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Crunchy, Sweet, Salty, Spicy, Savory, Aromatic, Smoky, And Addictive Party Nuts

"If you are what you eat, no wonder people think I'm nuts."

By Meathead Goldwyn

No need to spend big bux for party snacks or handmade gifts. Smoke roasted nuts are easy to make and always a hit. Oh yeah, if you don't have a smoker or grill you can make most of these recipes just fine in your indoor oven without the smoke.

Serve them straight or mix them with dried fruits, pretzels, or Chex mix. Serve them as garnishes and toppings on salads, in rice dishes, in grits or oatmeal, in granola, or on top of ice cream. I've even had sweet pecans served in a dish of sweetbreads. Or just munch down on them as a snack with beer, cream sherry, whiskey on the rocks, and liqueurs.

They can be sweet, savory, or a little of both. Below are several recipes that I love but first some tricks and tips.

To do these recipes indoors

All these recipes can be done indoors. Just skip the wetting of the nuts and substitute your oven for the smoker.

About the ingredients

Nuts. Unless otherwise stated in the recipe, the nuts must be raw, unroasted, unsalted, and fresh. Most of these recipes involve roasting the nuts so you don't want to use nuts that have already been roasted. That will just dry them out or burn them. Finding raw cashews, almonds, and pecans is easy, but it is hard to find raw peanuts. When you do, taste them. I love peanuts raw.

Nuts have oils in them and they can go rancid so get your supply from a place that has high turnover such as health food stores. Nuts are usually freshest in late summer and fall. If you buy them on sale but don't plan to use them right away, store them in your freezer or fridge.

In the recipes below I have specified a type of nut, but you can often substitute or mix other nuts. Take your choice of raw pecan halves (not bits), walnut halves, whole almonds with or without skins (skins help hold on seasoning, but they are slightly bitter and tannic), cashews, skinless peanuts, macadamias, filberts, green pistachios (reds have a food dye added), or a mix. If you are mixing them, select nuts of similar size so they finish smoke roasting at the same time or rest them separately.

Pecans and walnuts have a hint of bitterness so they especially well with sweet coatings. Peanuts go best with sweetness. Raw almonds and cashews are the most versatile nuts and will work with practically any recipe on this page. Cashews are buttery and work especially well with savory. Almonds go both ways.

Wetting agent. Smoke adheres better to wet surfaces so many recipes call for you to wet the nuts before they go on the smoker. Water will do, but you can use other wetting agents like soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, vinegar, wine, soft drinks, or juice.

When I call for vegetable oil, you can use canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, or "salad" oil.

Lube. For some recipes you will need to oil the grill topper so the nuts won't stick. Spray oil works great, or you can brush on a tablespoon or two of cooking oil, or smear on some butter. The type of oil for this is not critical.

Salt. In all the recipes below I have specified table salt because table salt is small grain, it dissolves more easily, and it sticks better than larger grain salts. Click here to read more about different salt types.

Sugars. This is a bit like candy making so when I specify "sugar" I mean regular old fashioned white granulated sugar. Do not substitute brown sugar for white, molasses for honey, and if the recipe calls for maple syrup, use Grade B maple syrup. It has better flavor than grade A, which is more expensive. Do not substitute an artificial syrup like pancake syrup. It has different heating and flavor characteristics. And when cooking sugar, temperatures are critical.

Flavorings. As usual, I recommend you follow my recipe the first time and then riff on it as you wish. But some of these recipes are pretty flexible when it comes to flavorings. Other fun spices are garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, and Chinese five spice powder. Asian flavors seem to work especially well. Try them on your second batch.

Cinnamon. Most of the grocery store cinnamon is really made from its close cousin, cassia, and it's not even close to the real thing. One of the secrets to these recipes is to get real cinnamon from a spice specialist such as Penzey's. Once you taste Penzey's cinnamons (they offer several), you will never go back.

Chipotle. If the recipe calls for chipotle powder (hot), you can amp it up or dial it back. Feel free to substitute cayenne (about the same heat just less flavor), ancho powder (milder but great taste), or chili powder (varies), etc.

Smoke. Go easy on the smoke. As always, start with less than you think you'll need. You can always add more on the next cook, but you can easily waste money by oversmoking.

Equipment

Smoker or grill. You do not need a dedicated smoker, but it helps. It is not hard to smoke nuts on a charcoal or gas grill if you set it up properly for 2-zone cooking, and I have written several articles on the subject.

Thermometers. Nuts can burn easily. You also need good temperature control. These recipes, like many of the others on this site, require you to be able to hit 225°F or 325°F in the indirect heat zone (read my article on calibrating your cooker). Please please don't trust the thermometer that came with your grill or smoker! It can be off by as much as 50°F. Use a digital thermometer with a probe that is placed on the cooking surface, not in the dome. Read my Buyer's Guide to Thermometers.

An example: A few recipes call for you to mix sugar and water and heat the mix to "Soft Ball Stage" which is precisely 234°F to 240°F. At that temp, a small amount of the sugar syrup forms a ball that is soft enough to flatten with your fingers when it is dropped into cold water. If your thermometer is off, the recipe won't work properly. For more on the different stages of hot sugar used in candy making, read this article on the website The Science of Cooking.

