These easy spiced nuts are made on the stovetop and requires less than 15 minutes. They're sweet, savory, and spicy with a "numbing" twist from Szechuan pepper, perfect for holiday gifting or everyday snacking!
It's only a couple of weeks till Christmas, and we are sooo excited!
Since high school, I've made it a hobby of mine to make Christmas goody boxes for family and friends. This year, it's no different...except, I'm making these easy spiced nuts as an addition.
If you're new to our blog, you'll probably catch on that Kyong and I are huge fans of sweet and savory combos (psssst like our Korean cream cheese garlic bread!). This spiced nuts recipe is the poster child of sweet and savory perfection.
The nuts are crunchy, the caramelized sugar has a rich sweetness, the spice blend throws parties in your mouth, and the occasional saltiness just tops it all off.
These spiced nuts take less than 15 minutes to make and are the perfect holiday gifts or for when you need a sweet and savory, nutty snack!
Special spice blend with Szechuan pepper
Our spice blend for this easy spiced nut recipe includes Szechuan pepper, an uncommon spice for spiced nuts. The Szechuan pepper is a totally optional spice that you can omit if you prefer. However, we highly recommend trying it out because it's quite a pleasant surprise. The Szechuan pepper offers a slight "salty" flavor to the sweet spiced nuts, along with a "numbing" effect. To some, it is mesmerizing and others weird. But we wanted to add this unique Chinese-inspired touch because no other spices can offer this heat and numbing effect. Plus, the combination really works, especially if you're a fan of Szechuan cuisine.
Making spiced nuts on the stovetop
We've seen and tried many spiced nuts recipes made in the oven. Perhaps it's my impatience to wait or the anxiety of not being able to monitor the nuts while the sugar caramelize, I'm not the biggest fan of this oven roasting method.
Instead, I prefer making spiced nuts on the stovetop. Because one, I can monitor and control the level of caramelization on the nuts and prevent sugar from burning. Two, the spices actually stick to the candied nuts. Three, this method is fast. It takes less than 15 minutes, especially after making a couple of batches. You could probably whip it up in 10!
Unorthodox candying method
Most homemade spiced nuts recipe call for the nuts to be candied, like smooth, glossy, and caramelized. We beg to differ. In our experiences, spiced nuts taste the best when some of the sugar are caramelized while some are crystalized. It gives the spiced nuts contrasting flavors and texture. With our stovetop candying method, the sugar will be stirred to intentionally cause crystallization.
How to get spices to stick onto nuts
Spiced nuts won't be spiced nuts without spices stuck onto them. So what is the secret? Our recipe relies on the candying process and the addition of a small amount of butter to help our spices adhere to the nuts.
Candying the nuts naturally makes them sticky when the sugar caramelizes. The butter, when melted, also helps the spices adhere to the nuts.
How to make spiced nuts (step by step):
- Combine the sugar and water in a large skillet or non-stick pan, over medium high heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts.
2. Stir the syrup and nuts until the nuts are coated and the sugar crystalizes. Keep stirring until the syrup completely dries.
3. Reduce the heat to medium low and constantly stir the candied nuts until the sugar starts to caramelize. Be careful and pay attention here, as the sugar can easy go from caramel to burnt. Also break apart any nuts that get stuck together during this process.
4. Once half of the nuts are covered in caramelized sugar, remove the pan from heat. Add the butter and sprinkle in the spice mix. Stir until the nuts are evenly coated with the spices.
5. Transfer the nuts to a pan and allow them to cool completely before serving or storing.
Spiced nuts storage
These spiced nuts are the best after they are completely cooled so that you can taste all the spices. Once they are completely cooled, they should be hard like candied nuts. You can store them in airtight containers without worrying about them sticking together. However, if the weather is really humid, it may make the nuts sticky.
The spiced nuts are best stored at room temperature for up to 1 week. Although they will still taste good, up to 1 month. But I do highly recommend enjoying them in their prime and make small batches, if needed, so that you can enjoy the best flavors and texture.
Happy holiday cooking!
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Easy Spiced Nuts
- 2 cup pecan halves , or nuts of your choice
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoon water
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
For the spice mix:
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt , fine (coarse salt could work too)
- ¾ teaspoon ground paprika , or chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground Szechuan pepper (optional but recommended)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne , or more if you prefer it spicer
- Add all the spice mix ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside until needed.
- In a large skillet or nonstick pan over medium high heat, add the sugar and water. Stir occasional until the sugar has dissolved and starts to bubble. Add the nuts and stir to coat. Continue stirring the nuts until the syrup dries, leaving sugar granules on the nuts, about 1-2 minutes.
- Once the syrup has completely dried, reduce the heat to medium low. Continue to cook and stir the sugar coated nuts until the the sugar starts to caramelize, about 3-5 minutes. Occasionally break up any nuts that get stuck together.*Adjust the heat to what you feel most comfortable. Sugar at this point can easy caramelize and burn. Take the pan off the heat if it becomes too hot or when needed.*
- When the nuts are partially caramelized, turn off the heat. Immediately add the butter and stir until it's completely melted and coating the nuts. Sprinkle in the spice mix and stir until the spices are evenly distributed.
- Transfer the spiced nuts to a sheet pan and let let them cool completely before serving or storing.
- The addition of Szechuan pepper and cayenne is totally optional, but both are highly recommended. The "numbing" and spiciness is a very nice addition to the sweet and salty nuts.
- We used a combination of pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and cashews, but feel free to use only 1 type of nut or different combinations.
- If you prefer your spiced nuts to be more seasoned, you can double the spice mix and season to your preference.