Candied pecans are a traditional, sweet and crunchy snack that is perfect on the table for Thanksgiving or Christmas. A simple recipe using pecans and soft ball candy, the real trick is in getting the candy just right. This is the actual method for making a candy coating on pecans, not the egg white method (which I am sure I will try soon!).
Old Fashioned Candied Pecans
People often steer clear of making their own candy because it quires a lot of confusing things like precise temperature control and watching your moisture level. However, using this simple water method, you can make a really delicious soft ball candy to coat your pecans that is really difficult to mess up.
If you have a thermometer, it is definitely a lot easier, but a simple water test is just as good.
Ingredients for Old Fashioned Candied Pecans
- Pecan halves
- Salt & ground cinnamon
- Vanilla extract
How to Make Old Fashioned Candied Pecans
- Melt together your butter, sugar, water, cinnamon & salt until it reaches a rolling boil
- Scrape down any sugar crystals on the side
- Reduce heat to low while still boiling until the candy syrup reaches between 235 and 240 Fahrenheit.
- Stir in the vanilla and pecans until evenly coated
- Bake at 250 Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then cool in a single layer and store in an airtight container
Water Method for Soft Ball Candy Making
Making candied pecans is less about a specific recipe and more about the technique of making soft ball candy. This method of making candy makes everything a lot easier, as it allows for minimal risk of mistakes.
The water method actually refers to two different things when making soft ball candy; using water in the base mixture and using water to test it.
By adding in a good quantity of water to the mixture, we are able to clearly see the temperature that the mixture has reached and gauge from there what stage the sugar mixture is. Water only boils at 212 Fahrenheit, so the bubbling demonstrates what temperature we have reached clearly.
Once the bubbling completely stops, the water has evaporated out, and the temperature starts increasing. This means we can then start testing using the water method to find out if we are in the right place.
Testing the Candy
Without an instant read thermometer, knowing exactly what temp your candy is at any one time is almost impossible. The water method, however, makes things a lot easier.
Simply take a small amount of your hot sugar syrup and drop it into a bowl of very cold water fresh from the tap.
Once in the water, start molding it with your fingers into a ball very gently. If it is at the right stage, the syrup should easily form a soft ball that begins to flatten down if you take it out of the water.
This stage, “soft ball,” means that the syrup mixture has reached a temperature between 235 and 345 Fahrenheit and is the perfect temperature for making candied pecans.
The Most Important Tool for Soft Ball Candy – A Thermometer
If you don’t want to play around with water and forming small balls made out of candy, the easiest thing to do is just to use a thermometer. I don’t like wasting ingredients, so I use my thermometer for EVERYTHING. It’s the best investment you can make!
You can buy candy thermometers that clip onto the side of your pot to make things even easier, but something like a Thermapen or other instant read thermometers work just as well. We use our Thermapen as it gives a more accurate reading, you can put it into the middle of the mixture and not the side, which is the disadvantage of using the side clip thermometers.
How to Store Your Candied Pecans
After making a big batch of these candied pecans, you will probably find that you have way too many to eat at once. To store these for later, make sure you keep them in an airtight container so that there is no risk of them becoming ruined from the air.
The soft ball candy holding the pecans together loves to suck extra moisture from the air, turning crumbly and gross if they are left exposed for too long.
Enjoy! I am sure I will get around to making pecans with the egg white method as well but wanted to try true candied ones first!
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Old Fashioned Candied Pecans
- 2 cups
- Karlynn Johnston
- 2 1/2 cups pecan halves
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- extra butter for greasing the baking pan
- Preheat your oven to 250 °F. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with the extra butter and set aside.
- Place the butter in a large heavy saucepan that is appropriate for candy making and add in add sugar, water, salt, and cinnamon. Place over medium high heat and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
- Scrap any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan into the mixture.
- Turn down the heat and keep the rolling boil, then to form the candy syrup, cook, WITHOUT STIRRING, until a candy thermometer reads between 235° F–240° F (soft-ball stage). See the directions in the post how to tell soft ball stage without a thermometer using the water method. For the BEST results, use the thermometer and the water method!
- Once ready, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Stir in the pecans until evenly coated.
- Spread onto prepared baking pan, Bake at 250° for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 8-10 minutes.
- Once baked, spread onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet to cool. When spreading out to cool, separate with a fork so they don't clump together! You want them to cool separately.
- Keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks, but they will not last that long.
- calories are for the entire batch
All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.