Don’t get me wrong: Holiday cookies are great, but after weeks of parties, you can end up with a permanent sugar buzz. A few years ago, I tried a sample of spiced pecans from Zingerman’s, the famous deli whose food empire is based in Ann Arbor, where I live.
These are nice, I thought. And then I looked at the price: $25 for a 12-ounce can. I was sure I could make those for less. So I read through a bunch of different recipes, including this one from Southern Living, and set off to create a method of my own.
Ever since, I’ve given jars of spicy pecans to friends and hosts who invite me for meals during the holidays. I pay about $12 for a pound of Georgia pecans, and I can get four presents out of a batch that size. People are now so used to getting them now that they start hinting a few weeks ahead. “Are you going to make the nuts this year?”
Yes, I am, and I hope you will, too.
These spicy pecans have four basic ingredients: pecan halves, hot sauce, honey, and salt. One thing to know: It’s very easy to burn these nuts. The first couple of times I made them, I had to throw away batches that charred because I wasn’t watching the time.
Learn from my mistakes: Don’t crowd the nuts on the baking sheet, and snatch them out when the timer goes off, even if they still look a little wet. They’re going to set after they cool.
- 8 oz. pecan halves
- 1/4 cup dark honey
- 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
- Salt, to taste
*see notes on ingredients below
Set the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil, or spray foil with a cooking spray. In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the hot sauce and the honey. Mix until smooth; the mixture may look a little thin, but don’t be concerned.
Add the pecans and toss until they are completely coated. They will look wet. Spread the pecans in a single layer on the baking sheet, then lightly salt them. (Even if you wind up making more, don’t roast more than two pans at once.)
Roast for 10 minutes, then stir. Roast for another eight minutes, and remove the pecans from the oven as soon as the timer sounds.
Stir the pecans again and salt them liberally. Let them rest for 10 minutes in the pan. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper coated with non-stick spray (I do this on a cookie sheet). After 10 minutes, tip the pecans onto the parchment paper.
After another 10 minutes, the glaze should have set. Toss the pecans with your hands, then place them in a bowl to finish cooling. Once they are cool, you can portion them into jars or small tins. Store the rest in an airtight container. The pecans will keep tightly covered for months, but they probably won’t hang around that long.
A couple of tips: The nuts can be very hot when they come out of the oven. They also can be sticky, so be sure to keep a sponge or a wet paper towel nearby, in case you get the mixture on your hands or your clothes.
I’ve used different types of honey, and I recommend you go with a thicker one, like a dark Greek honey. If all you have available is a lighter honey, use a scant 1/4 cup.
Vegans who avoid honey can use maple syrup, but I’d aim for a dark Grade B or C, rather than a lighter Grade A. Again, use slightly less than 1/4 cup.
You can use whichever hot sauce you prefer. My favorite is Crystal from Louisiana. I’ve used Tabasco, but I find that it can be a little too strong, since the roasting process heightens the flavor.
Purchase pecan halves; don’t try to make this with pecan pieces, because the broken nuts can be hard to separate. This recipe also works with walnuts. I’ve had uneven success with mixed nuts; you need the ridges on pecans and the crevices on walnuts to hold the glaze. Peanuts and hazelnuts are too smooth.
Feel free to experiment with spices. Try adding 1 tsp. cinnamon, ginger, or cloves to the hot sauce.