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How to Make Candied Walnuts

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Last updated on October 12th, 2021 at 03:01 pm

All of my latest posts are desserts or sugar-related, I know. Don’t hate me. But candied walnuts are a little more versatile. Salads, toppings, granola, snacking, as well as desserts.

As a young college student, I had a part-time job at the movie theater. Shoutout to Harkins – they have the best movie popcorn. They offered candied pecans, walnuts, and almonds for sale along with the usual popcorn, soda, and candy.

Plain walnuts ready to cook

While on the job, they would rotate team members through different positions as you learned. You would start off cleaning theaters and bathrooms. Then after getting a food handler license you could move into working concessions. And after a while, they would have you work the box office selling tickets.

But while at concessions you would take orders, make popcorn, build boxes, prep nachos, and switch out soda syrup boxes in the back. And once or twice every shift they would make batches of candied nuts. I never had the honor of making them myself, and I hated when they would start the machine up for a new batch.

Candied walnuts, laid out to dry

Because it smelled so good. And I knew I wouldn’t be eating any. It was pure torture.

The Process for Candied Walnuts

But if you are making these walnuts for yourself, you won’t have that same problem.

I had trouble making candied walnuts for the longest time. The issue, in my eyes, was that I followed recipes that instructed me to put the nuts in with the sugar before it had melted. This ended up cooking the walnuts for far too long and they would always taste burnt.

Step by step images showing the walnuts as they cook

The trick is to take the sugar to caramelization and then stir in the walnuts.

For this method, I add the sugar straight to the pan on medium heat and let it slowly melt. While it is melting, the sugar will also begin to caramelize. Once all the sugar is melted and reached the perfectly brown caramel color you want, add the walnuts and water and stir to coat. Let it cook a few more minutes to release some of the moisture.

Then remove the pan from the heat and spread the walnuts out on a covered baking sheet. You can use foil, parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat to line your baking sheet. Now put it into the oven at 350°F to dry and harden even more.

Once they have been in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, take them out and let them cool. After cooling, they will be sweet crunchy nuggets of caramelized flavor. You will need to break the walnuts apart since the sugar has hardened.

Store them in an airtight container or bag for up to 2 weeks, depending mostly on the moisture level in the air.

Flavor Options

For the base recipe below, I have not included anything in the ingredients that would add extra flavor to the candied nuts. But that doesn’t mean that other flavors are out of the question.

Close-up of candied walnuts

If you want to add some different flavor to the walnuts, mix it into the 1/2 cup of water before adding it into the pan. For most spices, between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon should be enough – depending on how potent the flavor you want to add is.

Optional ingredients to flavor – vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar instead of white sugar, really whatever you think would taste great with the walnut flavor.

The warm spices that make up pumpkin pie spice would all really work well with the walnuts.

How to Make Candied Walnuts

Course: SnacksDifficulty: Moderate


Prep time


Cooking time


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Perfect for topping salads, ice cream, and cakes, or for straight snacking.


  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 cups walnuts

  • 1/2 cup water


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C)
  • Add the sugar to a thick-bottomed pan over medium heat
  • Let the sugar melt, stirring occasionally, and it will begin to caramelize
  • Once all of the sugar has melted and it has caramelized to a nice rich brown color, stir in the walnuts
  • Add the water to the pan and stir to combine and coat, let it cook while stirring for 3 to 5 minutes
  • Remove the pan from the heat and spread the walnuts on a parchment, silicone mat, or foil-lined baking sheet
  • Bake them in the oven 5 to 10 minutes to lose moisture
  • Remove them from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes, then break apart the walnuts and enjoy

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