Candied Walnuts

Walnuts. Sugar. That’s pretty much all you need to make candied walnuts. A dash of salt helps too. These are very easy to make. The trick is to work very fast once the sugar starts melting, because once it gets on the walnuts it cools quickly and the walnuts will stick together. You have 30 seconds or so to separate them before they are forever bonded by glassy, cooked sugar. The other trick is to not burn the walnuts when you toast them. (Yes, we’ve done that before…)

Candied Walnuts Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

2 Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

3 As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

57 Comments

  1. smin

    do you need to add water to the sugar while cooking it? the ingredients don’t have water in it but how else will the sugar melt?

  2. Elise

    Hi Lady – I have no other tips, but perhaps there are readers out there who do?

    Hi Smin – Believe it or not, you don’t need to add water. The heat alone melts the sugar. Sugar is a crystal, the way ice is crystal. Adding heat breaks the bonds that hold the crystal together. Just watch it carefully, because it can burn if you aren’t careful. As soon as it starts to melt, start stirring.

  3. Kathy

    This will work better on a day that isn’t overly humid – there’s my only real tip. I love candied nuts of any sort – have to make some of these up very soon.

  4. Betsy

    I havent had a chance to try this yet, but I have made similar recipes and candy recipes … I would suggest to try and pour the sugar into the bowl of walnuts, while you have someone stirring, this may work out easier for some cooks and would make it easier to get the nuts more evenly coated without them all sticking together

    Betsy

  5. Hannah

    Has anyone tried this with brown suger instead, or adding cinnamon? Just curious… seems like it would be tasty.

    Thanks!

  6. mona

    Oh wow, those look so good. And holiday parties are the perfect places for these nuts. I’ve tried them once before and was really not pleased with my recipe. I will have to give these a go. Thanks!

  7. Cass

    I do believe it would be a bad idea to stir the sugar. Stirring melted suger can cause it to reform crystals, since the broken molecules of sucrose are looking to bond with each other. Stirring it does help, but you should add about 1 tbs of corn syrup to the sugar. This will fill the empty bonds when the sugar melts, so the sugar won’t fill in those bonds and make crystals.

  8. Aria

    Hi Elise,
    I tried this recipe with mixed nuts, and it works perfectly! Hope you don’t mind that I link your recipe to my blog (sorry it’s in Chinese, but you are very welcomed to take a look) and thank you for sharing such a great idea!

  9. A. Valdez

    Hello,
    This recipe worked perfectly, and despite scientific advice cautioning against stirring, I did stir and all went wonderfully, Thank you .

  10. Hiron

    Er… we tried to use it last night, but on the first attempt the sugar left recrystalizing into bigger and browner crystals when it melted, and the second time we had to add like half a cup of corn syrup to get it to remain in a semi-liquid state. Any advice on that?

  11. tina

    I just tried this today, this morning actually, and it turned out great! I melted the sugar, didnt need water, corn syrup or whatever, worked perfectly and was delicious. I plan to try it on mixed nuts next

  12. Kathy

    This was a very easy recipe; I used wax paper, the only thing I wonder about is would it help to spray PAM on the wax paper, I lost a few walnuts to the wax paper sticking to it. I microwaved it one time after it cooled and that didn’t seem to help much. with the holidays coming soon, I would like to perfect this one! other than the slight sticking problem, it was great!

  13. Carol Brown

    This was my first try with candied nuts, and they came out, ok. I think next time I will use one of the recipies with more “substance”. I also used chopped walnuts, instead of halves, which I think gave it a nice cluster appearance, and made the fact that stuck together a bit not as noticible.

  14. Lisa

    Anyone ever had the Waldorf Chicken Salad from California Pizza Kitchen? The candied walnuts are the best I have ever had. I tried 1C. walnuts, 2T.butter, 1T.sugar and 1/8t. cinnamon. They tasted O.K. but the sugar melted off the nuts and landed on the wax paper. Any suggestions? Maybe corn syrup?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

  15. Aidan

    My favorite method for making these is with some maple syrup (the real stuff!) and a couple grinds of black pepper – the pepper really brings out the sweetness.

    However you make them, they’ve awesome in Chicken salad, with granny smith apples, celery, and onion.

  16. Noneen

    I love the candied walnuts at California Pizza Kitchen and that has prompted me to make them for my salads at home. I hope this works out! Recipe ingredients are so touchy.

  17. Beverly

    Aiden,
    Did you use maple syrup in addition to the sugar? Or did you use only maple syrup and how much? I think this sounds delicious.

