You will love this Trader Joe's sweet and spicy pecans copycat recipe. Candied nuts are easy to bake for snacks, gifts, road trips, or parties. Even if you have never made them before.
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Do you love sweet and spicy? I remember the first time I popped a few Trader Joe’s sweet and spicy pecans in my mouth. They had a warm, sweet flavor at first. Then there was fire in the back of my throat – the spicy had arrived.
Maybe you love spicy. Or perhaps you’re a wimp, like me, when it comes to spicy. But you can’t stop yourself from craving it anyway.
If you are looking for a touch of sweetness and a mouthful of fire, you will love the flavor profile of this copycat Trader Joe’s sweet and spicy pecan recipe. Trust me, one handful isn’t enough.
Don’t worry. I will tell you how to adjust the recipe to get your ideal heat tolerance. And I’ll share all the ways you can indulge in your new favorite snack.
3 Reasons You Will Love This Recipe
- Hard to resist. Did I mention these are addicting? They really are, and you’re not going to want to share. The absolutely perfect balance between sweet and spicy. You may just have to make a second batch.
- Perfect Snack. Forget the chips and candy bar. Sweet and spicy pecans are the perfect go-to snack. Once you make a batch, you can snack on them all week. Mix them with dried fruit for a trail mix with the right amount of spice.
Try them on a road trip. Skip the bag of M & M’s and eat roasted pecans instead.
They also make an excellent munching snack for parties, like Bunco game night or your hubby’s D&D party.
- Simple recipe. Don’t be intimidated by toasting nuts, even if you’ve never done it before. Trust me, it is hard to mess them up. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
You can make this recipe any time of the year because the nuts bake at such a low temperature. When it’s 100 something outside, don’t worry about overheating your house when baking this delicious recipe. Plus, your home will smell amazing!
Just a handful of simple ingredients are all you need in this great recipe.
Fresh, Raw Pecan Halves
Pecans have vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. What is not to love?
Choose pecan halves for this recipe. They are easier to flip over during toasting than smaller nut pieces. But don’t stress if your package of pecans has some fragments. Most packages will.
There are plenty of places to get your hands on pre-shelled pecans. You can buy whole pecans and crack the shell yourself. But you will add at least an hour to the recipe time if you do.
An egg white, plus a splash of water, is the only liquid you need to moisten the nuts. The egg wash helps the sugar and spices stick to the pecans initially.
Then when baked, the wash acts as the glue keeping all the delicious goodness adhered to the pecans.
This recipe uses ½ cup of granulated sugar. You want to reduce the amount of sugar, if you want. Remember that the pecans will be spicier without the sweet balance.
Here’s where it gets fun – the flavor combination of all the spices. What spices are in Trader Joe's sweet and spicy pecans?
- Ground cinnamon. Cinnamon is a warm spice, although not spicy the same way chili powder is.
- Ground ginger. Ground ginger has a mild bite compared to fresh ginger. It has warm and slightly sweet flavor tones.
- Ground chili powder. Which chili powder should you use? Many grocery store spice shelves have containers of generic chili powder, which could be a mix of any ground chili pepper.
For this recipe, I recommend Ancho chili powder (made from milder poblano peppers) or chipotle chili powder (made from smoked dried jalapeno peppers). Or use what is in your cupboard. Nothing wrong with that.
- Salt. Add some salt to enhance the flavors.
Tools You’ll Need
- Large, rimmed baking sheet. A pan with a rim keeps the nuts from accidentally sliding off when you stir them. A half sheet pan (18 X 13 inches) is a good size. Buy here.
- Large mixing bowl. A large bowl helps you avoid spilling nuts all over the counter when you stir them with the egg wash. Buy here.
- Parchment paper. It can be challenging to clean the pan if you don’t use parchment paper. Save yourself a headache. Buy here.
A second option is a silicone baking mat. It isn’t my first choice because it seems to take the nuts longer to finish toasting. Buy here.
Don’t spray the pan with nonstick spray since it can leave a film on your pan that is nearly impossible to scrub off.
However, you can brush the pan with a light coat of olive oil to help prevent sticking if you don’t have parchment paper.
