If there’s one thing we love about the salad menu when dining out, it’s the prominence of candied nuts. These crunchy treats pack a big burst of flavor and are actually quite easy to make, but many cooks don’t think about trying them at home. Unfortunately, a lot of candied nuts are also loaded with sugar, making them a less-than-healthy addition to your dinner menu.
But that doesn’t mean candied nuts are off the table if you’re trying to eat healthy. With so many sugar alternatives available, you can whip up a batch and skip the sugar completely. Whether you’re using them to top salads or entrees, or you just want to eat a handful as a snack, candied nuts will make a welcome addition to your kitchen repertoire.
Sure, you can make candied nuts with whatever nuts you prefer. We lean heavily toward walnuts and pecans, both of which contain unsaturated fat that helps lower cholesterol and boosts heart health, according to SFGate. Additionally, these nuts are good sources of protein, fiber and other nutrients that support healthy living. Due to their high-caloric and fat content though, nuts should be consumed in moderation.
To us, sugar is an unnecessary ingredient in candied nuts. You can achieve the same effect — with better flavor — using other ingredients like honey or maple syrup. Our general rule of thumb is 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup per half cup of nuts. Featuring about 60 calories per tablespoon of honey and 50 calories per tablespoon of maple syrup, both are very good sources of energy and provide a natural concentrated sweetness perfect for candied nuts. Honey is also a gold mine when it comes to healing properties and can help suppress coughs and alleviate allergies, among other things, says Medical Daily.
Candied nuts are best when they have a little something extra. You can go savory, sweet or spicy, depending on how you’re going to use the nuts, making them completely customizable to suit your tastes. For some zest, we like sprinkling in cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Or try tossing the nuts with a little vanilla or cinnamon for a “baking spices” flavor.
Candied nuts can be made either in the oven or on the stove — the key is preventing them from burning. When making them in the oven, toss the nuts in a bowl with either honey or maple syrup, then add the extras, making sure to coat the nuts well. Spread them in an even layer on parchment paper and cook at 325 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, flip the nuts over and cook another 5 to 7 minutes. If using the stove, cook down your glaze ingredients with a bit of water so it doesn’t burn. Then add the nuts and cook over low heat, stirring often so the nuts candy without burning. Remove the nuts from either the stove or oven, and cool before serving. Enjoy!