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Spicy Pecans and Walnuts

March 30, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

There are many road blocks to achieving successful weight loss and long term weight maintenance. Chief among them is a lack of culinary creativity and access to a wide variety of diet-friendly foods. When you read the final part of that last sentence, certain unexciting foods probably came to mind such as carrot and celery sticks or, perhaps, the much dreaded rice cakes. That’s not my idea of an ideal snack if you’re looking to shed excess pounds or maintain a healthy weight.

When you’re trying to stick to any new diet I think you have take into account all of your senses. You want to provide your eyes, mouth, nose and stomach with sensations that will genuinely satisfy your entire body and mind. This usually means cranking up the flavor profile while simultaneously keeping in mind the appearance and texture of the food in question. That’s what I’ve attempted to do with this week’s recipe.

Spicy Thyme Pecans & Walnuts

1 cup halved raw pecans

1 cup halved raw walnuts

1 oz of sugar-free maple flavored syrup by Nature’s Hollow

1 tbs of olive oil

1 tsp dry thyme (crushed)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp of NutraSalt (potassium-rich sea salt)

Nutritional Facts: Calories: 180. Fat: 18 grams. Protein: 3 grams. Carbohydrates: 4 grams (2 grams of “Effective Carbohydrates”) Based on 10 servings per batch. After subtracting the fiber from the nuts and the xylitol from the maple syrup.

Pre-heat the oven to 350º F. Combine the dry ingredients and the liquids together in a large bowl. Add the nuts and fold them into the wet mixture until evenly coated. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pour the wet pecan and walnut mixture in a single layer on the parchment paper. Sprinkle nuts with some additional salt if desired. Place the prepped nuts into the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. Consume within one week. This last part shouldn’t be a problem. They rarely last very long in our household.

I chose pecans and walnuts as the featured nuts in this recipe because they happen to contain a significant amount of a class of phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins. This is a similar variety of antioxidants as those found in red wine and pine bark extract or Pycnogenol. Numerous studies suggest that these naturally occurring chemicals impart significant benefits with regard to the cardiovascular system and beyond. (1,2,3)

Pecans Effectively and Safely Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Source:  Journal of Nutrition. 2001;131:2275-2279. (link)

The seasonings I used were not chosen randomly. In recent months scientists have discovered that extracts of thyme may be useful in: a) suppressing excessive inflammation via cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression; b) decreasing anxiety to a comparable extent as a conventional anxiolytic medication (diazepam) in an animal model and; c) protecting the brain and liver in an experimental model of alcohol abuse. It should be noted that the alcohol study combined a water-based extract of thyme with ginger. (4,5,6)

Likewise, the inclusion of cayenne pepper isn’t just there just to bring some heat to the party. Capsicum annuum is documented as having a beneficial effect on blood sugar control and high blood pressure that is associated with hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). These pepper fruits are also excellent sources of potent antioxidants including beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, polyphenols and zeaxanthin. The vivid colors in peppers are there for more than just visual appeal. The pigments in the flesh and skin of these fruits tell us that they’re loaded with carotenoids that will protect us well. (7,8,9)

The beautiful thing about eating a whole food diet is that you can confidently mix and match ingredients in these types of recipes. If you don’t like spicy foods, omit the cayenne. Add some other dry or fresh herbs and spices instead. You can use different nuts or seeds too. We recently tried cashews roasted w/garlic powder and fresh rosemary that were downright delicious. This recipe is an excellent candidate to experiment with because from start to finish, you can make it in under a half hour. It’s simple. It’s delicious. It’s good for your entire body, mind and pocketbook. And please share your own tips about how to make alternate and even tastier versions of this recipe.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Recipes

12 Comments & Updates to “Spicy Pecans and Walnuts”

  1. Linda Says:

    I can highly recommend a very healthy snack I came across recently, which I think are popular in Turkey. These are double-roasted yellow chickpeas, called leblebi. They are wonderfully nutty and crunchy, and fairly high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. The advantage is that you can eat more of these than you would nuts as they are so low in fat. I tried making my own by roasting boiled chickpeas in the oven. They were pretty good, but not as addictive as the one’s I bought! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leblebi

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you for the recommendation, Linda!

