These addictive Spicy and Sweet Cocktail Pecans are a must for happy hours and cocktail parties. Deceptively simple to make, they’re just perfect with wine and cheeses, with beer and cocktails, or, simply, as a luxurious snack.
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My passion for Cocktail Pecans started back when I was studying translation at a Toronto university. When my boyfriend (now partner and father of my son) visited on the weekends, we often treated ourselves to a visit to Pusateri’s, one of Toronto’s most elegant grocery stores, to buy ready-made but delicious dishes that we could eat out as a picnic or easily enjoy in my university residence room.
During one of those visits to Pusateri’s, we were shopping for cheeses and discovered the store’s Maple-Glazed Pecans. Pecans are an expensive nut to begin with, but doused in maple syrup and sold in a gourmet store—they become a real indulgence. Yet, we treated ourselves to a tiny $8 tray out of curiosity and were instantly addicted. From then on, we bought them every time we bought cheese there—let me just say that it became rather an expensive habit.
After I came back home from Toronto, I realized I could pretty easily make those posh pecans at home. It took me all of one try to make them perfect—dare I say, even better. I followed my taste memory, drizzled and sprinkled a little of this and that, baked the pecans for 10 minutes and voilà, the most delicious snack came out of my oven.
These Spicy and Sweet Cocktail Pecans are often the things that create the biggest impression when I host happy hour. They’re just that addictive! They are deceptively simple to make but deliver an impeccable balance of spicy and sweet. Just perfect with wine and cheeses, with beer and cocktails, or, simply, as a luxurious snack.
Helpful Tips for Making Cocktail Pecans
Buy in bulk: All nuts are expensive, but pecan halves especially so. Look for them in stores that sell ingredients in bulk—you’ll pay a fraction of the grocery store price. Always make sure to smell or even taste the pecans (if the store will let you!) before you buy them: as any nut, pecans can turn rancid, and there’s nothing more frustrating than buying a $10 bag of nuts that have turned bad. In Canada, I recommend ordering nuts from Yupik, a bulk food company that stocks super-fresh, top-quality nuts (even organic ones). They have a few stores around the country, but you can also order their nuts through Amazon.
Always keep raw nuts in the fridge—not the freezer: Buying nuts in bulk means you’re likely to have extra on hand. To avoid nuts going rancid (nuts will quickly turn on you if you keep them at room temperature), always store them in an airtight bag at the back of the fridge. Do not keep nuts in the freezer as they could be quick victims of freezer burn (damage caused by dehydration and oxidation), especially if you store them in a refrigerator freezer (as opposed to a chest freezer).
Only use *real* maple syrup: This should go without saying, but make sure to use pure maple syrup—not maple-flavored syrup—on these Cocktail Pecans. Pecans deserve the best!
Keep an eye on those Cocktail Pecans while they’re in the oven: Nuts can burn quickly. If you know your oven tends to be on the hotter side, or if you have a convection oven, start checking on the nuts after 10 minutes. The nuts are ready when they release their aroma, appear to be sizzling, and seem browned in bits. Remove them from the oven as soon as they seem ready to save yourself from the disappointment of producing a whole tray of burnt nuts.
Be patient—let those nuts cool completely: As they come out of the oven, the Cocktail Pecans will still appear wet and they’ll be tender to the bite. As they cool, their spicy and sweet shell will harden, and the nuts will crisp up to perfection. The nuts should preferably rest at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.
These addictive cocktail pecans are a must for happy hours and cocktail parties. Deceptively simple to make, they're just perfect with wine and cheeses, with beer and cocktails, or, simply, as a luxurious snack.
Place the pecans in a large bowl. In a second, small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle over the pecans, then use a spatula to gently mix the nuts to coat them with the flavorings.
Spread the coated pecans on the prepared baking sheet. Scrape every last bit of the syrup mixture out of the mixing bowl and drizzle it over the nuts. Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt and generously season with black pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Important note: If your oven is running hot, or if you have a convection oven, start checking on the nuts at the 10-minute mark. The nuts are ready when they release their aroma, appear to be sizzling, and seem browned in bits. Remove the pecans from the oven as soon as they appear to be ready to avoid burning them.
Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cocktail pecans cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour. The syrup mixture will harden around the nuts as they cool, creating that irresistible crunchiness. Once the nuts are cool and dry, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
NOTE: Spanish paprika gives a delightful smokiness to the nuts. If you can't find it, do not substitute regular (Hungarian) paprika, and it will not contribute the same flavor. You can simply omit the ingredient, or replace both the Spanish paprika and cayenne pepper by 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ancho chili powder.
Did you make this?
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Looking for More Cocktail Party Recipe Ideas?
My cookbook, French Appetizers, is a collection of fresh, modern, and versatile French-inspired recipes that are perfect to serve when you host happy hour, gatherings with friends, or a casual evening meal. In the book, you’ll find:
> Basic dips and condiments
> Small bites and elegant verrines
> Savory cakes and tarts
> Breads, sandwiches, and toasts
> Sweet bites and drinks
Many recipes include simple formulas to make several versions of a single recipe so that you are only limited by your own taste buds and creativity.Learn more or buy now!
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