I love home-spiced nuts at the holidays. I reach for them long after I’ve tired of the endless sweetness of cookies, and they’re just as tasty on a cheese and pickle platter as a eaten straight from the jar with a cocktail.
The recipe I share this week in my Twice as Tasty column for the Flathead Beacon not only explains how to make your own spiced nuts but also gives you plenty of options. From my favorite homemade sweet-and-spicy blend, to a premixed garam masala, to an infused salt variation, there are ideas for every occasion.
When I make my own spice blend (see below), I leave chilies out to keep it versatile. This also gives me the chance to use homemade chili sauces and hot sauces when spicing nuts. Home-Smoked Chili Paste gives hits of heat and smokiness when stirred into the nut’s egg wash, and the range of homemade hot sauces I share in my pickling cookbook let you turn the heat up or down as desired.
Learn more about spice blends for nuts and get the complete recipe for Home-Spiced Nuts in my column.
If you’re looking for more delicious snacks for your holiday spread, check out my latest story for Clean Plates, which includes my recipe for Gravlax (Salt-Cured Salmon) from my book The Complete Guide to Pickling. Read the story of my connection to this Nordic specialty and get the recipe here.
Twice as Tasty
Once you start playing with spices, you’ll quickly find your collection is broad enough you can make your own spice blend. It can become a gift in its own right and adjusted until you find just the balance you love.
My favorite multipurpose sweet-and-spicy blend is essentially a fusion of an Indian garam masala and a Chinese five spice. I use it when making mixed spiced nuts, stir it into hot cereal, and substitute it for cinnamon in crisps and scones.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need a collection of whole spices.
1. Toast the spices.
2. Let cool.
3. Grind as needed.
Sweet Spice Mix
1 whole star anise
4 teaspoons allspice berries
2-3/4 teaspoons whole cloves
1-1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/8 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon fennel seed
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Break the cinnamon stick and star anise into pieces, and grate the nutmeg using a microplane or nutmeg grater. Warm a heavy skillet over low-medium heat. When hot, toast all ingredients except the ginger for 4–5 minutes, until the spices give off a lightly toasted aroma. Stir the spices constantly while toasting. Add the ginger, stir for about 10 seconds, and then transfer to a plate to cool completely.
If desired, grind the blend into a fine powder using a spice mill or clean coffee grinder. Package in small gift jars or opaque containers, where it will keep for up to a year when whole or 3 months when ground if stored away from heat and light. Makes about 1/3 cup whole spices and 1/4 cup when ground.
Tips & Tricks
- As those who take my Indian spice workshop learn, the flavor that comes from toasting, grinding, and otherwise preparing your own spices hits ground and premixed blends out of the park. So it’s worth the extra time to create this blend from whole ingredients. The exception is ginger; fresh gingerroot is too juicy to keep in a dry spice mix.
- Whole spices keep longer and are beautiful in a jar, so you may want to package this blend after toasting for accomplished home cooks. If you suspect your recipients wouldn’t be comfortable grinding the spices, go ahead and break down the blend for them.
- The blend of sweet, salty, and spicy makes spiced nuts a lovely way to showcase your homemade spice mix. Chili paste should be mixed with the egg white for even distribution, but you can substitute cayenne pepper or smoked paprika to taste, adding the ground spice in the sugar mixture.
- Nuts aren’t the only options for easy spiced gifts. If you’re baking pumpkin or squash, you can pull out the seeds and season and roast them. A bit of spice blend can also be used to flavor a gift bag of granola.
Want more Twice as Tasty recipes? Get my books! Click here to order a personally signed, packaged, and shipped copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling directly from me. I also share tasty ways to use pickles in The Pickled Picnic, a digital collection in an easy-to-read PDF format; it’s only available here.