I don’t know how many times I’ve walked by one of those food carts that sell cinnamon almonds and just had to stop and enjoy the amazing aroma – I love to smell roasted cinnamon almonds almost more than I love eating them. This recipe for sugar & spice pecans will fill your kitchen with the scent of toasted nuts, brown sugar, vanilla and spices, but with a savory touch of salt and a little kick of pepper.
Sweet, salty and spicy is an addictive combination. When I make these pecans, I usually find my family hovering around them as they cool on a sheet of waxed paper, waiting until they’re ready to eat. I make these pecans as a topping for salads, especially my Berry Spinach Salad with Feta, but they’re also excellent by themselves as a snack.
I’ve tried lots of different recipes for glazed pecans – with egg whites, corn syrup and other fussy ingredients – but this recipe is as simple as it gets. It takes literally 5 minutes to make these glazed pecans, but once the cooking starts, you have to act fast.
Begin by combining brown sugar, vanilla, kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper, cayenne and water in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Don’t worry if the sugar is not completely dissolved. Set the glaze aside, near the stove.
Lay out a piece of waxed paper or parchment (dinner plate size or larger) on a countertop or table. Place 1 cup pecan halves in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir the pecans for 2-3 minutes, until they start to smell toasty.
Pour the glaze all over the pecans. Cook and stir for about 1 1/2-2 more minutes, until the sugar mixture is sticky and caramelized. It’s easy to burn the sugar at this point, so be careful. When the sugar mixture is very sticky and beginning to brown, remove the nuts from the heat, and quickly spread them out on the waxed paper or parchment.
Let the pecans cool for at least 30-45 minutes, but preferably 1-2 hours for the glaze to harden. Once the glaze hardens, you can separate the nuts to store or chop them to use for salad.
Sugar & Spice Pecans
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/16 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/16 teaspoon allspice
- 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup pecan halves
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, water, vanilla, salt and spices, stirring to combine (don't worry if the sugar and salt are not dissolved). Set the sugar mixture aside, near the stove.
- Lay out a sheet of parchment or waxed paper 12 x 12 inches or larger, so you can spread out the pecans to let them cool.
- In a small skillet or medium saucepan, toast the pecans over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch them carefully to prevent burning. When you begin to smell a toasty, nutty aroma, the nuts are ready to be glazed.
- Drizzle the sugar and spice mixture over the pecans and stir quickly, coating all the nuts with the glaze. Keep cooking and stirring constantly as the glaze thickens for 60-90 seconds. When the glaze is extremely sticky and smells like dark caramel, remove the nuts from the heat immediately to avoid burning.
- Spread the pecans on the waxed paper or parchment to cool. The glaze will harden after 45 minutes or so. You can use the nuts as they are, or chop them to use as a topping for salads.