roasted spiced pecans

My husband and I have a continual debate over how to pronounce pecan. He says it pee-can, and I pronounce it pe-kawn. I, of course, am correct.

However you say it [and you totally should say it my way], pecans are fabulous nuts. I grew up gathering and shelling pecans that fell from the pecan tree at my parents’ house, right in the backyard. Talk about convenience foods. In the fall, all I had to do was walk outside and look on the ground, and I had an instant snack. These days, that poor tree is not producing nuts like it used to. Of course, it’s 20-something (okay, maybe 30-something) years older, and it has never really been tended to properly.

My mom – prompted, I’m sure by a conversation about gathering pecans from that tree – gave me a huge bag of shelled pecans for Christmas. It took a lot of willpower and self-restraint, but I finally made myself stop snacking on the raw pecans. I wanted to come up with some great recipes for the nuts, but the truth is that I just like them plain.

To get just one step away from plain, I made roasted spiced pecans. Roasting changes the flavor quite a bit – it makes it deeper, and perhaps a little less sweet and more savory. Tossed with melted butter, sugar, and spices, the pecans are a mouthful of salty sweet heat. Oh, and completely addicting.

This recipe is going at the top of my list for potential gifts next time the holidays roll around.

I’d love to know if you have a favorite pecan recipe to share. If so, please tell me about it in the comments. And if you’d like to side with me on the pee-can versus pe-kawn debate, feel free.

Yield: About 2 1/2 cups.

Roasted Spiced Pecans

Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1990. I decreased the amount of cumin and added cinnamon to the spice mix. These are great stored in an air-tight Mason or Ball jar for up to 5 days. Toss them into salads or eat them by the handful - my favorite way, of course.


10 ounces pecan halves
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 300°F. Place pecan halves in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon to butter and stir until aromatic, about 15 seconds. Pour over pecans. Add sugar and salt and stir well to coat. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until nuts are toasted, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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21 Responses to “roasted spiced pecans”

  1. 1
    Jenn — January 26, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

    I’m with you on the pronunciation 🙂 those sound great!

  2. 2
    Gail — January 26, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    I’m with you, MJ…pe-kawn. And, my favorite bar nuts recipe is from The Union Square Cafe..
    cayenne, brown sugar, salt, rosemary & butter. Sometimes I use mixed nuts, but my favorite is pe-kawns.

  3. 3
    Chris — January 26, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    These look irresistible! I admit, I pronounce them both ways. It depends on what the recipe/dish is and where it came from (Old home – up north, New Home – down south). Odd, really. Same with Aunt (Ant) and Aunt (Aônt).

  4. 4
    Liz the Chef — January 26, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

    After having had my orange tree professionally pruned last year, we have double or triple the fruit this winter – I’d hire someone to do your folks’ tree. Worth it for those gorgeous nuts!

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  6. 5
    Kathy — January 26, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

    I love your spice jars; I apologize if you’ve answered before, but I’ve been a long-time reader and I don’t recall seeing anything about them… where did you get them? What did you use to write on them?

    Thanks for the recipe! I may try with almonds, as Mini Me is highly allergic to pecans.

    • 5.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 26, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

      Hi Kathy! The jars are Libbey Vibe jars (here’s a link on Amazon: To write on them, I used an oil-based marker from Sharpie – made for writing on glass and other surfaces.

  7. 6
    Paula - bell'alimento — January 26, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

    I think these could be a new addiction. I won’t tell you how I pronounce them ; ) The jars are adorable LURVE xoxo

  8. 7
    Liren — January 26, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

    I pronounce it like you, but my understanding is that your sweet hubbie’s pronunciation is considered correct as well. What a treat for you to grow up with a pecan tree! I can’t get enough of them…this recipe sounds wonderful and would taste so good in my salads!

  9. 8
    Kelly @ EvilShenanigans — January 27, 2011 @ 12:25 am

    Ok … I admit … I have serious jar envy! So cute!! Anything I say about this recipe will sound dirty … so let me just say that you pronounce pecan properly, and those pecans sounds mighty tasty no matter how you way it. Even if you say it wrong. 😀

  10. 9
    Lana @ Never enough Thyme — January 27, 2011 @ 8:58 am

    Well, I grew up in pecan-producing country and we always pronounced it “puh-cahn.” We had pecan trees in our yards, all over town and in orchards throughout the area – mostly Stuarts and Slides with a few Papershells, too. But no matter what variety you have or how you say it, pecans are just delicious! Pecans are always my preference, much more so than walnuts. I have a similar savory-spicy recipe that I make for cocktail parties and a sweet version that I make every Christmas.

  11. 10
    Lynda — January 27, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

    oops, I think I pronounce it your husband’s way. I do share your love for pecans, though! Thanks for the recipe.

  12. 11

    Seems like everyone is having the same pronunciation debate! I’m with you, my husband is in the other camp. How nice that you had a tree in your backyard growing up, like you said it certainly would be the perfect convenience food!

  13. 12
    Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — January 28, 2011 @ 7:27 am

    “You say TomaaatO & I say TomaetOE, potaeeto, potaaato, lets call the whole thing off”. However, you say it, tastes great. Now I’m going to have that song in my head all day 🙂

    • 12.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 28, 2011 @ 8:43 am

      Lael – Now I do too! 🙂

  14. 13
    Barbara Kiebel — January 28, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

    I loved in the south for 10 yrs so am familiar with the pee-can version but us midwesterners (from St. Louis originally) pronounce more like Lana’s version. Funny how one little nut can have such variants depending on geography.

    I wish I had the recipe listed but this post was a part of the series for those of us with Dorie Greenspan’s newest book and we’ve committed to not publishing the recipe but I loved these. Sugar and spice…they’re in her book, ‘Around My French Table’ and yes, a bit addictive.

    The jars are adorable. Have you ever heard of – the most wonderful jars if you put foods up especially for gifts.

  15. 14
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 28, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

    Yum! These look fabulous! And, I am totally a pe-kawn person. 🙂

  16. 15
    Aggie — January 29, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    I love pee-cans!! 😉 They are one of my favorites for sure. How lucky are you to have grown up with a tree right in your backyard! I love them spiced, but I love them even more just toasted and thrown into salads.

    Your jars are gorgeous!!

  17. 16
    Barbara Polat — January 31, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    Please tell your husband that in Virginia, where I grew up, we took a pee-can with us in the boat when we went out on the Chesapeake in case “nature called.” I happen to have a bunch of pecans that were just given to me, and I’m going to try this recipe – if I can keep them away from the kids long enough!

  18. 17

    I am with you on how to pronounce pecan! There is nothing better than spicing up nuts and just munching on them. Love the combination you did and the jars are spectacular. Nice job!

  19. 18
    Yvonne — January 17, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

    I pronounce pecans as puh-kawns, but Jimmy Carter says that it’s correct to pronounce them as pee-lawns, pee-cans or puh-kawns…different strokes, huh? I’m originally from Atlanta, so puh-kawns sounds right to me. I currently live in Spokane, WA, and most people here say pee-cans. Anyway, nice blog. I grew up with pecan trees, plus peach, apple, plum, pear and persimmon in Atlanta. My favorite roasted pecan is simply made with unsalted butter and kosher or sea salt which I make often during the holidays. We have a restaurant here in Spokane that makes Caesar salad with cumin pecans that are neither spicy or sweet. I love the combination of the simple cumin pecans with the parmesan and Caesar dressing.

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