Candied nuts are a snack that is always great to have on hand. They’re salty and sweet, so they’re satisfying no matter what kind of snack you were in the mood for. They’re also easier to make than you ever imagined, and once you try these Irresistible Candied Peanuts, you’ll find that you are making them on a regular basis. The recipe calls for just three main ingredients – peanuts, sugar and salt – and you can make these from start to finish in less than 15 minutes.
To begin, you need a big bag of unsalted, roasted peanuts. If you only have unroasted peanuts, I recommend roasting them in the oven (325F for 15 minutes or until light golden) just to intensify their flavor a bit. The peanuts are cooked in a large saucepan with a generous amount of sugar. Normally, when you work with sugar to make candies and caramels, you want to prevent the sugar from crystallizing as it melts. For this candied peanuts, we actually want the sugar to crystallize because that will really allow it to adhere to the nuts. The sugar will remelt as you continue to cook it and you’ll be left with perfectly candied peanuts every time. I through a generous sprinkle of salt in at the end of cooking, just before I turn the nuts out to cool, so that it has time to adhere to the caramel.
Once you have a big batch of nuts, you have a couple of options. You can snack on them, of course, but you can pack them up and give them as gifts at dinner parties and during the holidays. You can add them to a salad, or chop them up and sprinkle them on top of your favorite ice cream. You can use this technique with almonds, pecans and walnuts, in addition to peanuts, and you can play with different flavors by adding them in along with the salt at the end of the recipe. A generous pinch of dried chipotle or cayenne pepper will add a nice subtle heat to the nuts, while a combination of vanilla, cinnamon and ground cloves will give them a sweetly spiced finish. The nuts will keep for at least two weeks in an airtight container or bag, but they’re addictive and you’ll probably run through a batch long before then.
Irresistible Candied Peanuts
3 cups peanuts, roasted and unsalted
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt*
In a large saucepan, combine peanuts, sugar and water. Cook over medium high heat, stirring regularly, until the sugar begins to turn caramel. When it begins to bubble, stir the mixture with a spatula more quickly until the sugar crystallizes completely. The nuts and sugar should look very, very sandy and dry (as in middle photo above).
Continue cooking, stirring constantly to keep the nuts from burning on the bottom of the pan, and the sugar will re-melt and turn a dark golden brown color. Within 3-5 minutes, the nuts should be completely coated in caramel. Add in salt and stir to distribute evenly.
Turn nuts out onto a parchment-lined or silpat-lined surface and spread them into a single layer with your spatula. After they have cooled for 5-10 minutes, break up any large chunks. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Makes about 5 cups.
*If you don’t have coarse, kosher salt, you can use regular table salt. The kosher salt gives the nuts a little bit more texture and is my favorite type to use in this recipe.