I can make a meal out of appetizers and snacks and I am always on the lookout for something different. These nuts fit the bill! Sweet and slightly spicy, these nuts hit all the right notes. Incredibly easy to make and simply addictive, they are perfect any time of year, but are really fantastic during the holidays.
Our old neighbor in South Carolina, Mackenzie Sholz, gifted me with these delightful mouthfuls in 1994 and I begged for the recipe. The original called for walnuts and corn oil, but Mackenzie used pecans so I have always made them that way. I switched up the corn oil with coconut oil and the flavor is even better than the original. I do caution you, however, as Mackenzie did me, “Make two batches at once because you’ll find yourself digging in while they are cooling.”
1 lb pecan halves
1/2 c sugar
2-1/2 T coconut oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1-1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t coriander
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t chili powder (pick your favorite – I’ve used Ancho, Aleppo and “regular” chili powder all with success)
Preheat oven to 325.
Mix oil and sugar in a large bowl that has a lid. It will look like a paste.
Blanch nuts in boiling H2O for 1 minute and drain well.
While nuts are still hot, dump into the lidded bowl with oil and sugar and stir or shake well to coat the nuts.. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.
Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet (wash the bowl and dry it, you’ll need it again). Bake 30-45 minutes depending on your pans (heavier pans require longer baking time), stirring every 10- 15 minutes. The nuts should look dark golden brown and all of sugar syrup should be crystallized.
While the nuts are baking, blend the spices. I use whole spices whenever possible and grind them freshly for each batch. It really makes a difference. If you want to go the extra mile, slightly toast your whole spices in a dry skillet and allow to cool before grinding to release even more flavor.
When nuts are brown and crispy, put into the lidded bowl with the spices. Put the lid on the bowl and shake to coat the nuts.
Spread nuts in a single layer to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks – if they last that long.