During the holidays, I love making candied walnuts (and any kind of nut) to sprinkle on top of salads. It adds just the right amount of crunch and the hard caramel exterior melts into the dressing for an extra bit of sweetness. I’m kind of addicted to them. To change things up, this year I made an extra big batch of spicy and salty vegan candied walnuts just for salads, or the occasional snack. I swapped out the butter for vegan margarine to make these dairy-free. It just makes it a bit more friendly to take to parties because I never know what kind of dietary restrictions other party goers will have and I want everyone to enjoy what I bring.
They get their spicy kick from a good pinch of cayenne pepper. If you don’t want them to be super spicy, use less cayenne or leave it out completely. They will still be extra delicious from the other spices.
Spicy and Salty Vegan Candied Walnuts
2 cups whole nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vegan butter or coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use more or less depending on how spicy you want it to be)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, or grease well. Do not use waxed paper!
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the vegan butter or coconut oil. Add the sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cayenne. Stir to combine then add the nuts. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar caramelizes and turns golden and the nuts are toasted. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. It will bubble up and splatter a bit, so be careful! Stir well.
Pour the nuts out onto the prepared baking sheet. Use a fork or wooden spoon to separate the nuts into a single layer. Work quickly because the caramel will harden faster than you think. Let cool completely. Use whole or roughly chop. Store in an airtight container or jar.
Sprinkle on salads or eat as a snack.
Yield: about 2 cups
These spicy and salty vegan candied walnuts are very delicious sprinkled on this simple holiday green salad. Get the recipe here.