Spicy Pecans

Spicy Pecans

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

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  1. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  3. 1/2-3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on your heat preference)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried ground orange peel
  6. 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  7. 1 pound pecan halves
  8. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pats
  9. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark...it's up to you. I prefer dark.)
  10. 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.
  1. *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 https://altonbrown.com/
Alton Brown's Spicy Pecans


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  1. 1

    Has anyone made this without the orange peel? My husband couldn’t find any at the store and I’ve been dying to try the recipe. Just don’t have any orange peel 🙁

  2. 3

    I am a big fan of the original recipe, without smoked paprika– I have smoked paprika, but don’t like it except on octopus with potatoes. I didn’t have any issues with toasting the spices, but I do that often for Indian dishes, so I know that it has to be really quick, and be ready with the next step. I didn’t have dark brown sugar the first time, and light brown sugar was fine. Not sure why more water is needed, but okay. The result was addictive. Thanks, Alton, I’m taking them to Madrid for the holidays again (at least 8 lbs, they made a lot of Spaniards really happy!).

  3. 4

    I toasted pecans in a 350* oven for 8-10 minutes. I then mixed spices with butter in a heavy sauce pan until slightly toasted and aromatic. Added coconut sugar until melted, added water and tossed pecans to this sugary mixture. If you need to dry or crisp the pecans a bit more spread out really well on parchment-foil lined pan return to the oven just a few minutes more. I made these changes due to issues with my shoulders, less stirring. But same end result. This is also very good using walnuts or almonds. Also maple syrup is a great addition to the sugar mixture, a couple tablespoons or so does the trick. I’m just very partial to the flavor of REAL maple syrup, especially when using walnuts. I leave out the savory spices, increase the cinnamon and salt a tiny bit. It just makes the kitchen smell warm and toasty and gives the walnuts a distinct buttery flavor. Again be careful of clumping.

  4. 5

    Amazing! Perfect spicy sweet combo. Although, I might try a full teaspoon of cayenne next time because I am a heat fanatic.
    Now I have something to use that bag of dark brown sugar for.
    I kept my heat on medium, kept the vent on, and luckily did not experience the “toxic spice cloud” others did. Heated the spices for exactly 30 seconds. Cannot wait to make these again.

  5. 6

    I did not have any problem with the cayenne. I may have a problem not eating the entire batch before I have a chance to give it away. 🙂

  6. 7

    I love this recipe and I’m looking forward to trying the new method. But there is a typo/missing word in step 4, second to last sentence. Could you please clarify this sentence? I think the import is pretty clear, but I would like to be sure. Thank you!

  7. 8

    Great recipe, but do not, repeat, DO NOT ADD THE SPICES BEFORE THE BUTTER. I just ended up pepper spraying the whole family due to the pepper oil released into the air when the cayenne toasts. I made this last year and did the same thing, but I thought I did it in the wrong order. Otherwise everyone loves these once they stop coughing.

    • 9

      Same happened to me. I came back to read any warnings that I may have missed, and found them here in the comments. My family survived and loves the nuts now that we can breathe again 🙂

  8. 10

    Dear Swannie – you pick another recipe or you experiment with what you’ve gathered about keto friendly sweets. That’s how you make Keto friendly treats. (Or you could just make this and take a small break from being rigidly Keto for a day)

    Before you think my suggestion rude, please consider that you’ve asked someone to modify his recipe for you.

    • 11

      Dear Suzi,
      Please be helpful, I am sure that all chefs alter recipes. This one has been altered from previous versions. Your post is not helpful to other keto fans.

  9. 13
    Cathy Bennett

    Made them just like the recipe said and just WOW are they good. I had to make my own dried orange peel and went with the lowest amount of cayenne. And like others have said, turn on the exhaust fan before adding the spices!

  10. 14
    Mary Anne

    Literally had coughing fit so bad I couldn’t stand up after adding the spices. My husband had to throw the pan outside and air out the house. My lungs are still hurting. Next time, I will melt the spices into the butter and then put them in the pan. I’ll just have to forego toasting the spices — really a recipe for home-made pepper spray.

  11. 15

    Just made these, and I agree there should be a warning about the toxic spice cloud! At least I had an inkling what was coming, but had to chase the dogs and my 80 year old mother out into the 20 degree day! If I try these again, I’ll add the butter, then the spices, and keep the heat down a bit. Other than that, I substituted whiskey for the water, now waiting for them to cool and crisp up a bit, but they are pretty tasty.

  12. 16

    Mr. Brown, any chance of an option to get the recipe – and other recipes on your site – by weight instead of volume? So much easier to weigh brown sugar than to pack a measuring cup and a tablespoon. Thank you!

  13. 19
    John S

    Of course the small changes make a big difference, I made a batch last night with the old recipe. Aargh! I wonder how many pecans I have left….

  14. 20

    Just made these to use as a topping for sweet potatoes. I wanted them to be sweeter for this application, so I subbed the cumin for ground cloves, and the water for Jamaican rum. This method is amazing, it makes the perfect glazed pecans. Highly recommend subbing rum!

  15. 22

    Realized after I posted my previous comment that the # changes when comments are added.
    It was still meant for Jodi. 🙂
    I made a mistake when making these today; I put the water in before the sugar. In my reading the recipe quickly, I overlooked the part about adding the sugar, then the water. 🙁
    They still have a good taste, but are not as glazed looking as they should be.
    I have been cooking and baking for years, and I still make mistakes like this.
    So, don’t feel bad folks when mistakes like this are made. You are not alone in them. 🙂


  16. 23

    Jodi/Comment #3,
    You used the wrong measurement. It says use a teaspoon not a Tablespoon of cayenne pepper.
    Yowsa! Hot lips!!
    I feel your pain. I did something like that years back with some spicy Louisiana breaking I was given to use on pork chops.
    I used the whole bag. My family could not eat them, they were so hot. Had to toss them out.
    I was later told by the giver, that I was supposed to use a small amount mixed in with flour.

  17. 24

    I realised I had no brown sugar too late so I used Indonesian coconut sugar instead. They were delicious. I have never made them before so I cannot compare to the original recipe. I dissolved the sugar in the butter/spice mixture before adding to toasted pecans as advised online for baking with coconut sugar. Also, I did dry the final product out a bit in the oven as they were sticky (perhaps because of the change in sugar). I will use this recipe again.

  18. 25
    Anna Amalia Costes

    I realised I had no brown sugar too late so I used Indonesian coconut sugar instead. They were delicious. I have never made them before so I cannot compare to the original recipe. I dissolved the sugar in the butter/spice mixture before adding to toasted pecans as advised online for baking with coconut sugar. Also, I did dry the final product out a bit in the oven as they were sticky (perhaps because of the change in sugar). I will use this recipe again.

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