These Caramelized Pecans are a cinch to make on the stove, and you can customize them to be spicy, or salty, too! Great for salads, desserts, and cheese boards.
I love caramelized pecans. What’s not to love when we’re talking about warm, toasty pecans enrobed in a luscious brown sugar glaze?
For the longest time, I bought caramelized pecans in containers at my local market’s gourmet cheese counter. That is, until I realized how incredibly simple they are to make at home. Caramelized Pecans on demand? Don’t mind if I do!
These pecans are perfect to serve for a game day snack, a holiday appetizer board (lovely with cheese), topping Pumpkin Pie, or sprinkling on top of your favorite fall salads (like, this Pear Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette.)
Caramelized Pecans vs. Candied Pecans
I have a distinction in my own mind between what constitutes a Caramelized Pecan versus a Candied Pecan. In all honesty, the terms are pretty much used interchangeably, but to me, they separate two different types of sweet pecan preparations.
In my mind, Caramelized Pecans, like the ones in this post, are coated in a glossy sugar glaze. When I hear Candied Pecans, I think of pecans with a more sugary-looking, crunchy coating, such as these. Another way to separate the difference I’m looking to describe here would be to call one “glazed” pecans and the other “sugared” pecans.
How to Make Caramelized Pecans
So, today, we’re talking about the caramelized variety.
In terms of tools, all you need is a nonstick skillet and a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and you’ll be well on your way to having a batch of these on your table.
Just melt together brown sugar and a little water in a skillet on the stove until bubbly, toss in your pecans, and stir until toasty and caramelized. That’s it! 5 minutes on the stove, and then about an hour for the pecans to fully set up at room temperature.
Flavor Variations: Sweet and Spicy Pecans
The great thing about making Caramelized Pecans at home is that you can customize the flavor. Want a hint of fall spice? Add some ground cinnamon or pumpkin spice. Want sweet pecans with some heat? A little cayenne will do the trick.
Personally, I like them sprinkled with flaked sea salt for a sweet-salty combo.
I like to mix up a few batches at a time during the holiday season so I have them on hand for various uses: sweet or cinnamon for desserts, salted or spicy for appetizers and snacks. You can even freeze caramelized pecans for up to two months, making them convenient for planning ahead!
Stovetop Caramelized Pecans
It's easy to make caramelized pecans, right on your stove! You can customize these pecans to have sweet, salty, and spicy flavors, to your personal preferences.
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 cups halved pecans
In a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, melt together brown sugar and water until bubbling. Add pecans, stirring thoroughly to coat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant and most of the liquid has evaporated. (But not so long at the sugars burn.)
Spread pecans into a single layer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and use a fork to separate them. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, until fully cooled, set, and dry. (Pecans will be only very slightly tacky to the touch.)
Break apart any pecan clusters and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Cinnamon Caramelized Pecans: Add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the pan with the brown sugar.
- Spicy Caramelized Pecans: Add 1/4 teaspoon (or more or less, to taste) cayenne pepper to the pan with the brown sugar.
- Salted Caramelized Pecans: Sprinkle the pecans with flaked sea salt after you transfer them to the baking sheet to cool.