- A spatula or spoon. When the nuts are more than halfway done baking, stir them so they toast evenly. Some people prefer flipping, and others prefer stirring.
- An electric hand mixer with a wire whisk attachment. The wire whisk attachment is the key here. You will get nice and frothy egg whites with a wire whisk attachment. Buy here.
If you prefer to whip by hand, use a regular wire whip. Be prepared to get your workout to achieve frothy whites.
Tips and Tricks
- Use a half sheet baking pan. Make sure to use a large enough baking tray to spread the pecans in a single layer. This helps them bake evenly and makes it easier to flip them over.
- Bring the egg to room temperature. Room temperature egg whites whip better than cold whites. If you are in a hurry, place a whole, uncracked egg in a bowl with warm water for 5 minutes. Then crack the egg open and separate the whites from the yolks.
- Control the spice level. If you want a mild spicy nut, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of chili powder. If you like more spiciness, add up to 4 teaspoons (or more if you want).
You could also use a spicier chili powder to add more heat.
- Drain if necessary. After you mix the nuts with the whipped egg whites, look at them. Are there excess whites? If so, either drain the nuts in a wire mesh strainer or add more nuts.
Some eggs naturally have more whites than others. Several times, my single egg white mixture has a lot of moisture, and I’ve been able to add additional nuts.
If you roast nuts with too much egg white, they will be very clumpy and they won't look as pretty. Which is only a problem if you are going to gift them to a friend.
- Preheat the oven to 220°F (104°C).
- Line a large, rimmed baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. If you don’t have either, lightly brush the pan with olive oil.
- Bring the egg to room temperature. Fill a bowl with warm water and place the whole, uncracked egg inside. Soak it for 5 minutes. Remove the egg from the water and dry it off.
- Crack the egg and separate the egg from the yolk. Use the yolk in another recipe. (Like classic hollandaise sauce or Arizona sunshine lemon pie.)
- Using an electric hand mixer with a wire whip attachment, whip the egg white until it is frothy.
I like using a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. It is just the right size to successfully whip a single egg white. Even a medium bowl is too large to keep the egg white in one place to whip.
- When the egg white is frothy, add the cold water and whisk again.
- Pour the sugar, spices, and salt into the egg whites and stir to combine.
- Add the nuts to the egg white mixture and stir until the pecans are evenly coated.
- Spread the nuts in a single layer across the prepared baking sheet.
- Put the pan in the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. The nuts will still be sticky.
- Remove the pan from the oven and stir the nuts to redistribute them. Then return them to the oven. Bake for another 15 minutes until the pecans are crisp and no longer sticky.
- Remove the pan from the oven and cool the nuts to room temperature.
- Break apart the large clumps of pecans.
- When the nuts are completely cool, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Most nuts can be used in place of pecans. Walnuts, almonds, or cashews are the most common alternatives to pecans.
Pepitas, peanuts, sunflower seed, and macadamia nuts can be used too.
Beware, the smaller the nut/seed, the quicker they will toast. So, keep an eye on them and plan on reducing the baking time by at least 15 minutes for small nuts.
If you are ready to change things up a bit, try these nutty flavors:
- Candied pecans. Eliminate the chili and garlic powder from the recipe. Add two more tablespoons of white sugar and a splash of vanilla extract.
- Buttery pecans. Mix in the pecans with about 6 tablespoons of unsalted melted butter. Lightly sprinkle kosher salt on the nuts before toasting them in the oven.
- Chocolate pecans. Mix sugar, cocoa powder, and a hint of sea salt with either olive oil or coconut oil. Stir in the pecans and then toast them. If you want spicy chocolate nuts, use a bit of cayenne chili powder.
How to Store Sweet and Spicy Pecans
Toasted nuts taste the best if they are eaten within a week. Trust me, that won’t be a problem with these nuts.
For longer storage, consider the refrigerator or freezer.
- Store cool, dry nuts in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
- Store cool, dry nuts in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Ready to eat the nuts? Bring them back to room temperature. They will still be fresh and crunchy.
