These delicious Maple Candied Walnuts are the perfect treat for the holidays, and make an impressive garnish for soups and salads. Naturally sweetened, they are a healthy and whole food recipe that is sure to win your family over. Best of all? Just 3 simple real food ingredients!
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The Christmas season is upon us, and there is so much joy and thankfulness to be had. Many of us have had a difficult year, but there are always things for which we can express gratitude. I’m thankful for a dedicated and wonderful husband, and the many memories we’ve made together with our (now) toddler. It’s been a year of ups and downs, but I’m looking forward to this upcoming season to celebrate the incarnation and enjoy some of the traditions we’ve formed as a family.
Food Traditions are Good Traditions
With traditions often comes food traditions in particular. I think it would be hard pressed to find a family that has formed Christmas traditions without the involvement of food. Food is a literally life-giving source, and so it only seems natural to feed the ones we love when we get together for celebration. I think we as a culture have lost our love of food, and rather replaced it with fear and idolatry. In making food the enemy, we have given it a sort of power that it never should have over us. I say this as someone who has struggled with disordered eating, and as someone who observes this reverent fear of food present in so many people today.
But food is nourishing. Food is good. Food is essential for survival. And food is how we serve and meet the needs of others. Enjoying food is good and right. Now, in this time of celebration, food is necessary.
Choosing Natural Sweeteners
One of the changes I’ve resolved to make in my health journey is to limit refined sugar, and opt for natural sugars. Yes, natural sugars are still sugar, but they do come with added benefits you do not see with refined sugars. Since they are unrefined, there are trace minerals, and most are lower in the glycemic index than regular white sugar. For me, it’s more about eating those whole foods my great grandmother would recognize. And yes, she would recognize white sugar too! But white sugar would have been an occasional treat, and so it should be for us today in the 21st century as well.
While I will certainly be indulging in some white sugar-sweetened treats this Christmas season, I intend on making lots of delicious meals and treats with whole foods too. The best part of opting for a whole foods diet is there is no deprivation. Whole foods are naturally flavorful and delicious, and you can make both savory dinners and sweet treats with just a few simple ingredients.
A Sweet Treat Using Maple Syrup
One of my favorite new whole food recipes is this one for Maple Candied Walnuts. Just 3 simple ingredients become a tasty treat that is perfect for the holiday season. Maple Candied Walnuts are naturally sweetened with — you guessed it! — maple syrup. It’s hard to believe that just 3 whole food ingredients come together to make such a tasty treat.
I originally developed these as a garnish for my Instant Pot Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup. Now that I’ve been doing food photography for a while, making a soup without a garnish just seems wrong. The soup looks naked! And so I thought about complimentary flavors and textures, and immediately thought of a candied walnut! But of course, I wanted to feature maple syrup since the soup I was making had a good splash of maple syrup stirred in.
I found this recipe from Natasha’s kitchen using white sugar, and adapted it for using maple syrup. I was worried that it wouldn’t turn out since maple syrup is liquid, rather than crystalized, but it worked out beautifully. It took some tweaking as far as the ratio of maple syrup was concerned, but I was so pleased with the results. Because this recipe has been adapted for use with natural sweeteners, you have to be a little more careful to not burn the nuts. Honey and maple syrup always burn a little easier than your typical refined white sugar.
What Do I Need to Make Easy Candied Walnuts?
- Pure Maple Syrup
Yup! That’s it! I know, it’s crazy! But trust me.
How to Make Maple Candied Walnuts
It’s so simple to make these! In fact, maybe a little too simple. I’ve whipped up several batches since developing, and have tinkered around with a honey-sweetened version as well, although I strongly prefer the maple sweetened version. The process is easy:
- Step One: Gather your ingredients and prepare your baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
- Step Two: Heat a skillet over medium heat.
- Step Three: Melt the butter and add the maple syrup.
- Step Four: Toss the walnuts with the maple butter mixture.
- Step Five: Cook, tossing often, for about 4-5 minutes.
- Step Six: Transfer to parchment, spread out, and cool. Then break apart and serve.
Yum! It doesn’t get any easier than this!
How to Use Maple Candied Walnuts
There are so many ways to use these delicious naturally sweetened maple candied walnuts. Of course, you can eat them as is ( this is my preferred method!), but there are many other uses for them as well.
- On Salads: The best salads have a crunchy, nutty topping. These would be delicious tossed on your favorite salad. I imagine alongside a poppy seed dressing they would be particularly delightful!
- To Garnish Soup: This was my original intent of developing this recipe, and it worked wonderfully. The crunchy nuts paired beautifully with the smooth, creamy Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup.
- In Muffins: Adding walnuts to muffins and quick breads is one of my favorite things to do. Imagine how much more amazing they would be with maple candied walnuts!
- Granola: You could add these to basic granola (like my Healthy Cinnamon Granola) for a special treat on top of yogurt or eaten as a cold cereal.
- Snacking: And of course, just for snacking out of your palm! These would pair especially well with a nice crisp apple for a quick and tasty snack.
Equipment You Will Need:
- Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mat: To prevent sticking, you’ll need to line your baking sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat. I have this one from Silpat and it’s going strong some 10 years later!
- Medium Skillet: A nonstick skillet works best, but a stainless steel skillet could work well if you’re trying to stay away from nonstick surfaces.
- Heatproof Silicone Spatula: Since we’re making “candied” walnuts, things can get pretty hot! Best to opt for a heat proof spatula. I’ve melted a few spatulas in my time. It’s not pretty.
Can I Make Them with Honey?
You can make honey candied walnuts by substituting the exact quantity of maple syrup for honey. Honey burns a lot quicker, so lower your cook time to 3-4 minutes and keep an extra careful eye on them. I prefer the maple flavor, but the honey is nice too if that is what you have on hand. If you’re preparing them for the holidays, it may be nice to make both for your guests!
And Now for the Recipe: Easy Maple Candied Walnuts!
Maple Candied Walnuts
- 1 cup Raw Walnut Halves
- 1 tbsp. Salted Butter
- 3 tbsp. Pure Maple Syrup
- Preheat a skillet over medium heat, and gather your ingredients to ensure they are ready when needed. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make sure it is ready and next to your work space.
- Once the skillet is hot, add the butter and stir with a heatproof silicone spatula until melted.
- Add the maple syrup, and stir quickly to combine with the melted butter.
- Add the walnuts, and toss well in the butter and maple syrup.
- Keep stirring often, to prevent burning and to evenly coat the walnuts with the maple and butter mixture.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes, tossing frequently. Keep a close eye, since it can burn easily.
- Once the nuts are done, immediately scrape them out of the skillet and onto the prepared parchment paper. Use your silicone spatula to break up the nut pieces so they are not all clustered together.
- Let the nuts cool for 5-10 minutes. Break them up and place them in a glass container to cool further. Once they are completely cool, cover the container.
- Keep at room temperature for 1 week, or longer in the fridge. These make an excellent garnish for soups, and a delicious snack. Perfect for parties and holidays.