sweet and spicy holiday nuts
I’m digging my fat jeans out of the closet — it happens every December. There is just more food around. Around the office, around the house — heck even at the grocery store and mall, I’ve been tempted with bites of holiday fare. I can’t fight it. Repentance comes in January. Of course, I’m guilty, too. It’s the gifting season, and I feel compelled to make homemade treats for co-workers, neighbors, family, friends, the mailman. With that in mind, I’m sharing one of my go-to holiday gifting traditions. Sweet and Spicy Holiday Nuts.
There are as many different ways to make spiced nuts as there are elves in Santa’s workshop. Some are all sugar and cinnamon, others, call for curry and cardamom, I’ve tried cocoa dusted nuts, and hot n’ spicy ones. I’m constantly trying new combinations and this year I’ve gone with a slightly smoky version. In addition to cumin, cinnamon and ginger, I add some heat from chipotle powder combined with a little cayenne pepper. It leaves a wonderful tingle on the tongue.
There are a couple of methods I’ve tried to achieve a well-varnished nut. One uses oil to coat the nuts before dousing them with their secret ingredients. I don’t like this approach because my fingers get greasy while I’m enjoying them. I find myself repeatedly wiping my hands on a napkin after every morsel, which is tough to do when you have a glass of wine in the other hand. (Don’t judge.)
I prefer the technique that uses egg whites to coat the nuts because after they have baked and cooled, they can be handled easily. The sugar and spices stay on the nuts and there are no messy fingers.
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
- 6 cups unsalted nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, almonds cashews, macadamias, pistachios)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, combine the spices until well blended.
- In a large bowl whisk the egg white and water together until very frothy and foamy.
- Add the nuts and toss with a plastic spatula to coat completely with egg wash.
- Add spice blend and toss to coat nuts completely.
- Spread nuts in a single layer on two sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes. Stir nuts and spread to a single layer again. Bake an additional 10 minutes until nuts are toasted, fragrant and crisp. Cool on the sheet pan. Store in a airtight container. Serve with cocktails or wrap in cellophane bags to gift.
- If chipotle's not your thing, you can leave it out -- the remaining spices make a delicious spice blend on their own.