You won’t believe how easy it is to make homemade candied pecans! Just toss in a sweet bourbon-spiced blend, then bake on a sheet pan until the exteriors develop a sugary crust. This tasty snack is great for salad toppings, charcuterie boards, or as a holiday gift.
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Get ready to make a big batch of crunchy candied nuts using this simple oven method. A large baking sheet works perfectly for caramelizing the sugars and creating a crispy crust, requiring minimal effort. You’ll instantly smell the sweet, warm spices filling the room. Candied nuts are a great addition to any dish, or package them into bags or jars for edible presents.
This recipe uses pecans, which have a naturally sweet and buttery taste. To enhance the flavor further, I infuse a little bit of aged bourbon into the egg whites. Just a tiny amount goes a long way but doesn’t leave any lingering boozy taste. There’s just a hint of oaky and caramel notes for dimension. It’s delicious!
Pecans are shelled nuts, and I recommend purchasing about 1-pound of pecan halves for the recipe. This amount will make a large batch, about 4 cups yield. To switch things up, you can also try candied walnuts.
Add a binder
The pecans halves have a large surface area with a smooth texture. I use an egg white coating to ensure that the sugars stick and cover them well. The albumin egg white proteins are very sticky and act like glue. When diluted with a little bit of bourbon and vanilla extract, this makes it easier to disperse.
The key is to whisk the mixture until medium peaks form. Visually, this will look white and foamy. When tossed with the nuts and baked, the trapped air bubbles will create hollow pockets of hardened sugar for a super crackly and crunchy texture.
Make a candy coating
To sweet the nuts, I use an equal ratio of granulated sugar and light brown sugar. This combination gives a pure sweetness and lingering molasses notes. Bold spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg add an incredible flavor and aroma.
Your house will smell like a bakeshop! Salt balances and enhances the sugars. The sandy mixture is tossed with the nuts, completely coating the outside.
Bake the nuts
The sugar-coated pecans bake at a moderate temperature of 300ºF (149ºC). The gentle heat gradually melts the sugars and develops caramel flavors with a candy-like coating. It only takes about 45 minutes of baking time. The process to transform the sugars into a hardened and brittle candy coating is about 45 minutes.
Spread the nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This process will make for easier mixing and cleaning up. Stir every 15 minutes to ensure even evaporation of moisture, browning, and drying. Make sure to visually check, as sugars burn at temperatures over 350ºF (177ºC). If you leave them in the oven too long, they will get charred.
The candied nuts will be very hot out of the oven. To check for doneness, the sugar coating should feel dry to the touch. Cool them on a baking sheet. The residual heat will gently drive off any last drops of moisture. They will be very crunchy and packed with rich flavors.
Serve this with
- A big scoop of ice cream like vanilla, salted caramel, or butter pecan
- Add chopped pieces on top of a slice of pumpkin pie
- Top on a fresh green salad with dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette
Whisked egg whites for binding the sugar mixture, sugar, water, salt, and spices if desired for flavoring. It’s baked at 300-degrees until the coating hardens and becomes crispy.
If the sugar glaze is made on the stovetop and not brought to the proper temperature, between 300 to 310ºF (149 to 154ºC) for a hard crack, it will be soft and sticky when it dries.
Glazed pecans are a type of candied nut. It’s typically a mixture of sugar, water, butter, and corn syrup. The mixture cooks on the stovetop until a caramel color and aroma form. Then the nuts are coated in the glaze. Spread on a baking sheet and either dry in the oven or at room temperature. Once cooled down, the nuts should have a shiny, hardened glaze.
How does oven baking create a candied coating on the pecans?
The oven is excellent for trapping and circulating hot air around food. In this case, set to 300-degrees to gently candy the nuts. The heat melts the sugar and drives off excess moisture. Baking helps to concentrate and dry the sugars enough to make them hard and brittle, called the hard crack stage. This is the perceived candy-coated crunch with each bite.
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- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon bourbon, or water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pound unsalted pecan halves, (4 cups)
- Place the oven rack in the center position—Preheat the oven to 300°F (149°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk egg whites, bourbon, and vanilla until very frothy medium peaks form. Immediately add pecans and toss to coat. If egg whites lose volume and have liquid on the bottom of the bowl, lightly whisk again before adding the nuts.
- Add coated pecans to the sugar and spice mixture. Use a spatula to toss and evenly coat.
- Spread pecans on the lined baking sheet. Bake until the surface is dry and crisp, about 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Allow the pecans to cool completely on the sheet pan until hardened.
- Recipe Yield: 4 cups
- Serving Size: ¼ cup
- Storing: Store candied pecans in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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