When the holiday season approaches, I always get plenty of use out of my home kitchen. One tradition that I hold dear is crafting batches of Chinese 5 Spice Candied Nuts. Whether destined for the communal snack table at family gatherings or bagged and wrapped with ribbon for sharing as gifts, these candied nuts have become an annual tradition for my wife and I in the latter months of the year. You can use any mix of raw nuts you like, but I prefer pecan and walnut halves.
In the realm of holiday sweets, we often stick to the classics. But what if we added a subtle Eastern touch to the familiar? I’ve been using Chinese 5 spice for years in my fall and winter goodies —a spice blend that might sound exotic, but it's a surprisingly cozy addition to holiday treats. Despite the name, 5 spice can be a blend of anywhere between five and nine spices, ground and mixed in different quantities. Just like curry powder, not all mixes are of the same proportions but most every mix I’ve used has suited this recipe well.
This particular store-bought mix that I love so much contains seven spices: cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise, ground ginger, white pepper, and licorice root.
These candied nuts are a somewhat abnormal take on the American holiday season. Any combination of nuts you choose are simmered in a spiced simple syrup and then baked until the nuts are nice and crunchy and the sweet coating is set and sheen.
Chinese 5 Spice Candied Nuts
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
Total Time: 55-65 minutes
4 cups mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine water, white sugar, brown sugar, and Chinese 5 Spice. Stir the mixture until the sugars dissolve and the mixture comes to a simmer. Add half of the mixed nuts and simmer for 5-7 minutes until they begin to plump and darken in color. Use a slotted spoon or small strainer to fish the nuts out and toss them in a bowl with half of the kosher salt. Repeat the process with the remaining nuts.
3. Spread the simmered and salted nuts evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes for even cooking. The nuts should be golden, and the coating should begin to darken and set.
4. Allow the nuts to cool completely on the baking sheet. As they cool, the coating will harden. Once cooled, break apart any clusters of nuts. Store any leftover syrup for another batch of nuts in the future.
5. Serve the Chinese 5 Spice candied nuts as a delightful holiday snack, or package them in decorative containers for a homemade gift.
- Pretty much any nuts you decide to use here are acceptable. I like to get nuts that are in halves or large pieces. Using chopped nuts can speed up the baking time and, if used with a blend, can cause burning among the smaller pieces.
- Feel free to use any spice blend you choose! You could use just a heart heap of cinnamon or could venture into adding a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to your syrup. The world is your oyster!
- The leftover syrup can be contained and stored in the fridge for your next candying experience for 4 to 6 weeks.
- The caramelization of sugars happens based on the temperature of your oven. I like mine to have a little bit of a dark back end but you could always lower your oven temp and cook for a few more minutes for less caramelization.
Join us for one of our holiday-themed classes this season:
- Holiday Pies and Tarts – Friday, December 8 11am
- Holiday Treats Workshop – Saturday December 9 10am
- Holiday Treats Workshop – Saturday December 16 10am
- Virtual Holiday Cookies – Sunday December 10 11am CST
- Festive Family Baking – Saturday December 23 10am
- Savory Pies – Saturday December 23 11am