Spicy Pecans

Spicy Pecans

These make fantastic host/hostess gifts (see photo below), as well as a simple snack or holiday appetizer.



  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on your heat preference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into small pats)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark…it's up to you. I prefer dark.)
  • 3 tablespoons water


  1. Line a clean counter with a piece of parchment paper or foil at least 20 inches long. (In a pinch, you can use heavy duty aluminum foil.)
  2. Mix the cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, smoked paprika and orange peel together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Place the nuts in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a large wooden spoon or spatula for 4 to 5 minutes or until the pecans begin to brown release their roast aroma.
  4. Stir in the spices until just fragrant (15-30 seconds) then add the butter pats and stir to melt. Follow that with the sugar. When thoroughly mixed add the water. Stir 2 to 3 minutes or until the sugar has completely and the nuts look glazed. Sprinkle over with the kosher salt and remove from heat.
  5. Spread the nuts evenly onto the parchment or foil so that they don’t dry in clumps. Cool completely before transferring to an airtight container for storage.
  6. Although the nuts can be stored at room temp for up to three weeks or frozen (tightly wrapped) for up three months, odds are good they won’t last more than a day or two.

*This is a newly modified version of the version that’s been online for a couple of years. The changes may seem small, but they make a big difference.

Alton Brown's Spicy Pecans


Add yours
  1. 1

    Delicious! I did add the spices to the mix after the butter as I did not want to expose myself to the fumes of the cayenne. Still, quite good.

  2. 4

    Just so ya’ll know…. in his original recipe, he adds /melts the butter before adding the spices. I about gassed myself adding spices first, even though I was ready for it! LOL

  3. 5

    Alton you’re my go-to guy when doing my own version of cooks illustrated best recipes, however I did make a few alterations and…we won everyone over with my mod version of your recipe, so thank you! Stir ALL dry ingred. into melty salted butter, include cayenne( amt as sugg )& added 1/2 t chili powder(no paprika-don’t recall that in orig recipe). Add in toasted nuts for syrupy mixture, back in toaster oven for another 10 min, cooled then broke up into pieces. OMG amazing!

  4. 6
    P. Koskiniemi

    When the cayenne pepper hits the hot pan it can cause serious breathing problems. Better to add the cayenne at the end with the salt. Once the fumes become airborne it’s like getting doused with pepper spray! I have a well ventilated kitchen with the door open and the fan on and it’s still a problem. At first I thought it was because I have sensitive lungs but when even my husband started coughing, I knew it could be a problem for others as well. I wished I had read the warnings from others that have commented. Other than that, it’s a great recipe!!

  5. 8
    Carroll Ann Palmer

    Very easy to prepare.YES WEAR A MASK OPEN A DOOR CLEAR THE AREA as the spices hitting the pan are “lethal” . I did add ginger because..ginger. I used fresh orange zest too. I also subbed out the brown sugar for SWERVE confectioners. Do add salt at the end. Thanks Alton

  6. 9

    I have used this recipe a few times and it seems to work better when I alter the process. When I process as written the nuts do not get evenly coated with ingredients. I have had more success by removing the nuts from the pan and then melting the butter and then adding the dry ingredients. When the butter is completely melted I add the water and pecans. At this point, I work really fast to coat the nuts and pour them onto parchment paper. Adding a little more water works even better, but may cause the nuts to stick together. I

  7. 10

    I’m no mathematician, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the 1 pound of pecan halves will have this recipe produce 1 pound of pecans.

  8. 12

    Loved the recipe! Super easy. I made two batches since I was unsure about the cumin (I had a strange experience with cumin in a pumpkin pie once). The second batch I used pumpkin pie spice instead. They were good but I prefer the 1st batch with the cumin. Well done, Mr. Brown! I also used fresh orange zest and it worked fine. I didn’t have time to have dried. These are going to be bagged up for a little holiday treat for my office mates and will be a new tradition, I’m sure of it!

  9. 13

    Totally agree with previous comment .. this really needs to come with a warning about tossing the spices in a hot skillet. Basically forced my wife out of the area, I turned on exhaust fan, ceiling fan and opened windows. Wasn’t fun.

  10. 14

    This recipe needs to come with a warning: WEAR A DUST MASK when preparing this recipe. I am not sure I understand the rationale for putting dried postered spices in a hot iron skillet but it creates an cayenne / cumin / cinnamon dust cloud that left me coughing for 30 minutes. After recovery, we were able to enjoy these pecans. Good recipe but heed the warnings

  11. 19
    Sue Towers

    Made these in a wok as I don’t have la arge enough iron frying pan. Heated them in the oven first. They are still hot on the ).

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