A quick and easy recipe for candied walnuts tossed in a sweetened spice blend then baked until a sugary, crunchy crust forms. A delicious snack, topping for salads, addition to a charcuterie board, or an edible gift for the holidays.
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This recipe for candied walnuts is crispy, sweet, and packed with warm spices. If you’ve been buying the overpriced packages from the market, save a little money and have fun making your own batch. I bet you’ve got everything you need in your pantry.
To create a super crunchy coating, all you need is a whipped egg white, sugar, and a mix of bold seasonings. Baked in under an hour, the aroma will fill your home with a great caramel and cinnamon fragrance. I like to make a big tray of nuts to add texture to meals throughout the week and jar some to give friends and family. They always appreciate edible gifts!
Use shelled nuts. These give whole pieces called walnut halves that we will coat in the candy mixture. Grab a hefty 1 pound bag. This amount makes about 4 cups of candied nuts. It’s easy to reduce the recipe in half or even double. If you like these treats, you may also like my candied pecans too.
Make a candy coating
I use a simple sugar mixture to coat the nuts, which consists of equal ratios of granulated sugar and light brown sugar for a hint of molasses. If desired, you can try using golden or dark brown sugar for a more pungent caramel taste. Ground cinnamon and nutmeg add a deep mahogany hue and warm baked flavors.
Salt helps to balance and enhance the sweet taste. If you like a little bit of heat, add cayenne pepper or chili powder. Once mixed, it will be dry and sandy in texture.
Add a binder
Egg whites are vital for helping the sugar and spices stick to the surface of the nuts. The sticky albumin gets whipped with air to create foam. I use a small amount of water to dilute the thick egg whites, so it’s easier to disperse. I also incorporate vanilla extract to give a pleasant baked flavor dimension.
Whisk by hand to incorporate enough air until medium peaks form. The foam coats each nut, and the air bubbles make a crackly coating for a light texture instead of being too dense. It doesn’t seem like much in the bowl, but it’s just the right amount to cover 1 pound of walnuts.
Bake the nuts
Bake at a moderate temperature of 300ºF (149ºC). The process to transform the sugars into a hardened and brittle candy coating is about 45 minutes. Spread them out evenly in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. This tip makes it easier to remove and clean up.
Make sure that you stir every 15 minutes for even moisture evaporation, surface drying, and browning. You will smell the sweet aromas build and get stronger over time. Sugar burns at temperatures over 350ºF (177ºC), so make sure to check visually and by the scent.
The nuts are done baking when the surface is hard and dry. Cool completely on the baking sheet. The residual heat helps to finish the drying process gently. They will be extremely crisp and delicious.
Serve this with
- Your favorite scoop of ice cream
- A slice of pumpkin pie
- On top of a fresh kale salad with cider vinaigrette
Whisked egg whites for binding, sugar, water, salt, and spices if desired for flavoring. It’s baked at 300-degrees until the coating hardens and becomes crispy.
This is often a problem when making candied nuts on the stovetop, which involves melting sugar and water, then heating it to create a caramel. If the sugar mixture doesn’t get up to the proper temperature of 300 to 310ºF (149 to 154ºC) for a hard crack, it will be soft and sticky when it dries.
How does the sugar create a hard candy coating on the walnuts?
The moisture from the water and egg whites help to dissolve some of the sugar granules, creating a syrup. The heat from the oven gradually evaporates most of the water, increasing the sugar concentration. It’s baked at 300-degrees, turning the sugar into a hard crack stage for a fragile coating similar to peanut brittle. The candy coating should be hard and shatter.
- 1 pound shelled walnuts, (4 cups)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk egg whites, water, and vanilla until very frothy medium peaks form. Immediately add walnuts 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 walnuts to the sugar and spice mixture. Use a spatula to toss and evenly coat.
- Spread on the lined baking sheet. Bake until the surface is dry and crisp, about 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Cool completely on the sheet pan until hardened.
- Recipe Yield: 4 cups
- Serving Size: ¼ cup
- Storing: Store candied walnuts in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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