This has to be my absolute favorite recipe for candied nuts. That’s saying a lot as I probably know more than a dozen ways to candy nuts. Every chef I worked for had their own method, whether boiling and roasting with a simple syrup, or slowly baking with a sugary egg white mixture on a low temperature. These methods are all great! In fact, you’ll get some of the best results by briefly boiling the nuts and slow cooking after repeatedly mixing the nuts with a sugary syrup. But if you are in a hurry and want to keep things sinfully simple, this is the recipe for you.
These nuts are perfect as a snack with their sweet and crunchy exterior and salty and rich finish. Throw them in your homemade trail mix, or chop ’em in a food processor (a sealed sandwich bag, a heavy frying pan, and the frustration from a bad day in the office will do a great job, too) and toss them in your popcorn. No way!?!? Put a big handful in a decorative bag and give them as a gift. Or add them to the top of your salads and blow your dinner guests away with your restaurant-quality first course. I’ve never had someone try these nuts and not moan in delight, saying “oh man, these nuts are incredible!
The only thing you need to worry about when making these candied nuts is having the pan too hot and burning the sugar too quickly. You will burn the sugar if you don’t watch what you are doing. There is a fine line between slightly burnt sugar and really burnt sugar. Overly burnt sugar is super bitter and there’s really no way to save the nuts if you let the sugar go too far. Don’t bother with a thermometer. The trick here is turning off the heat when you add the brown sugar, mixing the sugar and nuts quickly, and turning the heat back to low to almost completely melt the sugar. You may not melt all of it, and that’s OK. Part of what makes this whole thing work is the brown sugar dust that remains after the bulk of the sugar melts onto the nuts.
I use a stainless steel sauté pan, frozen almonds, brown sugar, salt and pepper. That’s it! You can use a non-stick pan, but I think you get better caramelization with stainless steel. Avoid cast iron pans for this recipe because it gets too hot and burns the sugar too fast. I keep my almonds, and most nuts, frozen to stay fresh. You can start this recipe with the nuts are room temperature, but I give instructions on using frozen almonds since that’s how I do it.
Toast the nuts in the pan first on medium heat, just until you start to smell the almonds–it’s like they have a built in thermometer. Turn off the heat and sprinkle on the brown sugar. Mix to incorporate and then turn the heat back on low. Depending on the humidity and overall temperature of the mixture, I sometimes turn the heat off completely so the sugar doesn’t burn too quickly. If the pan starts smoking, turn it off and mix fast! The brown sugar will melt eventually, I promise. You know you are all done when the bottom of the pan is almost slippery from melted sugar and the nuts are all clumping together. Remove the nuts on to a plate or dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper while still warm. Let cool for a few minutes before eating. WARNING: MELTED SUGAR IS EXTREMELY HOT AND CAN DESTROY YOUR SKIN. USE CAUTION! Once cool enough, break apart the clump of nuts. It’s totally fine to leave some clumped together.
Give this recipe a try and let me know how it worked for you! It’s so simple, so fast that it’s my go-to recipe when I want a little something sinfully sweet or want to impress my guests.
- ½ cup Almonds
- 3 tbs. Brown Sugar (lightly packed)
- Salt and Pepper
- Cinnamon (optional)
- In a stainless steel pan, toast the almonds over medium heat. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant.
- Turn off the heat and sprinkle on the brown sugar. Mix with a spatula to incorporate and then turn the heat back on low. Cook for about 30 seconds, until the sugar starts to melt. Increase heat to medium and continue to stir the nuts. Be careful not to burn the sugar. If the pan starts to smoke, turn the heat off and stir fast.
- When nuts are coated in melted sugar, remove to a plate or dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper while still warm. If interested, sprinkle with cinnamon. When nuts cool, break cluster apart.