Thanks to a skillet and the stovetop, you can make these easy candied pecans in under 10 minutes. This recipe can be used with other varieties of nuts, too. We especially love walnuts and cashews.
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, see notes
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons orange zest, optional
2 cups (6 ounces) pecan halves
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Add brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, cayenne, vanilla, water, and the orange zest (optional) to a medium skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring often until the brown sugar melts into a bubbling sauce, about 1 minute.
Stir in the pecans so that the brown sugar sauce coats them. Cook, stirring the entire time, until the pecans look candied and smell nutty, 2 to 3 minutes. As the nuts heat up in the pan, the sauce will slowly coat them and become shiny. Watch closely as the nuts cook so that they do not burn.
Transfer the candied pecans to the prepared baking sheet and spread into one layer. Allow the pecans to cool down, and then break them up before serving.
Store cooled candied nuts in an airtight container. They will last at room temperature for one week, in the refrigerator for a few weeks and in the freezer for a month, if not longer.