Why Butter Is An Essential Ingredient When Making Candied Walnuts

Bowl of candied walnuts
Bowl of candied walnuts - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Like the beloved Ina Garten famously says, "store-bought is fine" for some ingredients. However, when it comes to candied walnuts, the process of making them is so easy that we think you might as well whip them up from scratch. You won't have to worry about consuming any processed ingredients or preservatives, and you'll have more control of how sweet the nuts turn out. No matter what your technique is to make homemade candied walnuts, butter is always an essential ingredient.

On their own, walnuts are earthy, nutty, and slightly fruity which pairs well with the richness of butter. It's not just about the flavor, though. When the butter is melted, it allows the sugar, salt, and other spices to cling to the nuts. The butter will then combine with the sugars and spices to create a crunchy coating around the outside of the nuts for even more texture. The ingredient also ensures that the crunchy coating will almost caramelize so the nuts don't come out burnt. To elevate the taste of your candied nuts further, make flavorful brown butter to bring out the butter's own nuttiness. These reasons are why recipe developer Miriam Hahn uses butter in her simple candied walnuts recipe along with coconut sugar, cinnamon sugar, and sea salt.

Read more: 30 Healthy Snack Ideas That Won't Ruin Your Diet

It Won't Take Much Butter To Make Delicious Candied Walnuts

Candied walnuts in pan
Candied walnuts in pan - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

It doesn't take much butter to make the magic happen. For eight servings, it only requires 1 cup of halved nuts and 2 tablespoons of butter, per Hahn's guidance. Use salted or unsalted butter, but the former will require you to be mindful of how much extra salt you add to the walnuts. If you're worried about over salting, go with unsalted butter and add salt to taste. For vegan-friendly candied walnuts, Hahn suggests using a vegan butter alternative. However, vegan butter is typically made out of various oils so it won't give the nuts quite the same buttery flavor. When it's time to cook, melt the butter in a pan with sugar then add the walnuts. Another option is to roast the walnuts in the oven, add the butter and other ingredients, then return the coated nuts to the oven for further cooking.

Cinnamon and sugar are the classic ingredients for candied walnuts, and you can use regular granulated white sugar instead of the coconut variety in Hahn's recipe. Brown sugar is also a good option to obtain a more caramel-like flavor. To contrast with the sweetness, add sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes to the batch. When the candied walnuts are ready, eat them warm for a crunchy-and-sweet snack. Use leftovers to give crunch to salads, perhaps with Tasting Table's candied walnut Waldorf salad or a chicken, pear, and walnut chopped salad.

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