Can You Make Trader Joe’s Sweet and Spicy Pecans in Advance?
It is easy to make sweet and spicy pecans in advance. And in fact, you might prefer it.
When the nuts are made a day or so early, the flavors have a chance to deepen and mature. You may find that you like the nuts on day 2 or 3 better than freshly baked nuts.
You can freeze toasted nuts with no problems. Keep in mind that the nuts must be completely cool before going into an airtight container.
Frozen nuts can keep their crunch in the freezer if stored correctly and not mixed with moist foods.
When researching whether you could freeze chicken salad, I found that nuts mixed into the salad got softer. However, the nuts stored separately in the freezer are just fine.
On Trader Joe's sweet and spicy pecan package, they list the serving size of ¼ cup. There are 220 calories, 20g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 50mg sodium, 2g fiber, 4g sugar, and 3g protein per serving.
What to Serve with Copycat Trader Joe’s Sweet and Spicy Pecans
- Garnish hot oatmeal. These pecans are excellent on cinnamon oatmeal. Give the nuts a quick chop and toss them in with some oatmeal.
- Make some Chex mix. Sure, you might think Chex mix is just for sweet and salty. Not so, friend. Sweet and spicy Chex mix might be your new go-to party snack. Give it a try with my Christmas Chex mix recipe.
- Top ice cream. Don’t do boring ice cream. Add some pizzazz with sweetly spiced pecans. Sprinkle them on top of a small bowl of ice cream. I recommend vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.
- Mix in a salad or use as a salad topper. Spicy nuts would be a great addition to crisp kale and Brussels sprouts salad. It is an easy recipe with only a handful of ingredients, so the pecans would stand out from the first bite.
Give Them as Gifts
Food gifts are some of the easiest and most thoughtful ways to show a friend you care.
- Share them as party bags. Your guests will love your copycat Trader Joe's sweet and spicy pecans recipe. A touch sweet and a little savory with a hint of spice -- candied pecans are a quick hostess gift.
Throw a cup of the nuts in a bag and tie it with a pretty ribbon. They will be a huge hit.
- Give them as gifts. The nuts make unique and popular birthday, Mothers’ Day, or Christmas gifts.
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Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans (like Trader Joe's)
- 1 egg white room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of tap water
- 2 teaspoons of chili powder mild or up to 4 teaspoons (spicy)
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
- 1½ teaspoons of ground ginger
- ½ cup white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of table salt
- 3½ cups of raw pecan halves shelled
- PREHEAT the oven to 220°F (104°C).
- LINE a large, rimmed baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. If you don’t have either, lightly brush the pan with olive oil.
- BRING the egg to room temperature. Fill a bowl with warm water and place the whole, uncracked egg inside. Soak it for 5 minutes. Remove the egg from the water and dry it.
- CRACK the room-temperature egg and separate the egg white from the yolk. Use the yolk for another recipe.
- WHIP the egg white until it is frothy using an electric hand mixer with a wire whip attachment. I like using a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. It is just the right size to successfully whip a single egg white.
- ADD the water and whisk again for 10 seconds.
- POUR the sugar, spices, and salt into the egg whites and stir to combine.
- ADD the nuts to the egg white mixture and stir until the pecans are evenly coated.
- SPREAD the nuts in a single layer across the prepared baking sheet.
- PUT the pan in the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. The nuts will still be sticky.
- REMOVE the pan from the oven and stir the nuts to redistribute them. Then return them to the oven. Bake for another 15 minutes until the pecans are crisp and no longer sticky.
- TAKE the pan from the oven and cool the nuts to room temperature.
- BREAK apart any large clumps of pecans.
- STORE the nuts in an airtight container when they are completely cool. Keep them at room temperature for up to two weeks.
- Make sure to use a large enough baking tray to spread the pecans in a single layer. This helps them bake evenly and makes it easier to flip them over. A half sheet pan is a good size. Buy here.
- Bring the egg to room temperature. Room temperature egg whites whip better than cold whites. If you are in a hurry, place a whole, uncracked egg in a bowl with warm water for 5 minutes. Then crack the egg open and separate the whites and yolks.
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