A Little Bit of Spice
These sweet and spicy nuts are crackly and crunchy, full of flavor, and a little bit spicy! Or a lot spicy, as you wish. I am always looking for a quick something to pull together for appetizers with drinks, or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. No matter what I am serving, it seems that some sort of roasted or candied nut always seems to fit the bill.
Candied Spicy Nuts—Always Perfect!
My sister-in-law Stephanie serves up the Silver Palate’s spiced pecans for Thanksgiving, and we can’t seem to keep our hands out of the nut bowl. When I make Mexican food, I use peanuts and swap out the spicing below for cayenne, balanced with plenty of sugar. I’ve even served peanuts before a Chinese meal spiced with Sichuan peppercorns and five-spice powder.
This method of roasting nuts is from the book “Maximum Flavor” by Aki Kamozawa & H. Alexander Talbot. By the way, this is a great book to help you explore ways of making your food even more interesting and flavorful.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Sweet and Spicy Nuts
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or more to taste; substitutions
- 2 teaspoons chaat masala ~ Or substitute lemon juice added at the end
- 1 teaspoon garam masala ~ Buy or Make
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons ghee ~ Or butter
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt ~ Kosher, Malden, or coarse sea salt. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt if you don't have coarse salt.
- 1 tablespoon coarse sugar ~ Demerara or turbinado sugar. Regular white sugar will work as well.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice ~ Chaat masala substitution
- Gather your ingredients
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium saucepan add the nuts, water, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Strain the nuts and place into a medium-sized bowl.
- Add ghee or butter into the pan used to simmer the nuts; no need to wash it out. Add the chili, chaat masala (if using), garam masala, and turmeric. Bloom the spices for a minute or two, then pour over the nuts and mix well.
- Spread nuts evenly out on the lined baking sheet and roast. At the 7 minute mark, remove from the oven and sprinkle coarse sugar and salt evenly over the nuts, and turn the baking sheet around so that nuts will brown uniformly.
- Toast for another 4 to 6 minutes, or longer until medium brown. Some nuts brown more quickly than others (cashews and pistachios), so keep a close eye on the nuts, especially during the last 4 to 6 minute roast. If you are using lemon juice rather than chaat masala, add juice now and stir to mix. The nuts will get crunchier as they cool.
- Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: 2 cups
- Feel free to spice these nuts in any way you like. As usual, the heat level from chilis is mild; you can scale up as your tastebuds and eaters dictate.
- I’ve used cashews, but please use your favorite nut or a combination of nuts.
- If you change up the nuts you are using, make sure that you still have the same weight (300 grams) of nuts to 300 grams of sugar, and 10 ounces, or roughly 300 ml of water. These measurements will keep the recipe in balance.
- The step of simmering the nuts in the syrup removes some of the bitter notes, leaving a mild, sweet nut.
- To make this vegan, substitute ghee or butter with oil.