These one-skillet, sweet and spicy pecans have earned the name ‘Crack Pecans’ among my family and friends. And, if you make them, too, it’s likely they’ll acquire a similar moniker amongst your clan.
Because these things are addictive, in that way that only crispy-salty-sweet-spicy (and buttery) things can be.
On Thanksgiving we like to keep the pre-dinner snacks simple and light. A bowl of these pecans and a plate of sliced, raw fennel and that’s about it. Perfect for whetting the appetite but not so filling that we spoil the main event. And these crisp, buttery pecans with the crunchy, herbaceous fennel are a match made in heaven.
I make the candied pecans in a skillet on the stovetop; it takes all of 10 minutes, and you can easily scale up the recipe if needed to feed more people. Cooled completely and stored in an airtight container they’ll keep for up to 3 days, so I often make these a couple of days in advance — one less thing to do the day-of.
And if you need another reason to make a batch — they also make the perfect soup or salad toppers. So don’t wait for a special occasion to make these delicious nuggets of goodness.
Candied Maple Pecans with Cayenne + Flaky Salt
Makes 3 cups (serving about 8-10 as a pre-dinner snack)
Gluten-free/Grain-free (and Dairy-free/Vegan if you sub olive or coconut oil for the butter)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive or coconut oil, to make dairy-free/vegan)
3 cups raw shelled pecans
3 tablespoons maple syrup (I like dark / Grade B maple syrup)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), or to taste
Line a large plate or rimmed baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper and set aside.
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and cook until browned and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often so they don’t scorch.
Add maple syrup and cayenne to skillet and stir to coat pecans. Sprinkle salt over pecans and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape pecans onto prepared plate or baking sheet, spreading them in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little more salt if you like. Cool completely before serving (they will crisp up as they cool).
Once the pecans are completely cooled, store in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 3 days.