recipe. The major change I made to that recipe was the inclusion of pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice to give them a decidedly autumn-esque feel. And it was a truly glorious addition.
These crunchy pumpkin caramels are really great as family-friendly dessert bars or slices. AND they also work perfectly as Christmas or Holiday gifts too! I like to serve these pumpkin caramel rice krispie bars in small squares since they are rich and full of flavor and really quite addictive. And then I cut them into even smaller pieces and wrap them in wax paper or parchment paper so I can serve them as caramel toffees! 🙂 They are great for pot lucks, or your Thanksgiving meal or any Fall gathering!
And if you guys needed any more convincing why these crunchy chocolate pumpkin caramels are so much better than regular rice krispie treats –
- Caramel tastes better than marshmallow (duh). So caramel mixed with rice krispies taste infinitely more delicious than regular rice krispie treats.
- Pumpkin caramel gives that caramel an additional layer of amazing flavor.
- Caramel + Chocolate + Pumpkin = HEAVEN! The soft, chewy, decadent caramel together with bittersweet chocolate make for a powerful combo.
- These pumpkin caramel rice krispie bars are both chewy AND crunchy. So they’ve got great texture too.
I actually made a few batches of these chocolate pumpkin caramels to get the best balance of flavor and texture. Call it my “Goldilocks syndrome”, I just had to find that perfect sweet spot with these babies.
So, on my first attempt, I added a full 1 cup of pumpkin. While I absolutely loved the pumpkin caramel flavor, it didn’t quite set the way I wanted it to and made the caramel base too soft.
For the next batch, I made it with half of the pumpkin. While the caramel did set well, I wanted to see if I could add even more pumpkin flavor.
So the third batch was made with 3/4th of a cup and that was just right! Since I added extra pumpkin, I made sure the caramel was heated to 250°F (hard-ball stage) instead of the soft-ball stage. This is because I wanted these chocolate pumpkin caramels to set even after the addition of rice krispies, and still maintain a good soft, chewy, flavorful texture.
I add the vanilla and pumpkin spice while the temperature is at about 248°F. This is because I wanted these flavors to be fresh and prominent, and not be “cooked off” if I added them too early while the candy was continuing to boil.
So after the candy and chocolate layers have set, you can cut them into bite-sized slices. I went with 25 bars for this recipe, and then cut them further in half to make 50 small candy pieces that are perfect for gift-giving as toffees.
RECIPE VIDEO FOR THE CRUNCHY CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN CARAMELS
Crunchy Chocolate Pumpkin Caramels
Soft, chewy, crunchy and full of amazing pumpkin and bittersweet chocolate flavor and crunchy rice krispies. Perfect for gift-giving, especially during the holidays!
Pumpkin Caramel Base (Adapted from The Kitchn)
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups white sugar
- ¼ cup corn syrup
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp pumpkin spice
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 cups rice krispies you can substitute ½ cup of rice krispies with ½ cup of pecans or walnuts too
- 8 oz semi sweet chocolate
- 2 oz unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
Pumpkin Caramel Base
Butter and line an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place the salt, cream, pumpkin and butter in a saucepan. Heat over medium/medium high heat and stir until all the ingredients are melted and you have a smooth pumpkin cream mix. You can do this in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) too. Set aside.
Add the sugar to a clean and dry saucepan (I used a 3 qt saucepan). Pour the corn syrup and the water. Gently mix to spread the water and corn syrup through the sugar. DO NOT stir the sugar mix, beyond this point.
Heat the sugar mix until it starts to boil. Swirl the pan to make sure that the sugar dissolves. Using a pastry brush and cold water, brush the sides of the pan to make sure there are no sugar crystals stuck to the sides (otherwise, these crystals may cause your caramel to crystallize).
Keep cooking the sugar until it turns amber in color. Do not leave the sugar unattended at this time because the sugar will burn very quickly.
When the the sugar has reached that right color, add the warm pumpkin mix and stir it in. The sugar mix will bubble and release steam, so be careful not to burn yourself (where kitchen gloves if needed).
Place the sugar thermometer in the caramel mix with the temperature set at 248°F - this is the soft-ball stage (see recipe notes to identify this stage without a sugar thermometer). Add the pumpkin spice and vanilla and stir to combine.
Keep cooking the caramel base until the temperature reaches 250-252°F (which is the hard-ball stage - see recipe notes on how to identify this stage without a sugar thermometer). To make sure the candy is at the right temperature, stir it a few times, and check the temperature again. Remove from the heat and let it cool down slightly, just for a few minutes.
Add the rice krispies and stir to combine. Pour the caramel mix into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Allow the caramel layer to set (about 1 - 2 hours in the fridge or a few hours at room temperature).
While the pumpkin caramel is setting, you can make the chocolate layer.
Place the chocolate, salt and butter in a heat-proof bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between, until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mix is smooth. Spread this chocolate layer over the set pumpkin caramel layer evenly. Refrigerate for 1 - 2 hours.
When the chocolate layer has set, release the pumpkin caramels from the pan and cut into 25 squares using a warm knife.
To serve as toffees, cut each square in half and wrap each with wax paper or parchment paper.
Soft-ball stage - Fill a small bowl/saucer with cold water. Take one drop of the caramel base and drop it into the cold water. The caramel will form a ball that you can easily squish between your fingers (soft-ball).
Hard-ball stage - Fill a small bowl/saucer with cold water. Take one drop of the caramel base and drop it into the cold water. The caramel will form a ball that's soft yet pliable between your fingers. This is the stage we need before adding the rice krispies.
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