  18. jen maiser

    Hi there -

    I just made these for the first time ever using your recipe and they came out great. Thanks! I’m going to retry at some point with some cayenne.

    – jen

  19. Marilen

    Hi there,

    I was just wondering if anyone knew how to store these and how long they are good for? I was hoping to make this in advance for Thanksgiving.

  20. K Bryant

    I made these because they were the simplest recipe I found, but I added some nutmeg & cinnimon to the sugar before I melted it. I also used raw turbinado for the sugar and they turned out great. A little bit of salt was definately good advice. Also, Good tip about pulling the walnuts apart with 2 forks. Thanks for the recipe!

  21. Robbie

    This is an awesome recipe, I have made it several times trying to use everyones tips and after several attempts the best thing to do is to make it exactly as said above but to add cinnamon, about 1/8 tsp, and spray the wax paper with pam. Make sure to stir the sugar as soon as it starts to melt! Comes out great everytime. (Hint: the salt makes these walnuts perfect)!!

  22. bubble

    I just made these nuts and it took about 10 minutes total…I toasted the nuts for 7 minutes, while I danced in the livingroom. When the buzzer went off I started the sugar. Advice: don’t stir it too much or it will never melt, but do watch it as it all happens pretty fast. Whatever you do: don’t touch it once it’s melted!!! It’s burning hot (I blistered my finger ~ ouch!) I put the nuts in to the sauce, yes, pure sugar, no corn syrup. It took about 30 seconds to coat the nuts and I dumped them on a piece of wax paper and separated them with a fork just like it says…EASY and YUM!

  23. Jess

    Just don’t use a rubber spatula to melt the sugar…it melted with the sugar…totally ruined the entire thing.

    Yikes! Yes, best to use a wooden spoon. ~Elise

  24. LeAnn

    Don’t use waxed paper unless you don’t mind consuming it with your nuts. Mine stuck to the paper, so we were eating paper and later picking it out of our mouths… mmmm…

  25. GIRIJA

    Hi,
    The recipe was great. I like the tips for having the wax paper ready and using two forks to separate them. They taste great. But the walnut skins have a bitter taste. Any ideas?

    You can try soaking the walnuts first in milk, overnight, then rubbing the skins off, then letting the walnuts dry completely before candying them. Or you can find a source of more fresh walnuts, or walnuts that are picked earlier in the season. ~Elise

  26. audrey

    Hi,

    Observations from making this recipe:

    -great directions. easy to follow.
    -be patient waiting for the sugar to melt.
    -the sugar formed little clumps no matter how quickly I stirred in the saucepan
    -using a fork to separate the walnuts definitely helps. If the walnuts clump a bit, don’t worry. you’ll be able to break them apart.
    -there’s not enough syrup to coat the entire walnut. I kept double checking that I wasn’t supposed to use 1.5 cups!

    Overall:

    Easy to follow but they don’t look nearly as good as the photo above! they’re barely coated. Am I missing something?

  27. matt

    im sorry, this is the worst recipe ive ever used. the sugar did nothing but burn.

    Hi Matt, sugar melts before it caramelizes (turns brown), and caramelizes before it burns. It’s simple chemistry. If your sugar is burning straight off, I suggest that what you are cooking with is not actually pure sugar, but a sugar substitute or even powdered sugar, which will definitely not work in this recipe. ~Elise

  28. Noelle

    This is the first google result for “candied walnuts” so I gave it a try. First time candying, but I couldn’t help but experiment. I used 1/3 cup sugar (seemed appropriate for amount of walnuts I had), a splash of red wine vinegar, some red chili pepper oil (from Trader Joe’s), a little cinnamon and a little coriander. This meant the “color” was harder to watch. I stirred a lot – probably slowed down the process – but could totally tell when it was actualy melting. As soon as it started looking “clear” – I added the walnuts – smaller than halves. Then I mixed and put on a cookie sheet I sprayed well with oil (didn’t have wax paper – worked well!).

    I was EXTREMELY pleased with this recipe. Not sure about all the issues others had. This was really easy for me. The spices I added made it work so well. I made these for a goat cheese beet salad and I think it’ll turn out really well!

  29. Paul Worthington

    This recipe didn’t work for me at all, and I tried it twice tonight. I’m extremely disappointed. I followed the instructions to the letter, the best that I understand them. Maybe the part that isn’t adequately explained is the part about stirring “as soon as the sugar starts to melt”. I watched the sugar very carefully and “as soon as the sugar starts to melt” I started stirring. I ended up with sugar with the consistency of wet sand. Once the color was right, I added the walnuts and stirred. Once I dumped it all out, none of the sugar was sticking to any walnuts, and half my walnuts had turned into walnut dust from the dry stirring.

