Need a Last-Minute Snack? Spiced Nuts are the Answer

December 12, 2016

Come on over, you said. Just swing on by for a drink after work. Bring whoever. No sweat. A little do-good, feel-good holiday cheer. So stressless. So casual.

Casual, of course, until it’s time to race the invitees home and confront the gaping question of what to feed these people.

Feed them spiced nuts, of course! Photo by James Ransom

Here is the answer, the thing to make in the 20 minutes between now and your guests’ arrival: spiced nuts. They taste good with a beer, they taste good with a whiskey, they taste good with a cup of coffee. And all you need is a bag of raw nuts and a little oil and to confront your spice cabinet—that and a few minutes in a frying pan.

Also, uh, if you need further convincing: These are best done last-minute! You can put them on the table a little bit warm and everyone will swoon. And your house will smell great. Done deal.

Photo by James Ransom

1. Know your ratio:

You will need the following:

  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 tablespoon fairly neutral oil (butter, olive oil, coconut oil…)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet thing (maple syrup, honey, brown sugar...)
  • Pinch salt
  • Spices, herbs, etc. to taste
What spices would you add to these? Photo by James Ransom

2. Be playful with flavors (if you like):

Here few ideas to get you going:

  • pecans + olive oil + maple syrup + splash soy sauce + togarashi pepper + sprinkle of sesame seeds (No additional salt needed because the soy sauce is salty!)
  • almonds + butter + honey + whiskey (Be careful adding this to a hot pan! Watch your eyebrows.) + pinch chile flakes + pinch fresh minced rosemary
  • peanuts + coconut oil + brown sugar + fish sauce + coconut flakes
  • mixed nuts + olive oil + maple syrup + cumin + cayenne
  • cashews + melted butter + cumin + coriander + turmeric
  • walnuts + melted butter + honey + black tea, ground to a powder + lemon zest + cloves
Photo by James Ransom

3. Now, cook those nuts:

Assemble your ingredients by the stovetop and mince anything (rosemary, for example) that might need mincing.

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Dump the raw, unsalted nuts (no need to chop, just leave them whole) into a pan over medium-low heat. When they’re fragrant and beginning to brown, remove them from the heat and set aside.

Make a landing pad by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a separate, large pan over low heat, melt together a not-too-strong-flavored oil of your choice with a sweet thing (maple syrup, brown sugar, etc.), stirring until well integrated. Add a pinch of salt and any spices you want to use, stir to combine, then turn up the heat to medium.

When the mixture begins to bubble gently, add the toasted nuts, stirring constantly, until the nuts are coated and sticky-looking and the liquid is gone. Pour the nuts out onto the parchment paper and let cool completely, until dry to the touch. (They'll always be a little sticky.)

Never not sticky, never not addictive. Photo by James Ransom

How would you spice your ideal spiced nuts? Let us know in the comments!

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.