Sweet and Spicy Pecans

Makes 3 cups


Easy to make in large batches, spiced pecans are great to have on hand for impromptu guests during the winter holidays. Pack them into tins for a welcome gift that's mailable and suits everyone. But though recipes for spiced pecans abound, the usual suspects don't seem to have the right zip-too sweet, too spicy, no character, blah. Then we discovered Lonestar chef Stephan Pyles's terrific recipe. Sautéed and then roasted, these nuts are not quite like any others we've ever had-you taste them at the front, back, sides and roof of your mouth. They're as rich as pralines, with a chile heat as deep as the sweet. People really love them.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons pure chile powder (see note)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. And set a rack on the middle level.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and sauté, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized. Stir in the paprika, chile powder and cumin. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt.

Spread the pecans in one layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool, then store in an airtight container or at room temperature until ready to serve.


Note—To make chile powder

Use either a mixture or a single type of dried chiles, such as anchos, chipotles and guajillos. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Slit the chiles open and remove the seeds. Place the split chiles in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until they are thoroughly dry and stiff, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the chiles from the oven and crumble into a bowl. Put the pieces in a spice grinder and grind them to a powder. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a month or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Buy the Book!


The Best American Recipes 1999
The Year's Top Picks from Books,
Magazines, Newspapers and the Internet

Series Editors: Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin
Houghton Mifflin Company, October 1999
Hardcover, $26.00, 228 pages
8 full-color photographs
ISBN: 0-395-96647-7
Recipe Reprinted by permission.


The Best American Recipes 1999



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