Have you ever bitten into a pecan that cracks open to reveal layers of flavors – the crunch of the nut itself, enveloped by a shatteringly crisp butter-kissed coating, giving way to an ooey-gooey layer of caramelized brown sugar? As the candied pecan hits your tongue, notes of toasted nuts and butter marry with the molten sweet cinnamon candy, all in one blissful bite.
That, my friends, is the sheer magic of homemade candied pecans.
For me, holidays spent at my childhood home always meant coming downstairs to the rich, sweet aroma of my mom’s special candied pecans wafting from the kitchen. Christmas cookies were fun, but these? These were the pennies from heaven we all couldn’t wait to devour. My mom would pull a tray loaded with glistening mahogany-colored pecans from the oven, the sugar glaze so glossy you could see your face in it. As they cooled, the kitchen filled with a cozy, nostalgic scent only served to intensify my anticipation. The very second mom gave the ‘okay,’ my siblings and I would descend on those nuts like kids on…well, you know. Crisp, crunchy, sweet and salty – they were positively addictive. I’d sprinkle them on salads or simply enjoy them by the handful straight from the container over the holidays. And oh, what a joy it was to score the last candied pecan from the jar, a prize we good-naturedly fought over every year.
As an adult, I love having a jar of my mom’s candied pecans on hand year-round to stir into oatmeal, sprinkle over ice cream, or munch by the handful as a snack. The beauty lies in how easy they are to make. With just a few humble ingredients like butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, you can transform ordinary pecans into these bites of heaven right in your own kitchen. Trust me, once you sink your teeth into the first one, you too will be hooked!
What type of pecans work best?
I prefer using whole, raw pecan halves to allow the flavor and texture to shine through.
How long do candied pecans last?
They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month. The nuts tend to soften over time but still taste delicious.
What are some serving ideas?
Sprinkle them on yogurt, salads, oatmeal, or ice cream. Use as a topping for cakes. Garnish a cheese board.
Can I use a different nut?
You can substitute with walnuts or almonds. Adjust cook times as sizes vary.
Do I need special equipment?
Any rimmed baking sheet will work. Parchment paper prevents sticking.
Why do they need to cool completely?
It allows the nuts to harden up properly and develop their signature crunch.
Can I gift a homemade batch?
Absolutely! Candied nuts make wonderful gifts for neighbors, teachers, and family.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
- 3 cups raw pecan halves (12 oz)
- 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1⁄8 tsp salt
- To begin, you’ll want to create the ideal environment for candying your pecans by preheating your oven to 300°F. The low, even heat helps transform those nuts into candied perfection. As the oven comes to temperature, line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Parchment will prevent the sugary pecan mixture from sticking and make cleanup easy.
- In a roomy mixing bowl, stir together your pecan halves, melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until thoroughly combined. I like to use a rubber spatula to coat each individual nut with the spice-infused butter and sugar. Take your time tossing to ensure even coverage – this is the step that gives you that scrumptious candy coating.
- Once your pecans are properly cloaked, pour them onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer, with pecans spaced apart. You’ll want plenty of room between each nut so the candying magic can happen on all sides. Carefully place the loaded pan into the preheated 300°degree oven.
- Bake your candied treasures for 12 minutes before opening the oven and giving the pan a good stir with a spoon or spatula. This midway mixing lets you flip those pecans to coat any naked spots with melting sugar and butter. Return the pan to the oven for another 8-10 minutes. At this point, your kitchen should be smelling pretty heavenly!
- After 18-22 minutes of total bake time, pull those candied pecans out of the oven once they are perfectly browned and give off a rich, nutty fragrance. Allow the hot pecans to cool down a bit before handling. Then, transfer them back into your initial mixing bowl using a spoon and set them aside to cool completely – about an hour. Cooling is key to letting them harden up nice and crispy.
- Once cooled fully, give your candied pecans a taste test. Break apart any large pecan clusters that may have formed so each piece stands alone in crunchy, candy-coated glory. Now transfer your sweet and salty batch into an airtight container where they will keep fresh for up to one month…if they last that long! Enjoy!
- Use fresh, raw pecan halves for best flavor and crunch. Older nuts tend to be soft.
- The butter, sugar, and cinnamon combination is what caramelizes the nuts to perfection. Don’t skip ingredients!
- Stirring halfway through is crucial to coat all sides and prevent burning.
- Letting the candied pecans cool completely makes them nice and crispy.
- Change up the spice blend. Nutmeg, ginger, allspice, or cardamom are all tasty.
- Make a big batch because they disappear quick!