Grill topper. You will also need something to hold the nuts while cooking that will let the smoke circulate around them and keep them from falling into the flames. In the recipes below I call for a "grill topper". There are some options shown in the sidebar on the right, but my favorite is Frogmats.

Cookie sheet or sheet pans. You will also need a cookie pan or sheet pan to go under the grill topper when you oil it and when you pour in the nuts or else your counter top will be a mess, and so will the floor as you carry things to and from the cooker. You may also need a cookie pan or sheet pan or two to dry the nuts for some recipes. Have enough of them so the nuts don't stack up on top of themselves if you can avoid it. Keep them in one layer.

Nonstick surface. Some recipes need a nonstick surface on which the nuts will cool. A silpat, a silicone mat, is the best choice and it can also be used for all manner of baking tasks, like rolling pizza dough or pie dough. A nonstick cookie pan will work, or parchment paper, which is infused with silicone and not made from parchment. You can use aluminum foil lightly coated with oil or butter. I don't recommend wax paper. Some of the recipes with molten sugar in them can burn wax paper.

Methods

Storage. Because nuts have oils, once they are cooked they should be stored in a tight container like a bottle, zipper bag, or tight plastic tub. They can be stored at room temp for a week for a week or two, but they can keep for weeks in the fridge, and months in the freezer.

Beware of liquid sugar. Molten sugar is an an amazingly efficient conductor of heat. A splatter of liquefied sugar can raise a nasty welt on your arm or face, or it can blind you. When sugar and water boil, and the bubbles pop, the spatters can really sting, so you should have on a long sleeved shirt, an apron, and safety glasses. Keep children and pets away. If you get hot sugar on your skin. Immediately get cold water on it.

Cleanup. The pan may look like hell, but soak it with a little hot water and soap for 20 minutes and it cleans right up.

Cooling. The texture and flavor changes significantly between the time you take nuts off the heat and when they cool thoroughly. So be patient and wait for the nuts to cool thoroughly before you pass judgement on them.

Sweet Nuts

The nuts below are spiced and seasoned and then coated with sugar to make a nice crunchy crust.


cinful pecans

Cinful Pecans

Egg whites give these sweeties an nice crunchy crust and the cinnamon, cloves, and ginger make it exotic and fragrant. They remind me of the marvelous treats they sell on Chicago's Navy Pier.

Prep time. 15 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
2 egg whites (2 ounces of Egg Beaters Original)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teapoon ground clove powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound raw pecan halves

About the Egg Beaters Original. According to the manufacturer "Egg Beaters are 99% all natural egg whites. Then we add back in the vitamins and minerals that are lost when the yolk is removed. Egg Beaters are naturally colored with beta-carotene, so Egg Beaters aren't just deliciously easy—they're also naturally delicious."

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt in a small bowl.

3) Add 1 teaspoon of cold water to the egg white in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk until it forms soft peaks.

4) Stir in the pecans, sugar and spice and everything nice. Coat evenly.

5) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Maple Ginger Pecans

Maple Ginger Pecans

This recipe is super easy and produces a subtly sweet, exotic tasting, deep colored nut. But you must use real maple syrup, none of the artificial pancake syrups allowed. I prefer the less expensive Grade B which has a stronger flavor.

Prep time. 30 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound raw pecan halves
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Option. Feel free to swap out the ginger and substitute cinnamon if you wish.

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the nuts and coat. Stir in the maple syrup, ginger, and salt.

3) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Sweet Satay Peanuts

Sweet Satay Peanuts

Do you like those Thai satayed meats with the peanut dipping sauce? Me too. That was the inspiration for this one. People love the hard cruchy shell.

Prep time. 15 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw peanuts
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon satay powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

About the peanuts. If you can't find raw peanuts you can use dry roasted unsalted nuts and skip steps 1 and 2. If you can only find salted, leave the salt out of the recipe.

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Wet the nuts with running water and then put them on a grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes. Stir and flip them after about 15 minutes.

3) Preheat a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and let it heat for about 30 seconds, then add the nuts, and stir fry for about 30 seconds more. Add the salt, sugar, and satay and stir fry until both dissolve, about 4 minutes until it goes amber but not brown. Be very careful not to burn the sugar or the nuts.

4) Pour onto a nonstick surface and cool thoroughly.


Parisian Cashews

Parisian Cashews

This recipe was inspired by David Lebovitz, a fine cook, a former pastry chef, and a book author living in Paris, with only minor changes. His blog is one of the food world's best and most popular. These nuts are super easy to make.

Total time. 1 hour
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw cashews
2 tablespoons melted salted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons table salt

Method
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Wet the nuts with running water and then put them on a grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes. Stir and flip them after about 15 minutes.

3) In a bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, chipotle, and maple syrup.

4) Add the warm nuts, and stir until the nuts are completely coated. Then stir in the salt.

