A Handful of Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts for Holiday Gatherings

Deciding to make homemade gifts for the holidays might seem overly ambitious. But it doesn’t have to be.

Really, it’s as simple as making your list of recipients, picking a few of your favorite recipes that have a good shelf life, gathering some glass jars, a few rolls of decorative ribbon, and some gift tags or labels, and you’re good to go.

Overhead shot of a star-shaped white ceramic candy dish filled with sugar and spice nuts, with more on a red cloth surface, printed with green and white text.

Set aside an afternoon for cooking or baking and assembly line packing, queue up your favorite tunes, and make your kitchen into Santa’s secret workshop. You may be the only elf in residence, but trust me, you’re up to the task!

This year, my plan is simple. I’m whipping up a batch of my favorite sweet and salty granola and baking some cookies.

After that, all I have left is baking these sweet and salty candied nuts. In fact, I’m making two batches, because they’re that good. (One down, and one to go!)

Vertical image of a toppled jar spilling sugar and spice candied nuts onto a table covered with a red cloth, with decorative brown pine cones in soft focus in the background.

If you need a gift idea, trust me when I say this scrumptious snack makes a great one that’s always appreciated.

I love the sweet and spicy blend! Different from our salty, spicy, and savory stovetop nuts, these can be enjoyed for both snacking and as a little dessert.

After I mixed and baked the blend of walnuts and pecans with cayenne pepper and cinnamon, plus sugar and egg whites, I pulled the trays out of the oven (and popped a few handfuls of the hot, fragrant candied nuts in my mouth, I admit). Then I cooled what was left and scooped them into jars. I’ll tie these with ribbon, and label them for gifting.

Overhead vertical shot of a star-shaped candied dish filled with sugar and spice nuts, on a red cloth with more scattered around the base, and brown pine cones.

I love those moments when my actions are all about someone else, about giving to someone else and putting a little bit of extra love into what I’ve made. My Christmas prep and shopping might not be quite finished yet, but it’s been wonderful to take some time in the kitchen to stop and reflect for awhile.

For me, this is what the holiday season is all about.

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Sugar and spice candied nuts in a star-shaped white ceramic dish, with more scattered around the base on a burgundy cloth, with brown pine cones in the background.

Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x


When guests gather in your home for the holidays, make sure you have sugar and spice candied nuts on hand for all your snacking needs.


  • 1 cup turbinado or demerara sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 lb raw walnut halves
  • 1/2 lb raw pecan halves


  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix sugar, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, or by hand with a whisk, beat egg white and water on medium speed until frothy but not stiff, about 1 minute. Add walnuts and pecans, and stir to coat evenly.
  4. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and, using a spatula, gently separate nuts to make sure they are not touching to prevent them from sticking together. Cool completely on the baking sheet.
  6. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl and serve or store in an airtight container. Nuts can be stored for 3-4 weeks.


Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Snacks
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Christmas

Keywords: candied nuts, pecans, walnuts, holiday, Christmas

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Measure Ingredients

Measure out all ingredients as listed. Set out ingredients as they appear in the ingredients list along with all of the necessary equipment, to make your job easier!

Top-down view of the ingredients in measuring cups and mixing bowls needed to make sugar and spice candied nuts.

If you plan to start with whole nuts, don’t miss our guide to the best nutcrackers.

Preheat oven to 300˚F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 2 – Make Dry Mixture

Stir together sugar, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Make sure there are no lumps in the mixture.

Step 3 – Make Wet Mixture

Egg whites and water in a stainless mixing bowl.

Add egg white and water to the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.

Nut mixture with wet mix added to a stainless steel mixing bowl.

Beat on medium speed until frothy but not stiff. This will take about 1 minute.

Top-down shot of a dry mix with sugar and spices.

Add walnuts and pecans to the egg white mixture.

The sugar, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon mixture added to the mixed nuts, eggs, and water mixture in a stainless steel mixing bowl.

Sprinkle in the sugar mixture and toss until the nuts are evenly coated.

Step 4 – Bake

Spread nuts in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Candied spiced nuts cooling on a cookie sheet after baking.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally throughout the baking process.

Remove from oven and use a spatula to gently separate the nuts.

Sugar and spice candied walnuts and pecans laid out on a baking sheet.

Make sure they are not touching so they don’t stick together in clumps.

Step 5 – Cool

Cool completely in the baking sheet. Once cool, add nuts to a bowl and serve, or package in jars with tight-fitting lids for gift giving.

Nuts can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

As great as these nuts are for setting out at holiday gatherings and other events, they make for an incredible gift to friends and family.

To make an easy gift, fill a pint-sized mason jar with the sugar and spice candied nuts. Tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar and. It’s as easy as that.

Sugar and spice candied nuts in a star-shaped white ceramic dish, with more scattered around the base on a burgundy cloth, with brown pine cones in the background.

You can also pack up small 4-ounce mason jars with the nuts as a stocking stuffer or take-away for your upcoming holiday gatherings. It’s the perfect holiday party favor!

This is such an easy recipe that just about everyone loves, there’s no reason not to share these with everyone you know.

Sugar and spice candied nuts spilling out of a glass mason jar.

