Kitchn Love Letters

These Are the Sugar-and-Spice Nuts I Make Over and Over Again

published Mar 19, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Christine Gallary

Many of the cooking classes I used to teach started after work, and participants often arrived very hungry and disappointed that dinner was still two hours away. To keep everyone from getting hangry and to provide a little boost of energy for the upcoming prepping and cooking time, I started serving Food & Wine magazine’s sugar-and-spice nuts as a little snack right at the beginning. The recipe comes from event planner Bronson van Wyck, so it’s no surprise that they’re a crowd-pleaser. These sweet, savory, salty, and slightly spicy cashews and almonds became so popular that I had to start sharing the recipe with my students because it was such a popular request. They’re honestly so good I’ve never even tried making another candied nut recipe since.

These sugar-and-spice nuts are a wonderful happy-hour nosh. They pair well with pretty much anything you’re drinking and are also a great addition to a cheese board. The crispy coating stays fresh for about a week, so they can be made ahead of time and just pulled out when guests come over. I’ve even taken them up on a ski trip as a welcome après-ski snack! A small (or large) jar of the nuts also makes a nice gift.

How to Make Food and Wine’s Sugar-and-Spice Nuts

These candied nuts are made in the oven, so there’s no need to deal with hot sugar or a thermometer on the stovetop. Start by tossing raw almonds and cashews in beaten egg white and a mixture of granulated sugar, salt, chile powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. The amount of cayenne might seem extreme, but (trust me on this!) it balances out well with the other spices and only adds a mild bit of heat. Spread the sticky mess onto a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring a few times. The sugar melts and fuses onto the nuts to create a deliciously spicy-sweet coating. Let them cool off so they get a chance to crisp up and then start snacking away!

While I love the combination of chile powder, cinnamon, and cayenne here, Chinese 5-spice powder is also a tasty alternative if you want a different flavor profile. Use 1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice powder, omit the chili powder and cinnamon, and keep everything else the same. A batch of these nuts are especially good with a cup of hot tea.

If You’re Making Food and Wine’s Sugar-and-Spice Nuts, a Few Tips

  • Use parchment paper. To guarantee no sticking or unwelcome soaking and scrubbing time, line the baking sheet with parchment paper instead of coating it with cooking spray.
  • Use the right amount of salt. Diamond Crystal kosher salt provides the right amount of saltiness to balance out the spices and sugar and is what I prefer to use here. If you don’t have that, use 2 teaspoons Morton’s coarse kosher or 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt instead.
  • Stir a few times. Stir the nuts every 15 minutes during baking so they are evenly coated. When they’re done, let them cool on the baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, then break them up into smaller pieces with your hands while they’re still warm if they’re stuck together. If you wait too long, they’ll harden and crisp up into chunks that are harder to break apart.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.