If you’re looking for food gift ideas this holiday, these Sweet Spicy Christmas Nuts are a universal favorite. Coated with a tongue tingling blend of spices, these spiced mixed nuts are the most requested holiday treat in our house and one that my friends and neighbors look forward to every year. The egg white coating ensures that the sugar and spices stay on the nuts, not on your fingers.
It’s the gifting season and as is customary each December, I make a bevy of homemade treats for co-workers, neighbors, family, friends, the mailman. I’m always on the lookout for good food gift ideas, but these Christmas nuts make the short list every year. I think there would be an uprising if they didn’t. Spiced mixed nuts are nothing new and everyone has their own special blend. This is my go-to recipe. I’ve also got some delicious Coconut Curry Spiced Nuts and Mexican Hot Chocolate Spiced Nuts that are awesome, but if this recipe doesn’t get made, well — much like the Grinch — I’m pretty sure it would prevent Christmas from coming.
Which Nuts To Use For Spiced Mixed Nuts
The short answer is make what you like! The spice blend in these Christmas nuts will pair fine with any type of tree nut you throw at it. Some of my favorites include:
- Brazil Nuts
One nut (that’s really not a nut at all) I wouldn’t throw into the mix: peanuts. The flavor of peanuts is so distinct that I think it would compete with any other nuts you use. If you want to do peanuts — do ALL peanuts. (I avoid peanuts for one other reason — my daughter is allergic to them).
There are as many different ways to make spiced mixed nuts as there are elves in Santa’s workshop. Some are all sugar and cinnamon, others call for Indian spices or Caribbean. I love to try them all, but there’s one thing I always stay true to — egg whites.
Of all the methods I’ve tried to achieve a well-varnished nut, egg whites are my hands-down favorite. Others use oil to coat the nuts before dousing them with their secret ingredients. I don’t like this approach because your fingers get greasy while you’re munching the spiced mixed nuts. You’ll find yourself repeatedly wiping your 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.)
How To Make Non-Greasy, Non-Sticky Christmas Nuts
The egg white method is my preferred technique for coating the nuts.
- Whisk the egg whites with a little water until you have a very frothy, bubbly mix.
- Then add the nuts and toss thoroughly with the egg white mixture. Use a large rubber spatula and mix again and again until the nuts are very well coated and there’s no remaining egg liquid in the bottom of the bowl. That’s important because you want to nuts to be tacky, not wet. Tacky ensures a good coating of spices. Wet will yield a big mess when you bake them.
- If there’s egg liquid left in the bowl, add some more nuts about half a cup at a time, and toss until the nuts are lacquered without any residual liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
Add the spice blend and toss to coat very well. There should be no spice mix left in the bowl — it should all adhere to the nuts. Spread the nuts onto a prepared baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Stir the spiced mixed nuts and spread them into an even layer and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes. The Christmas nuts will get crispier as they cool to room temperature.
These Christmas nuts are great with cocktails or just for snacking and they make excellent food gift ideas for your friends and neighbors. In fact, my friend Nola and I each make this recipe every year — and gift our Christmas nuts to each other — LOL! 🙂
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Sweet Spicy Christmas Nuts
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon water
- 6 cups raw, unsalted nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds cashews, macadamias, pistachios
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and salt until well blended.
- In a large bowl whisk the egg whites and water together until very frothy and foamy.
- Add the nuts and toss with a large rubber spatula to coat completely with egg wash. The egg should coat the nuts, without having extra egg white at the bottom of the bowl. If there's additional egg white mixture pooling in the bowl after coating the nuts, add another 1/2 to 1 cup of nuts and toss again until well coated.
- Add spice blend and toss to coat nuts completely with the spatula. All the spice mixture should adhere to the nuts without having leftover spice in the bottom of the bowl. Continue to toss until all of the spice mix coats the nuts.
- Spread nuts in a single layer on the sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes then stir or flip the nuts and re-spread them into a single layer again. Bake an additional 10 minutes until nuts are toasted, fragrant and crisp. Cool on the sheet pan. Nuts will get crisper as they cool.
- Store in a airtight container. Serve with cocktails or wrap in cellophane bags to gift.
- To gift the nuts, fill festive cellophane bags or decorative jars or tins with the nuts. Seal them well to stay fresh.
Making Nuts in a Large Batch
- I spend a few hours on a Saturday to make about 30 cups of nuts for my holiday gifts. In order to do this, I mix the nuts in a large tupperware container and portion out the nuts in 6 cup increments.
- Make each batch of nuts individually. Do not mix a large batch of sugar spice mixture or egg white water mixture... You're asking for trouble.
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