Want more food gift ideas? Check out the recipes below for inspiration:

For the spring and summer months, consider making another sugary treat: candied flowers!

How will you share this snack with friends and family? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe when you’ve tried it. We want to know if you love this snack just as much as we do!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 23, 2009. Last updated: December 13, 2022 at 13:04 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

21 thoughts on “A Handful of Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts for Holiday Gatherings”

  1. Wow, this is my favorite post ever. I”ve been feeling so un-jolly and festive too because of being sick, but you did a perfect job at putting Christmas into perspective. Mary and Joseph were just two tired and weak souls who survived a hard, cold night and created this holiday that has become so chaotic from its original beginnings. How wonderful to hear someone talk about the true meaning of Christmas, the “Christ in Christmas.” THANK YOU. And baking has certainly helped me get through this festive season being stuck at home too. Hence, the reason you received a tin with four different treats inside.

  2. here are some tissues for your sniffles, my sweet. have a lovely, lovely holiday and sending much love your way for the new year! xo.

  3. I love candied nuts. It’s sweet but not too sweet and just delish! And I’m 99% done with my shopping, wrapping, that’s another story.

  4. I’ve done way more baking this year than previous seasons, but for me it’s been an attempt to push away the painful year behind me and look ahead to a new set of 12 months to undertake. I struggle with the season of Christmas because so few people see it for what it truly is, and that makes me sad. Our church is always so raw and honest about the proper telling of the Christmas story; it isn’t the fluff and serenity usually depicted. It’s a teenage girl giving birth in a rank and dirty barn to a baby with the burden of the entire world placed on it’s tiny shoulders. It’s heaven’s love reaching down to save the world. We’ve come so far away from the truth of the holiday.

    Thank you for sharing it in such an open way, and so eloquently. May you have a healthy and happy Christmas.

  5. you’re so right. the homemade gifts mean the most (to both the giver and the recipient). and for the part about illness, YES. i have cfids, chronic fatigue syndrome. my life changed when i got it. ugh. i know all about not being able to do what you want, and having drastically reduced expectations. but you know what? even with all the pain and tiredness and neurological issues, i would not change my life’s trail bc i love my family and am happy to be together. life is good!! happy holidays.hope you’re feeling MUCH better…

  6. Ha, thanks, Randy! I hope so, too. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Aw, thanks, Alicia. I loved your box of goodies so much, btw – which cookies had almond or anise in them? LOVED that flavor!

    Thanks, Giao! Maybe 2010 will be the year we sit down in Chicago somehwere!

    Jacqui, Merry Christmas to you, too!

    Anne, Do it! So delicious.

    Jessica, Way to go! Wrapping’s always fun – turn on some music or TV to make it go faster. Merry Christmas!

    Kate, I just saw a video that said something to the effect of: “God taking the initiative to know us, coming down and taking on human flesh: that’s Christmas.” And it is. Thanks for your very thought-provoking comment.

    JessieV, What a great outlook you have! I’m sorry to hear about your cfids, but I love that it’s made you and your loved ones closer. There is a deep beauty in difficult things, I think.

  7. Hey friend! I’ve had an un-Christmas, too. We got called to Wisconsin two weeks ago to say final good-byes to Steve’s mom. Everything else went by the wayside. And now here we are back home, waiting for the inevitable with her up there — and I’ve found that having just three kinds of cookies made, not the usual ten or whatever, is simply not that big of a deal. I’m going to enjoy the quiet with my two best buddies tonight — and I’ll be thinking of you four tomorrow morning! Love ya!

  8. I cannot believe you’ve NEVER had a bloody nose!!! For someone who gets like 20 a year, I am sooo jealous!
    I hope you feel better than you were for tomorrow!


  9. Kelley, Oh, friend. I am so sorry to hear about Steve’s mom, but I love the perspective it’s given you (that sounds not right, but I think you know what I mean). Thanks for sharing that here. Love you too.

    Niki, I know, right? It was full-on chaos the other night, and you have my sincere empathy. Merry Christmas to you, too! Hope it’s been lovely.

  10. It was almond paste that you tasted. It’s in this recipe we have for dough that can be used for like 20+ different kinds of cookies. It’s our fave.

  11. I am taking my sweet time catching up on all the posts I missed while I was out of town, but I’m glad I got to this one. What a beautiful way to talk about the season. I hope you’re feeling better!

  12. Xmas may be past but it’s never too late for a tasty homemade granola recipe! Granola is one of the happiest things about my mornings, so I look forward to trying this. I hope that you are feeling fully recovered in time to enjoy the new year!

  13. Elizabeth, Can I just tell you the truth? I am ADDICTED to homemade granola. Like, I should start stocking piling oats because there is no end in sight. Love it, love it.

  14. Hey Patricia, I really couldn’t tell you for sure, since this is the only way I’ve made the recipe. Since the egg white primarily is there to get things moist, I’d go with honey rather than applesauce, maybe removing some sugar. Please see our post on baking without breaking any eggs for more substitute suggestions! Good luck.

  15. I enjoy making these for the holidays and giving them as gifts. The addition of cayenne will make an interesting alteration to my recipe this year. Sounds good!


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