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Dorothy Dean presents: Going nuts over sweet and spicy candied pistachios

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 22, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

This Friday, we’re going nuts – nuts over pistachios, that is, because Feb. 26 celebrates that vibrant green nut with National Pistachio Day.

A member of the cashew and mango family, pistachios originated in Central Asia and the Middle East, where they’re often called the smiling nut.

Their shell is naturally beige and typically splits when ripe. Remember red cashews from back in the day? Well, they were dyed that color to hide flaws on the shells and to also make them stand out for marketing.

Loaded with dietary fiber, heart-healthy fats, antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals, these little nutritional gems are a satisfying and healthy snack option.

They contain as much protein as an egg per 1-ounce serving, which happens to be 49 nuts, more nuts per serving than any other snack nut.

While tasty on their own, a little bit of sweetness and pinch of spice never hurt. This recipe gives them a delicious makeover with a crunchy coating of sweet heat.

Encrusted in crystallized sugar and a harmonious blend of cinnamon, cayenne and paprika, they’re simple to make and downright addictive.

In a pan with a candy thermometer, the sugar and spices are mixed with a bit of water and brought to 238 degrees. The pistachios are then folded in until completely coated in the mixture.

They’re then dumped onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and quickly spread apart and separated. The sugar will crystallize as it cools, so the coating will transform from syrupy to sandy.

Once cooled, they’re ready for munching. These bite-size crunch bombs are amazing by the handful, or toss them in salads, popcorn or granola for an added kick of flavor and texture.

They’re also great for cheese boards, desserts and gift-giving. This recipe can easily be doubled, and any nuts, or mixture of nuts, can be used: pecans, walnuts and almonds.

They’re subtly spicy; however, if you don’t want the heat, feel free to skip the cayenne.

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pistachios

Adapted from loveandoliveoil.com.

¾ cup sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika

¼ cup water

1 ½ cups shelled pistachios, roasted and salted

In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cayenne and paprika. Stir in ¼ cup water and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When syrup mixture reaches 238 degrees, remove from the heat and stir in the pistachios, folding them into the sugar mixture until completely coated.

Dump the coated nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, separating and breaking apart large pieces (this is easiest done by using two spatulas to spread and separate the clumps).

Work quickly because, as the sugar cools, it will begin to crystallize and clump together; it will turn from a consistency of syrup into that of wet sand.

Let the pistachios cool completely before enjoying. Store in an airtight container.

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