Bar Food Makeover: Spicy Maple Mixed Nuts

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool. 

Inviting friends over for a few drinks often winds up being more stressful than it should be. Hosts get caught up in making the perfect appetizers, which never seem to finish cooking in the proper amount of time. Unless you promised your pals some sort of gourmet spread, they’re a lot more interested in hanging out than raiding your kitchen. They’ll be more than happy with a bowl of these sweet and spicy mixed nuts, which happen to be super easy.

About this recipe

Close up of spicy maple mixed nuts in a white bowl

Christine Skopec/The Cheat Sheet

Inspired by a classic nibble found at nearly every watering hole, we wanted to create a great-tasting recipe for mixed nuts. Making bar nuts at home also ensures they won’t achieve the same gross reputation as the ones at the local saloon. As for boosting the flavor, using ingredients like maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon took care of that with ease.

We used a mix of walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds for this recipe, but just about anything will work. Pistachios, peanuts, and even macadamia nuts will work. The only key is making sure you get raw, unsalted nuts. Ones that have already been toasted will burn and ones that are seasoned will end up too salty. You can also use whatever proportions you want as long as you end up with a total of 3 cups.

For the coating, just melt a bit of butter in the microwave before stirring in the syrup, spices, and salt. Again, you can be flexible here. If you’re a little sensitive to spice, back the cayenne down to ¼ teaspoon. Once everything is combined, add the nuts, toss until they’re completely coated, then dump them out onto a lightly greased baking sheet.

Transfer the nuts to the oven and let them bake. Though this snack is pretty low maintenance, you will have to stir the nuts a few times to make sure they cook evenly. Most ovens have hot spots, which means you’ll end up with some areas that burn and some that don’t toast enough if you neglect them for the entire cook time. After about 25 minutes, they’re ready to come out. Let the glazed nuts cool for at least 5 minutes so no one scorches their mouth, then transfer them to a bowl. Dig in while they’re still warm or let them cool to room temperature first.

While you can pair just about any beverage with this recipe, we do have a few suggestions. Dry and sparkling white wines help combat heat, but this recipe would also be a good opportunity to try some dessert wines, such as Sauternes. Warm spices like cinnamon typically pair well with fruity reds. Wine Folly suggested pairing this fragrant spice with Amarone or Zinfandel.

Beer drinkers have just as much room to play. Serious Eats recommended something with hops to play up the heat in sweet and spicy nuts while something darker or malty will highlight the sweet flavors. Try an IPA if you’re a heat seeker or a winter warmer for the latter effect. Even lighter styles will work with this dish, so let your preference be the real guide.

Lastly, we come to cocktails. Your best bet for picking a good pairing is to choose flavors that highlight the maple flavor. Anything with bourbon would be a good choice since it has a caramel-like taste that will echo the syrup. Try this refreshing drink made with tea and bourbon. Cider is also a great pairing, so give this fizzy apple cocktail a shot.

Spicy Maple Mixed Nuts

Close up of spicy maple mixed nuts in a white bowl

Christine Skopec/The Cheat Sheet

Though there’s butter in these mixed nuts, a greased cookie sheet offers extra insurance against sticking. This recipe makes enough to serve at least 6.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dark maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups raw mixed nuts, such as cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pecans

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave the butter until melted, about 1 minute. Stir in the syrup, salt, and spices. Add the nuts and toss until thoroughly coated.

Transfer nuts to a lightly greased baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake until nuts are toasted and fragrant, about 25 to 30 minutes, tossing twice to ensure even browning. Let cool. Serve.

See you back here next week.

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