5) Oil the grill topper and pour the nuts onto it and return to the smoker for about 15 minutes. Stir twice to make sure the sugar isn't clumping. The exact baking time will vary, but the nuts are done when they are nice and toasty, and the mixture is nicely glazed.

6) Remove from grill and cool completely, separating them as they cool. Cool thoroughly.


 

Savory Nuts

The nuts below get their charm from herbs and spices. They are not very sweet.


Smoked Almonds For Beer

Smoked Almonds For Beer

After you taste these simple smoked salted almonds, you'll never buy the commercial stuff again.

Prep time. 20 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw almonds, skins on
4 teaspoons table salt

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Soak the nuts in water for 10 minutes and then drain. Sprinkle with the salt and stir.

3) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Memphis Dust Almonds

Memphis Dust Almonds

Take smoked almonds and mix in a barbecue rub and you end up with a real treat perfect for munching with beer.

Prep time. 20 minutes if you have Meathead's Memphis Dust pre-made, and you should always have some on hand
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. about 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw almonds, skins on
3 teaspoons Meathead's Memphis Dust recipe

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Soak the nuts in water for 10 minutes and then drain. Sprinkle with the spice mix and stir.

3) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Simon & Garfunkel Herbed Almonds

Simon & Garfunkel Herbed Almonds

This is simply a variation on smoked almonds, but they are amped up with my popular pork and poultry spice mix recipe, Simon & Garfunkel Rub.

Prep time. 15 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw almonds, skins on
3 teaspoons Simon & Garfunkel Rub recipe
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt

Method
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Soak the nuts in water for 10 minutes and then drain. Sprinkle with the spice mix and stir.

3) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Union Square Rosemary Scented Cashews

Union Square Rosemary Scented Cashews

Inspired by a munchie served at the Union Square Cafe in New York City and a recipe by Ina Garten. The Union Square Cafe is one of only two restaurants ever to have won all three of the following James Beard Awards: Outstanding Service, Outstanding Wine Service, and Outstanding Restaurant. The other happens to be their sister restaurant, Gramercy Tavern. I have modified the recipe a bit to make it easier, but the result is a delicate, complex, buttery, upscale flavor. Serve these with a buttery chardonnay.

Total time. 1 hour
Cooling time. 24 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw cashews
1/2 teaspoon powdered rosemary
3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons salted butter

About the rosemary. It is hard to find powdered rosemary, so just take dried rosemary leaves and grind them in a mortar and pestle or put them in a spice grinder or a coffee grinder.

Method
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Wet the nuts with running water and then put them on a grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes. Flip them once.

3) Combine the rosemary, sugar, chipotle, and salt in a bowl large enough to hold all the nuts. Melt the butter, pour it into the bowl and mix. Dump in the cashews and mix until coated.

4) Spread on a sheet or plate and let them dry for 12 to 24 hours or else they will leave your fingers buttery. If you don't mind licking your fingers, no need to wait.


Curried Lime Cashews

Curried Lime Cashews

Inspired by Carolyn Malcoun of Eating Well magazine. These nuts have a subtle curry flavor and a hint of lime in the background. They are not as potent as you fear.

Prep time. 15 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw cashews
5 tablespoons lime juice
5 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

Method
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Soak the nuts in water for 10 minutes and drain well.

3) Mix the lime juice with the curry powder and salt, stir in the nuts and coat.

4) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Fragrant Pecans

These nuts have a pretty floral scent and a hint of sweetness, but not too much.

Total prep and cooking time. 45 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw pecan halves
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons sugar

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Wet the nuts with water go bout 10 minutes, pour onto a grill topper, and smoke for about 30 minutes.

3) Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium low heat. Add the salt, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, and allspice and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the nuts and stir frequently for about 5 minutes. Dump into a bowl and stir in the sugar.

4) Pour onto a pan and cool thoroughly.


Five Spice Cashews

Also inspired by Carolyn Malcoun of Eating Well magazine, these nuts have a pleasant Asian lilt to them.

Prep time. 15 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
1 pound raw cashews
4 tablespoons orange juice
4 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons table salt

Method
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) Soak the nuts in water for 10 minutes and drain well.

3) Mix the juice with the spice and salt, stir in the nuts and coat.

4) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


Beefy Almonds

A splash of Worcestershire, black pepper, garlic, cumin, and hot sauce make these nut meats taste like meat. But don't worry, you'll barely notice the heat. Wash these down with a Moscato or Spumante.

Prep time. 20 minutes
Cooking time. 30 minutes
Cooling time. 2 hours
Makes. 1 pound

Ingredients
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
1 pound raw pecan halves

Do this
1) Preheat your grill/smoker to 225°F in the indirect zone.

2) In a bowl, mix together the cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. Add the wet ingredients and stir. Add the nuts and coat.

3) Place on an oiled grill topper and smoke for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping after 15 minutes. Take them off, spread the out in a pan and let them cool and harden thoroughly for about 2 hours.


 

This page was revised 12/20/2013


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About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, spareribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, edited by Meathead.

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