I’m sneaking in one more holiday-worthy treat while I can! These candied pecans are one of my favorite recipes (well, they’re all my favorite) in my cookbook. I vividly recall making batch after batch after batch one night until I got this candied pecan recipe just right.
Unlike most candied pecans, which are made with refined sugar, these candied pecans are made with a reasonable amount of real maple syrup. The maple syrup condenses in the oven. After several stirs, the maple syrup forms a beautifully shiny and crisp, sweet but not sticky exterior.
Delicious maple syrup is the perfect complement to toasty pecans. For classic candied pecans, I add some vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper for heat (optional). I’ve come up with a few more fun variations, which you’ll find below.
These candied pecans pack beautifully if you would like to make them for friends or bring them to a holiday party. They’ll help break up all the cookies on the table. They would also be a great addition to your salads and snack mixes.
Fair warning, these nuts are irresistible. When I shared these candied pecans with my boyfriend, he declared them “the only candied pecans you’ll ever want to eat.” And then I had to take the bag back from him. How about that?
How to Make the Best Candied Pecans
This recipe’s success boils down to a few key techniques. Fortunately, they’re all very easy to achieve.
- Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Otherwise, the maple syrup could stick to the pan instead of the pecans.
- Toss the pecans in maple syrup and your desired flavorings. Spread them across the pan.
- Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter, and the nuts will burn before the maple syrup has ample time to condense. Burnt pecans make me sad.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then start stirring every 5 minutes. Stirring is important because it helps the condensed maple syrup cling to the pecans, and ensures that the pecans around the edges don’t burn.
- Let them cool. After a final stir out of the oven, let the pecans cool until they’re safe to touch. Gently tug apart any pecans that are stuck to each other, then let them cool completely. They’ll continue to crisp up as they cool.
That’s it! These candied pecans will become famous at your holiday parties.
Candied Pecan Variations
For classic candied pecans, add a little vanilla extract, cinnamon and cayenne pepper (optional, for a little kick to balance the sweetness). In other words, use the first option listed in each ingredient line.
For pumpkin spice pecans, add a full tablespoon of pumpkin spice blend in lieu of the cinnamon. These taste like the holidays!
For bourbon pecans, add a tablespoon of bourbon instead of vanilla extract. Pecans, maple syrup and bourbon are a trio made in heaven.
Want to use other nuts? You sure can, but pecans are my favorite.
Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Looking for more simple holiday treats? I’ve got you covered!
Naturally Sweetened Candied Pecans
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 3 cups 1x
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
The best candied pecans are also naturally sweetened! For this recipe, you’ll simply toss raw pecan halves in maple syrup and bake—it’s easy! Recipe yields 3 cups candied pecans.
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt*
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice blend (for pumpkin-spiced pecans)
- Scant ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for some heat)
- 3 cups raw pecan halves
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat so the maple syrup doesn’t get stuck to the pan (this is important).
- In a medium bowl, combine the maple syrup, melted butter, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne (if you using) and whisk until blended. Add the pecans and stir to coat.
- Dump the contents of the bowl onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out in a single layer (the maple syrup will pool on the bottom of the pan, but that’s okay).
- Bake, stirring after the first 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes thereafter, until almost no maple syrup remains on the parchment paper and the nuts are deeply golden, 23 to 26 minutes. (The maple syrup coating will be a little sticky right out of the oven, but will harden as the pecans cool.)
- Remove from the oven and stir the pecans one more time, spreading them into an even layer across the pan. Let them cool down for about 10 minutes, then, while the nuts are still warm, carefully separate any large clumps. Let the pecans cool completely on the pan.
- Candied pecans will keep for up to 2 months in a sealed bag at room temperature.
Recipe minimally adapted from my cookbook, Love Real Food.
*Salt note: I like how the large flakes of kosher salt make some bites a little saltier than others, but kosher salt’s weight varies considerably by brand. I used Diamond Crystal salt brand. If you’re using Morton kosher salt, use 1 teaspoon. If you’re using fine sea salt or regular table salt, use ¾ teaspoon.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Substitute extra-virgin olive oil for the butter.
Change it up: See flavoring options provided within recipe. You can substitute other nuts for the pecans (it’s hard to beat pecans, though). You can also use honey in place of the maple syrup, but I really prefer the flavor of the maple syrup version. If you use honey, your nuts will probably need longer in the oven, about 30 minutes. Be sure to stir every 5 minutes as directed.