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Healthier Candied Pecans or Walnuts Recipe

Margaret has a passion for cooking, baking, and creating recipes that satisfy her cravings for delicious and indulgent food.

How to make candied nuts

How to make candied nuts

Sweet, Crunchy, Candied Nuts Made with Less Fat and Sugar

Candied walnuts and pecans are extraordinarily delicious and seriously addictive! They're perfect as a snack or as cocktail nibbles. My favorite way to eat them is as a delicious, sweet, crunchy element that adds a gourmet touch—as well as protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fat—to a lunch or dinner salad. These candied nuts are often served in fancy salads at high-end restaurants, but it's easy to do the same thing at home.

My Healthier Candied Pecans or Healthier Candied Walnuts Recipe is super simple, quick, and easy and uses just two ingredients—nut halves and raw unrefined organic coconut sugar—plus a touch of coconut oil or nonstick spray to keep the sugared nuts from sticking to the silicone spatula as you stir them. It takes only 5 minutes to make them on a gas stovetop and 10 minutes on an electric stove or glass stovetop.

A Healthier Recipe for This Gourmet Favorite

I've made both candied pecans and candied walnuts for many years, but unfortunately, most recipes call for frying the nuts in oil and adding a lot of refined white cane sugar and salt. So recently I developed my own healthier candied pecans or candied walnuts recipe made with just pecans or walnuts and raw/unrefined organic coconut sugar, plus a little coconut oil (or nonstick spray, if you prefer) to keep the nuts from sticking to the spatula.

I significantly reduced the amount of sugar and substituted more nutritious unrefined organic coconut sugar, which also has a lower glycemic index. I also eliminated the added salt and oil and used pan toasting rather than pan-frying. The best news is that these candied walnuts or pecans are sweet, crunchy, satisfying, and just as addictive as the ones I used to fry in oil with refined white sugar and salt, and much more healthy! In fact, if you've been cutting down on added sugar and fat, you probably will like them even more than regular candied walnuts or pecans.

I've been making these at least once a week to garnish our lunch or dinner salads and to snack on (in small quantities, given how addictive they are). I've decided to share my recipe so you and your family can enjoy them, too!

Non-GMO, Unrefined, USDA Certified Organic Coconut Sugar

Unrefined organic coconut sugar is a key ingredient in this recipe. Raw or unrefined coconut sugar, also called coconut palm sugar, is less processed than brown or white cane sugar, has a lower glycemic index, is rich source of important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins, and is sustainably grown. It also has a lovely caramel-like flavor.

I prefer to use unrefined organic coconut sugar that is USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO.

Recipe card for reduced fat, less sugar candied walnuts or pecans

Recipe card for reduced fat, less sugar candied walnuts or pecans

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

10 min

15 min

1 cup


  • 2 tsp. raw unrefined cold pressed coconut oil, or canola, olive or coconut oil nonstick spray
  • 1 cup pecan halves or walnut halves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. raw unrefined organic coconut sugar


  1. Use the coconut oil (or nonstick spray) to lightly grease a heat-resistant silicone spatula and either a sheet of parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet.
  2. Place the pecan or walnut halves in a single layer in a nonstick skillet/frying pan. Turn the heat to medium on a gas stove or medium-high on an electric stove or glass stovetop and sprinkle the raw, unrefined coconut sugar evenly over the nuts.
  3. As soon as the pan gets hot, wait for one minute and then stir the nuts with the greased nonstick spatula and spread them out again in a single layer. Continue to toast the nuts, stirring and spreading them out again at least once per minute, until they start to smell fragrant and the sugar begins to clump a bit. Note: If the melting sugar starts to stick to the edge of the spatula, scrape it back into the pan and re-grease the spatula.
  4. Watch the pan very closely at this point! Even a few seconds can mean the difference between delicious candied nuts and inedible burned nuts. Stir and spread out the nuts in a single layer again every 15 seconds until the sugar melts. As soon as the sugar melts, immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir the contents thoroughly to make sure every pecan or walnut half is lightly coated with the melted sugar.
  5. Scrape the nuts onto the greased parchment paper or baking sheet and use the greased silicone spatula to spread them into a single layer, separating them as much as possible. Allow them to cool for a minute or two, break apart any that are stuck together, and they're ready to munch or to add crunch to your salads!
  6. Variations: You can mix a bit of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, or both into the coconut sugar before sprinkling it over the nuts in Step 2 and/or sprinkle the hot nuts very lightly with salt just before scraping them onto the greased parchment paper if you wish.

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Rich in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids

Rich in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids

Essential Cooking Equipment for This Recipe

The coconut sugar caramelizes as it melts, just as cane sugar does, and will stick like glue to a regular spatula or cooking spoon when you stir the nuts. Many rubber spatulas also aren't heat resistant enough to prevent melting at high heat, and the rubber hardens and cracks over time. That's why a silicone spatula is definitely a necessity for making these candied walnuts or pecans.

A Heat-Resistant, Silicone Spatula and a Good Nonstick Skillet

A one-piece seamless silicone spatula is much easier to clean than a silicone spatula with a removable handle, and the seamless construction means that food particles can't hide in the crack of the seam like they can in seamed or two-piece spatulas. I own a set of three seamless, heat-resistant silicone spatulas in different sizes and shapes, and I use at least one of them for cooking or baking just about every day.

You'll also need a good nonstick skillet to make this recipe. The problem, of course, is that most nonstick coatings aren't all that durable, and as soon as you see a scratch or chip in the coating the entire pan needs to be replaced. If your nonstick pan is old or has a scratched or chipped Teflon coating, for your own health and safety, it's wise to replace it.

The T-fal #93808 Professional Total Nonstick 12" Fry Pan with Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator nonstick fry pan offers excellent performance, good design features, a durable nonstick coating, and a price tag low enough so that you can replace it every few years without breaking the bank. It was top-rated in Cook's Illustrated magazine's review, beating out many higher-priced nonstick pans in rigorous tests by the experts at America's Test Kitchen.

I love the heat indicator, a patterned red circle in the center of the pan that turns solid red when the skillet is preheated to the right temperature for cooking. I've had mine for several years, and it's still going strong. It's supposed to be dishwasher safe, although I hand wash mine (clean up is a cinch) to prolong the life of the nonstick coating. The bottom of this pan is nice and flat, too, so I can cook with it on my glass stovetop.

© 2014 Margaret Schindel