Holiday Treats: Sweet and Spicy Nuts

The guys from City Food Tours hosted their 4th Annual Non-Holiday Party this past Saturday night. Their theme was New Orleans. I was recruited to help make a few dishes for the party - my tasks were to make Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Bread; Vegetarian Hoppin' John; and I offered to make Sweet and Spicy Pecans. The party was a success and all of our food, both theirs and mine got rave reviews. Apparently there was nothing left! I will eventually get around to posting all of the recipes, today I wanted to write up the recipe for the pecans. These are a holiday treat that you can easily make instead of baking cookies. They are something I like to make during the holidays, or whenever I am called upon to to cater Southern or New Orleans style party. I used pecans for the batch I made for the party, but I usually use a combination of pecans, cashews and almonds. Peanuts or walnuts would work well too, but the original trio is really best. Use the freshest spices you can purchase, and only buy nuts that are raw, unroasted and not salted. In Philadelphia, one of the best resources for nuts is Nuts to You, either at 20th and Chestnut or the store at 13th & Walnut. To purchases great spices, visit the The Spice Corner in the Italian Market; Spice Terminal at the Reading Terminal Market; or go online or visit Penzeys in Chestnut Hill.

  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika (hot or smoked will be even better)
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 2 Cups Raw and Unsalted Pecans
  • 2 Cups Raw and Unsalted Cashews
  • 2 Cups Almonds – Whole, Unblanched, Raw and Unsalted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix nuts in a colander and rinse under cold running water until thoroughly wet. Shake off excess water.
  3. Put nuts in a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the spice mixture and stir to completely coat all the nuts.
  4. Use a sheet pan, lined with either parchment or a Silpat. Evenly spread the nut/spice mixture on the sheet pan.
  5. Sprinkle another ¼ cup of the sugar mix over the nuts. If more is needed, sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the nuts; otherwise, the extra sugar can be kept indefinitely in an airtight container. The potency of the seasonings will diminish over time though.
  6. Bake in oven for up to 25 minutes. Check the nuts after 15 minutes and stir the nuts carefully; keep the nuts in an even layer. Check every 5 minutes, allowing the nuts to get crisp and the sugar mixture to caramelize and melt but not burn.
  7. Remove nuts from oven when nuts & sugar mixture looks dark brown and shiny.
  8. Cool the nuts on the sheet pan. When they are cool enough to handle, break the nuts up and put them into a plastic or other airtight container.
  9. The nuts will last in cool dry weather for about 2 weeks.


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