    The second time I tried it, I added two tablespoons of butter to the sugar at the beginning. That helped a very little. Ultimately, I was finally able to get some sugar to stick to some walnuts, and I made do with that.

    So what’s the deal? Do I have to just wait until the sugar is all clear all the way across the pan? If that’s the trick, then this recipe should be revised to make that clear, because it doesn’t work at all as written today. I’m baffled how other commenters had such good results. Are we following the same recipe?

    Hello Paul, Yes. The sugar must all melt. The directions say – “Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber.” Butter is not part of this recipe, so I don’t advise adding it. ~Elise

  30. Yoon

    This recipe worked great! I used parchment paper and it worked out beautifully! It was so delicious – my kids ate them like snacks! Salt to finish is perfect. I stored in a jar in the cupboard and kept fresh for a week (don’t know how longer it would have stayed fresh because we ate them all!). This is really easy to make and is fun to make with kids.

  31. Celeste

    Super easy and delicious! You just have to follow the directions carefully. The sugar really does melt on its own, people. You just need to keep stirring and stirring. First it forms larger clumps that stick together, and then the clumps melt.
    You can sprinkle on whatever you want at the end… I used cinammon, coconut, and salt.
    The other thing I did differently: I didn’t have any wax or parchment paper on hand, so I liberally buttered the bottom of a pan instead. Worked perfectly, they didn’t stick!

  32. Elizabeth

    This recipe is wonderful!! Thanks so much!
    Only change was to toast the walnuts in a skillet, oven heats my kitchen too much in the summertime. They came out sinfully delicious!

  33. Elissa

    Easy and good! I used walnut pieces that were already toasted, which made it even quicker. They didn’t stick to the pyrex dish I cooled them in at all. Adding salt, black and cayenne pepper made them better. Will be great on salads.

  34. Deb

    I just tried these for the first time. I was about ready to call it quits (I had the melting and clumping that some other posters have described) but I just kept stirring and it eventually happened! The sugar completely melted…I added a bit of pumpkin pie spice and they are really good. There was a bit of stringing between the nuts as I separated them on the baking sheet…I assume this is normal or does it mean that I didn’t cook the sugar long enough? Regardless they taste just fine and will be awesome on salad (along with craisins and a raspberry vinaigrette).

    So glad it worked out for you! And yes, the stringing is normal. ~Elise

  35. Ybk

    One important tip when doing this is DO NOT put the candied nuts on WAX paper. The sugar temp will be way in excess of what wax paper can handle. The nuts will become fused to the paper and there’s no way to get them off, without the taste of crayons and the occasional bit of paper. Use parchment paper instead! It can handle the heat. Learned this the hard way!

  36. Emma

    I don’t have a pot with a particularly thick bottom- how problematic is this?

    It’s a problem because then the sugar might not melt or caramelize evenly. You could more easily end up with burnt sugar. ~Elise

  37. wanda

    I have been looking for a candied walnut recipe that uses liquor. I’m not sure if it is Rum or something else. I remember having them when I was a young child at Christmas time and they were awesome.
    Does anyone have a recipe like that?

    Thanx,
    wanda

  38. Barbara

    I’ve wanted to make candied walnuts for some time. I found your recipe. The fewer ingredients and steps, the better. It was so easy. I added a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper into the sugar. They came out so light and crispy. I gave some to a neighbor and told her they’d be good on salads. As she was eating them, she said, “No they won’t. They won’t get that far.” That said it all. They are great!

  39. Dan Wade

    As usual, this recipe is still the simplest one around. For those who are having problems, I’ll give you a few tips:

    1) Use a big enough pan – 2-3qt. A little sauce pan won’t cut it.
    2) Stir, turn it on medium heat (medium high if you know what you are doing).
    3) Keep stirring, do not add anything. You’ll see the sugar start to look like clumpy sand.
    4) You’re close…you’ll see part of it start to melt. Now is where it’s important to bring the edges into the middle. Keep stirring, the lumps will go away.
    5) It will look like a light pancake syrup. Add your toasted nuts and stir quickly, and completely.
    6)Don’t panic if they are all sticking together. Use a forks and break them apart.
    7) DO NOT USE WAX PAPER — It melts and is hard to work with. Parchment paper is the best.

    Note: For the past 15 years, I have added a little nutmeg, cinnamon and chile powder. Great flavor. You can also zest a little orange peel.

