Bourbon Spiced Pecans are sweet, crunchy, and perfect for cheese boards, snacking, and topping salads. They also make a lovely homemade gift! Best of all, there's no egg white or dairy in these vegan candied pecans! Maple syrup and an optional splash of bourbon marry perfectly with vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. Prep is easy and you can cook them on the stovetop or in the oven.
Years ago in my pre-vegan days, I would make batch after batch of spiced pecans each Christmas to share with co-workers and friends. The old recipe I followed called for tossing the pecans with egg white before adding the spices and sugar.
But as it turns out, the egg white is completely unnecessary! These candied pecans are every bit as crisp, delicious, and versatile.
You'll love the balance of sweet, salty, spiced, and nutty. These aren't cloyingly sweet like some candied pecan recipes, and you can easily make them spicy with a bit of cayenne or black pepper.
Also, even if you're a beginner cook or baker, I promise you can make these spiced pecans. No thermometer needed!
All you need are a mixing bowl and either a baking sheet or large skillet, depending on whether you want to bake the pecans (which is more hands-off but takes longer) or quickly caramelize them on the stovetop.
Pecans: America's Native Nut
Of all of the different types of nuts we eat here in the U.S., did you know pecans are the only one native to this country? I recently came across a great video on the PBS website about how commercial pecans are grown. If you have ten minutes and want to learn more about this native nut, I highly recommend a watch.
Though pecans have grown naturally here for millennia, it was only about 175 years ago that someone figured out how to control the process and grow the types of pecans people wanted.
The first person to successfully propagate the pecan tree was a slave. We don't know his full name, but he was called Antoine, and he was the enslaved gardener of Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana.
Antoine's horticultural expertise and achievement allowed for large groves of trees to be planted. This lucrative crop marked the beginning of the commercial pecan industry.
- Pecans: Look for raw pecan halves for this recipe. You can usually find them in the bulk bins or on the baking aisle of the grocery store. If you plan to make a large amount of spiced nuts for the holidays, it definitely pays to purchase in bulk. And you might find the best deals online.
- Vegan butter - optional; in the absence of egg white, I decided to add a tablespoon of plant-based butter to the sugar-spice mix. It adds a touch of richness and possibly contributes to the crispness of the pecans, but the caramelization of the sugar is the real star. So feel free to omit the butter.
- Spices: Cinnamon and clove add the perfect cozy, holiday vibe. But there's plenty of room to experiment with different spices. Add black pepper or cayenne for a kick. Start with a little and taste as you go.
- Maple syrup: A staple in my kitchen, I can't help but add a little maple syrup to most recipes! But if you don't have any, that's no problem. Simply increase the brown sugar.
- Light brown sugar: You can also use regular cane sugar or a combination of the two.
See the recipe card below for quantities and full instructions.
How to Make Vegan Candied Pecans
First, warm the butter, syrup, bourbon, and vanilla. Stir in the brown sugar, spices, and salt. Then add the pecans and stir until well coated.
Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. See below for stovetop instructions.
Bake at 280 degrees F (138 C) for 20 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and stir. Spread out in a single layer again, and bake for another 15 minutes.
The pecans should be darker in color and very fragrant. They will crisp up as they cool on the pan.
Stovetop Candied Pecans
If your oven is in use or you just feel like saving a few minutes, you can also cook candied pecans on the stove.
A large non-stick pan or cast iron skillet work best. Preheat it over low to medium-low heat. Cook the coated pecans for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. They're done when the sugar mixture has thickened and looks dark and syrupy.
Immediately transfer to a parchment-lined plate or baking sheet to cool.
There's a little bit more guess work to this method, and if you under-cook the pecans they may not end up as crispy as with oven-baking.
Ways to Enjoy Spiced Pecans
- Snacking: They're a great party snack and addition to cheese plates.
- Dessert: On top of ice cream, cheesecake, pies, and cakes.
- Breakfast: Elevate your oatmeal, pancakes, French Toast and more!
- Mixed nuts: Also try almonds, cashews, and walnuts.
- Savory spiced nuts: Get creative with spice blends like harissa, za'atar, garam masala, curry powder, chili powder, and black pepper or cayenne for a spicy kick!
- No bourbon: Omit the booze or use spiced rum.
How to Store
Make sure the pecans are completely cool before transferring to an airtight storage container. Store at room temperature for up to a week, possibly longer.
Why are my candied pecans sticky?
If you cook the pecans on the stovetop, under-cooking can cause them to be sticky. Baking the nuts in the oven tends to be more consistent, removes the guesswork, and is the easiest way to avoid under-cooked pecans. They'll crisp up perfectly as they cool.
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I hope you enjoy these vegan spiced pecans. If you try the recipe be sure to comment below and let us know!
Bourbon Spiced Candied Pecans
- 8 ounces raw pecan halves - or 2 full cups
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter, optional
- 2 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon bourbon, optional
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- If baking the pecans, preheat the oven to 280°F (138°C), and line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. For stovetop preparation, preheat a large non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, maple syrup, bourbon, and vanilla. Heat for about 20 seconds in the microwave to melt the butter (or warm on the stovetop or in the oven if you don't have a microwave).1 tablespoon vegan butter, optional, 2 ½ tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon bourbon, optional, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisk in the sugar, spices, and salt. Add the pecans to the bowl and stir until the nuts are well coated.⅓ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed, 1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves, ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, 8 ounces raw pecan halves
- Leave any excess sugar mixture in the bowl, and scoop the pecans onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread out evenly in a single layer.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir, and spread out in a single layer again. Bake for another 12 to 15 minutes or until darkened and fragrant. Let the pecans cool on the baking sheet.
- Cook the coated pecans for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are glossy and the sugar mixture has thickened. Transfer to a large plate or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The nuts will crisp up as they cool.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.