Dine: Salted Pumpkin Caramel

By Christine Burns Rudalevige
It's a good thing this recipe yields over five dozen caramels, because you can't eat just one. The spice is subtle, the sweetness countered by a shot of lemon juice, and the soft center enveloped by the crunch of pepitas on one side and the crackle of salt on the other.


  • 2/3 cup unsalted pepitas
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup good maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt


  • Place the pepitas in a skillet over medium heat and toast them until they start to pop.
  • Line the bottom and sides of an eight-inch square glass pan with parchment. Butter the parchment just on the sides of the pan. Evenly spread the toasted pepitas on the bottom of the pan, on top of the parchment. In a saucepan, combine the heavy cream, pumpkin puree, and spices. Get the mixture quite warm but do not boil. Set aside.
  • In a second pan, one with a heavy bottom and with sides at least four inches high, combine the sugar, both syrups, and water. Stir over medium-high heat until the sugars are melted, then let it boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the soft ball point on a candy thermometer). Then very carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture, reduce the heat, and slowly bring this mixture back up to 240 degrees as registered on a candy thermometer. This can take some time—maybe 30 minutes—but don’t leave the kitchen. Watch the pot carefully and stir the mixture more frequently once it hits 230 degrees to keep it from burning at the bottom of the pan.
  • As soon as it reaches 240 degrees, pull it off the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice, stirring vigorously so that the butter is fully incorporated.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool thirty minutes and then sprinkle the flaky sea salt over the top. Let the caramels fully set (at least two hours) before using a hot knife (dip it in hot water and wipe it dry before each cut) to cut them into one-inch squares. Wrap them individually in waxed paper if not serving immediately.


Did you know?
The current record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin is 2,624 lbs. That’s the weight of a 1971 Ford Maverick! This gigantic gourd was grown by Belgian Mathias Willemijns in 2016. The heaviest pumpkin ever grown in the United States weighed 2,528 lbs. It was grown by Steve Geddes of New Hampshire in 2018.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer who currently serves as the editor of edible MAINE magazine. She moved to Maine ten years ago with her husband, Andrew Rudalevige, Bowdoin’s Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government.



This story first appeared in the Fall ’22 issue of Bowdoin Magazine. Manage your subscription and see other stories from the magazine on the Bowdoin Magazine website.