  40. carrie

    for those that are having trouble with the sugar recrystallizing on you, it’s because you’re stirring too much. If you have any left over sugar crystals on the side of your pot / wooden spoon, you can reintroduce the crystal structure back into the already melted sugar, and they form crystals again.

    An easier way to prevent this from happening is to add 1/4 cup of water per cup of sugar at the beginning. Stir the sugar and water for the first minute or so, wash down the sides of the pot with a CLEAN brush, and water, and just walk away until the sugar syrup has turned the color you’re looking for. (i always cook sugar on medium heat) Washing down the sides of the pot periodically will help, especially if you notice crystals forming. :)

  41. Seth

    This was awesome. I had no issues. I didn’t have an appropriate sized saucepan with a thick bottom so I used my good heavy 10″ frying pan and it worked just fine.

    People who are freaking out about clumpy sugar probably weren’t patient enough. Just stir it until it all melts then throw in the nuts. Easy. I didn’t have fancy parchment paper so I just threw the nuts on aluminum foil and they didn’t stick to it.

  42. Hayley

    I just made these a few minutes ago and followed the recipe exactly. They were DELICIOUS!

    I doubled the recipe and toasted the walnuts for 6 minutes. I used a medium saucepan at medium heat (no higher) and lowered it once almost all of the clumps had melted. The sugar got very clumpy at first, but then it all melted and became amber just like the directions said. The clumps ALL melted out – it just took a little time and patience.

    I spread them on a Silpat lined baking sheet and sprinkled the salt. Once the cooled, I was able to break apart the clumps. PERFECT RECIPE!!! :)

  43. Maddy

    I had walnuts at home from many days.
    Didn’t know what to do….. Today I thought of doing something with them and googled walnut recipes….

    When I first saw this recipe , I thought its so simple but worried about the Sugar melting part

    But , It came out very well and sugar didn’t burn…..
    I used alluminium foil greased with butter for spreading the sugar coated nuts.

    Adding Salt increased the taste of it and it was really a great and easy recipe….

    Thanks for sharing……

  44. Liz

    I have never candied anything before, but I followed the recipe to the letter, and it worked wonderfully. Thank you so much to everyone else for all the tips. I also sprayed the paper with a bit of oil to stop them sticking. Might try butter next time. They taste DIVINE!

  45. dave

    Any tips on clean up? Otherwise, worked out pretty well for a first timer, except forgot the salt. I used turbinado (Sugar in the Raw) so it was amber right from the start, and might not have waited quite long enough- didn’t get even coating, but hey, they taste awesome.

  46. Tricia

    Just made these 5 minutes ago. So quick and easy. I followed directions exactly but used a silicone spatula to stir cause I don’t have a wooden spoon. Serving these on a summery salad tonight. Yum!

  47. Yoko

    Hi Elise. Just made some candied walnuts (chili lime flavor) really easily w just a pan – no turning on the oven. You just have to dry-roast the walnuts in a hot frying pan w some oil, and then add the seasonings. Once everything is coated, turn the nuts out onto a baking sheet/silpat and you’re done!

    Hi Yoko, at what point does the “candied” part come in? That sounds like seasoned, roasted walnuts, which are great in themselves, but they aren’t candied. ~Elise

  48. Jacqueline

    Yesterday, I gathered a huge bowl of walnuts from our tree. Today, we shelled the nuts and made the recipe. Worked perfectly. YUM!!!

  49. Kim

    Yummy – tastey walnuts, however, Mine have sat on the pan all night and are very sticky. They won’t dry…what should I do. We are supposed to package them today. Please help.

    I would try reheating them in the pan, and removing them from the pan as soon as you can loosen them. ~Elise

  50. Michelle

    Just tried this for the first time, to put into a salad with cranberries and apples I am making for a NYE party. I can mess anything up but these seemed to have turned out OK! I used my toaster oven and toasted the walnuts in batches, just in case. This only became problematic because I forgot to reduce the sugar for fewer walnuts, so the first batch came out very sugary! But so yummy. The second batch was better. The only problem I found is that the sugar tends to harden on the wooden spoon so I would recommend using a plastic spatula which seemed easier to get the hardened sugar off of, and also when left over residual sugar hardened in the pan, that was a bit of a pain to get off. But all in all these are so good and I’m so glad I know how to make candied walnuts now! The hardest part is not eating them all before putting them into the salad!

    I definitely do not recommend a plastic spatula, which will most likely melt at the very high temperatures of the melted sugar. To get the sugar off of the wooden spoon, just soak it in water for 10 minutes. ~Elise

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