    I’ve never tried leblebi before. I’ll look out for them in my upcoming shopping excursions.

    Be well!


  3. Rosemary Says:

    Those spice pecans and walnuts sound delicious. As soon as my NutraSalt samples arrive I’m going to try them.

  4. JP Says:


    I’m sorry for the delay. They should be there this upcoming week.

    Be well!


  5. Rosemary Says:


    I made the spiced pecans and walnuts and I loved them!!! They remind me a little of the spiced snacks that my friends from India serve that I have always wished I could have without the carbs.

    I need to watch a little more closely next time while baking because the got a tad overdone. I didn’t have the low carb maple syrup. Bill makes maple syrup from our trees every year which I have missed having for the last ten years. I decided 1/10 of an ounce per serving wouldn’t be too detrimental. (I tossed the cooled nuts with a couple teaspoons of Inulin to mask the overly darkened pieces.) The pure maple syrup may have affected the baking time.

    I had a few of the spiced nuts in my salad at lunch and it was super delicious. Thank you for the recipe.

    I’m already loving NutraSalt.


  6. JP Says:


    I’m smiling right now. Thank you. 🙂

    It’s great to know you’re enjoying the recipe as well.

    In a previous post, I believe you mentioned that you like to experiment in the kitchen. So if you happen to find any new and interesting ways of improving this recipe … please let us know!

    Here’s something positive about maple syrup for you and Bill:


    Be well!


  7. DFC Says:

    These are great, and I make them often. I want to share something I tried last night for dinner. It was so hot that I didn’t want to use the oven, so I made a chicken salad with leftover rotisserie chicken, a little mayo, and some red onion, and at the last minute I threw in the last few rosemary pecans from a batch I had made last week. This was awesome, elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary. Thank you again for this recipe!

  8. Rosemary Says:


    Did you use rosemary instead of thyme and all pecans in JP’s recipe for your “rosemary pecans”? An interesting variation.

    I’m happy DFC commented so I was reminded about this recipe.

    I also notice that I failed to thank JP for the link re maple syrup. That is good to know. I will be less hesitant to use Bill’s maple syrup (in small quantities). It is so good.

  9. DFC Says:

    Rosemary –

    Yes, it was all rosemary instead of thyme, and all pecans, since that was what I had on hand when I made the batch. I’m thinking next time I will use some garlic or onion powder, or maybe a batch with cumin and smoky chili powder – and of course a cocoa powder for when I want something sweeet. The possibilities are endless!

  10. Rosemary Says:


    Thanks. There are all kinds of things to try. I think I’m going to make a batch tomorrow so I can have some to take on our hike on Sunday.

  11. JP Says:

    Thanks to you both, DFC and Rosemary. Glad you’re enjoying the recipe and creatively improving upon it!

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 11/15/16:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Sep 11:1-10.

    The metabolic effects of a commercially available chicken peri-peri (African bird’s eye chilli) meal in overweight individuals.

    A growing body of evidence suggests that capsaicin ingestion may lead to desirable metabolic outcomes; however, the results in humans are equivocal. Whether or not benefits may be gained from ingestion of capsaicin via a commercially available meal has not been determined. The objectives of this randomised, cross-over intervention study were to compare the 2 h postprandial effects of a standard commercially prepared meal containing chilli (HOT, 5·82 mg total capsaicinoids) with a similar meal with no chilli (CON, 25 kg/m2 and a waist circumference >94 cm (men) or 80 cm (women), were studied. Participants had normal glucose tolerance and were accustomed, but were not regular chilli eaters. A paired t test indicated that insulin AUC was smaller following the HOT meal (P=0·002). Similarly, there was a tendency for glucose AUC to be reduced following the HOT meal (P=0·056). No discernable effects of the HOT meal were observed on metabolic rate, core temperature, hs-CRP concentrations and endothelial-dependent microvascular reactivity. The results from this study indicate that a standard restaurant meal containing a relatively small dose of capsaicin delivered via African bird’s eye chilli, which is currently available to the public, results in lower postprandial insulin concentrations in overweight individuals, compared with the same meal without chilli.

    Be well!


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