To toast pecans in the oven, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and spread your pecans in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. When the oven is ready, bake the nuts until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Remember that nuts continue to cook even after they have been removed from the oven, so don’t hesitate to pull them from the oven once they begin to change color. Once the nuts are warm but not too hot to handle, chop as desired. Nuts are still slightly soft when they’re still warm, so this will make cleaner cuts than if you wait to chop them when the nuts are cool and brittle.
If using a food processor to chop, we like to add a little bit of flour to absorb the oils from the nuts and prevent a nut butter from forming.
The Best Ways to Use Pecans
To incorporate pecans into your baking, do as the Southerners do: add them to just about anything your heart desires. Stir them into cake batter—spice cakes in particular—to complement the cake’s warm, buttery flavor with nuttiness.
Pro tip: Lightly coat chopped pecans in flour before adding to cake batter so they are distributed evenly and don’t sink during baking.
Mix them into a caramel-based topping before pouring over your baked goods, like sticky buns or toffee pudding, bringing crunch to the gooey decadence. Crown your coffee cakes with pecan streusel, or better yet, your muffins. Or, for a minimalist measure of how the pecan transforms a baked good, simply stir chopped pecans into your favorite brownie recipe to see how the nut enhances the rich chocolate flavor.
Find more pecan inspiration in our May/June 2020 issue!