Caramelized pecans are a Southern staple, and for good reason. They’re a sweet treat with crunchy pecans and caramelized brown sugar that can be enjoyed on their own or used in various recipes. In addition, they make great gifts for family and friends during the holiday season.
This easy recipe makes it simple to whip up a batch of caramelized pecans on your stovetop in no time.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- They’re easy to make. You only need simple ingredients and less than 20 minutes to make these classic caramelized pecans. In addition, you don’t need a candy thermometer for the caramelized sugar.
- They’re homemade. There’s nothing quite like the taste of toasted Southern pecans, especially when they’re caramelized to perfection.
- They’re versatile. You can enjoy these crunchy pecans on their own as a snack or use them to top salads, desserts, ice cream, yogurt, and more.
- They’re delicious. The caramelized sugar coating perfectly balances the sweet and nutty flavors of the pecans.
- They’re a crowd-pleaser. Everyone loves candied caramelized pecans, so they’re the perfect treat to make for parties, potlucks, and holiday gatherings.
Ingredients – Here’s What You’ll Need
- The Pecans: You can’t have caramelized pecans without pecans, right? I like to use pecan halves in this recipe that I have lightly toasted.
- Sugar: I used light brown sugar in this recipe. I’ve also made this recipe in the past using white sugar, but I prefer the caramel-like flavor that brown sugar provides.
- The Liquids: This recipe uses only two simple liquids: water and vanilla extract. You might think that you need unsalted butter or corn syrup as well, but you don’t – just water and vanilla extract!
- The Flavorings: I used fine sea salt and ground cinnamon to enhance the flavor of this sweet treat.
Here’s How To Make These Amazing Pecans
Here are the steps, along with step-by-step photos, to make this classic southern tradition.
- I started by adding the brown sugar, cold water, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt to a large saucier over medium heat. I could have also used a large saucepan or a large skillet here.
- I stirred the sugar mixture constantly over medium heat with a rubber spatula until the sugar dissolved and the sugar syrup came to a boil. I could have also used a wooden spoon, but a rubber spatula is better. Anyway, this took three to four minutes.
- Once the sugar mixture came to a low boil, I added the toasted pecans and stirred everything together to ensure that the pecans were evenly coated.
- I stirred the pecan mixture constantly over medium heat until the pecans were coated in a sandy-looking sugar mixture. This took another four minutes or so.
- I continued stirring the pecan mixture over medium-low heat for another ten minutes. During this time, the sandy sugar coating on the pecans melted and caramelized on the pecans.
I probably could have cooked the mixture a little bit longer here for a more caramelized pecan with a shiny coating. However, I was concerned that I would end up burning the pecans, so I erred on the side of conservatism!
- Once I was satisfied with the stage of the caramelized pecans, I transferred them to a silicone-lined large baking sheet. I could have also used parchment paper here.
- While the pecans were still hot, I used two forks to gently separate them. Then, I let the caramelized pecans come to room temperature.
The homemade caramelized pecans were amazing. The hint of cinnamon filled the whole kitchen with a familiar arts festival aroma.
These easy homemade Southern stovetop caramelized pecans are a delicious and versatile treat that everyone will love. They’re perfect for snacking, topping salads, desserts, and more. And they’re incredibly easy to make, with just three a handful of ingredients and less than 20 minutes of your time.
So what are you waiting for? Give this recipe a try today and see for yourself why these caramelized pecans are a definite southern tradition. Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
A saucier is a wide pan with sloping sides that is a cross between a straight-side saucepan and a skillet. If you don’t have a saucier, you can use a large saucepan or a skillet in this recipe. You can also use a dutch oven.
This treat will last up to two weeks if stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
The caramelized pecans are not like southern pralines even though some of the ingredients are the same. For example, this recipe does not contain unsalted butter or heavy cream. Also, the mixture is not cooked to a soft ball stage. The focus here is on the slightly sweet toasted pecans.
Feel free to substitute toasted almonds or toasted walnuts in this recipe. Both work well.
For the best results, use raw, unsalted pecans that you toast in a single layer in a 350°F oven for eight or nine minutes.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Be sure to let the pecans come to room temperature before sneaking a taste. The caramelized sugar is quite hot and can easily burn you.
- Using a large pot with a wide bottom in this recipe is best. The reason is that the larger surface area makes the caramelization go faster.
- Different stovetops operate differently. Therefore, be sure to watch the pecan mixture carefully to ensure that it doesn’t burn. If in doubt, turn down the heat.
- It’s best not to make this recipe on a rainy day. The reason is that sugar is hygroscopic, which absorbs water from the air. Too much humidity will cause the pecans to lose their crunchiness. That’s one reason that the pecans should be stored in an airtight container.
- These amazing pecans make great gifts. Package them in treat bags or holiday-themed containers for gifts that your family, coworkers, and friends will absolutely love.
Other Delicious Pecan Treats
Pecans are my absolute favorite nut. Here are some of my favorite recipes featuring the South’s favorite nut just in time for the holidays.
- Chocolate Covered Roasted Pecans
- Chocolate Pecan Toffee Clusters
- Toasted Pecan Snowball Cookies (Classic Christmas Cookie)
- Easy Pecan Praline Morsels (Perfect Christmas Gift)
- Bourbon Pecan Praline Popcorn
- Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookie Brittle
- Chocolate Billionaires
- Creamy New Orleans Pralines (Perfect Mardi Gras Candy)
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Easy Homemade Southern Stovetop Caramelized Pecans
- 2 cups raw pecan halves, toasted (See Tip 1)
- ⅔ cup (5 ounces) light brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (1 ounce) water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (See Tip 2)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (See Tip 3)
- Combine, brown sugar, water, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt in a saucier or large saucepan or large skillet. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue stirring over medium heat until the sugar mixture comes to a boil, about 4 minutes. Add toasted pecans; stir to combine.
- Continue stirring pecan mixture over medium heat until the sugar mixture forms a sandy coating on the pecans, about 4 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook stirring constantly until the sandy coating melts and forms a caramelized coating on the pecans, about 10 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure that the pecans do not burn.
- Transfer caramelized pecans to a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet. Using two forks, carefully separate the pecans into single pieces. Allow to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
- Yield: 3 cups, 12 servings. (See Tip 4)
- To toast pecans, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for eight to nine minutes. Watch carefully to ensure that the pecans do not burn.
- May omit cinnamon if you don’t like cinnamon.
- If you don’t have sea salt, you can substitute table salt.
- These make excellent gifts. Package the caramelized pecans in treat bags or decorative containers for holiday gifts for friends, coworkers and family.