Spiced nuts are a classic holiday gift for coworkers and a handy snack to have on hand when neighbors stop for a nip of nog. Although they can be savory, roasted with herbs and garlic, I love a sweet, vanilla-infused handful of nuts encrusted in a sugary glaze.
For the good stuff, you can spend what feels like half a week's salary on store-bought spiced nuts, repackaging them in the hopes of passing them off as homemade. You could even risk burning them in the oven. Instead, pull out your biggest slow cooker and take a (mostly) hands-off approach without fear of burning, all while perfuming the kitchen with a nutty, sweet fragrance.
Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts: Watch the Video
The Holidays Call for Spiced/Candied Nuts!
Whether you call them spiced nuts or candied nuts, what you are looking for are toasted nuts encrusted in a flavorful coating. Egg whites are the secret ingredient for binding the nuts and sweet vanilla syrup to make the sweet and salty clusters that make gift giving and entertaining during the holiday season a breeze.
I start making spiced nuts just as the first chill arrives in the fall to share as a midday office treat, to tide over hungry bellies in anticipation of a holiday feast, and to give to friends.
For Your Information
- Pick up 6 cups of raw, whole nuts. Use any combination of nuts, such as pecans, almonds, walnuts, and cashews. Make sure the nuts have not been roasted in oil or salted, since you'll be adding your own seasonings. Nuts can be expensive, so check the bulk bin or club stores for the best prices.
- Find vanilla bean paste in specialty stores or online, although good-quality pure vanilla extract can be substituted.
- A large, oval slow cooker has more surface area for toasting the nuts. A double layer of paper towels spread over the top of the crock absorbs moisture evaporating from the nuts and catches condensation dripping from the lid.
Why Should You Make Spiced Nuts in the Slow Cooker
The slow cooker is uniquely perfect for making a large batch of spiced nuts. The gentle heat slowly draws out the nuts' natural oils, gently toasting them while perfuming the whole kitchen. The slow cooker warms the nuts gently, and since you've so smartly added paper towels to the top of the cooker, they crisp up nicely upon cooling instead of steaming. This is a mostly hands-off method, only requiring a stir every 20 minutes. It is the perfect way to multitask during the holidays and get ahead on your giftables. Making spiced nuts in the slow cooker also means that your oven is free for other things, like baking cookies for a certain jolly old elf.
Key Steps for Making Spiced Nuts
- Whisk it up: There's no need to dirty a mixing bowl — whisk the egg whites, sugar, and seasonings right in the slow cooker.
- Coat thoroughly: Pour in the nuts and toss until each piece is evenly coated in the syrup mixture.
- Use paper towels: Lay paper towels over top. The nuts will be fragrant and toasted in 3 hours on LOW or 1 hour on HIGH, but be sure to give them a quick stir every 20 minutes to make sure they cook evenly.
- Cool it down: Spread the nuts into an even layer on parchment to cool completely before transferring to a storage container or gift box. If nuts have cooled in a cluster, simply break them apart before storing.
Break out the good vanilla!
Vanilla is the prominent flavor of these nuts so you'll want to choose a good-quality, pure extract or, even better, vanilla bean paste. The paste is potent and decadent, with a texture like molasses. You'll be able to see specs of vanilla bean on the nuts, without the effort of scraping beans. Light brown sugar lends a caramel-like flavor to the nuts, for a flavor that might remind you of crème brûlée.
Serve and Store Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts
Tuck a few handfuls of these nuts into takeout boxes or fill a Mason jar with spiced nuts for gifting. I keep a container of these in the pantry year-round for snacking, adding to cheese platters, and topping salads.
How To Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts: The Essential Method
What You Need
2 large egg whites
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Measuring cups and spoons
6-quart slow cooker
Spatula or wooden spoon
- Coat a slow cooker with cooking spray. Lightly coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
- Whisk the egg whites until foamy. Place the egg whites in the slow cooker and whisk until frothy. Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon and stir into a thick syrup.
- Stir to coat the nuts in the syrup. Add the nuts and stir with a spatula until they are evenly coated.
- Cover with paper towels and the lid, then cook on LOW for 3 hours or HIGH for 1 hour. Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the slow cooker to catch condensation. Cover with the lid and cook, stirring every 20 minutes, until nuts are fragrant, lightly browned, and the coating appears dull and not shiny, 3 to 3 1/2 hours on the LOW setting or 1 to 1 1/2 hours on the HIGH setting.
- Spread onto parchment-lined baking sheets and cool completely. Stir one final time, then pour onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spread into an even layer, separating the nuts as much as possible, and cool completely.
- Separate nuts and transfer to serving or storage containers. Once cool, break apart any nuts that have stubbornly stuck together and transfer to a serving dish, jar for gifting, or airtight container for storage.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.