Asian Spiced Cashews

I introduce to you, my obsession of the last few months of cooking. Gochujang. If you have encountered it, it was probably in the sauce on the bibimbap at your local noodle house. This is most likely not going to be the only recipe utilizing the ingredient that you see from me. But I thought it was a good recipe for those who have never tried or even heard of gochujang.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. What I do know is that gochujang is a fermented hot chili paste. It is already in most grocery stores (I get mine at Target, for example) and you may have just not noticed it. In the states you can usually find it in its sauce form, rather than the thick, scoopable paste. It is cut with soy, brown sugar and other ingredients to give it a depth of flavor that I dare to say the much-hailed Sriracha does’t come close to. Gochujang is not just spicy; it is sweet, spicy, salty and…asian-y? Just try it.

In this spiced cashew mix, the gochujang is definitely a star but is not overpowering, which is what makes it a good introduction to the ingredient. It also helps the cashews bring only that small amount of after-burn heat that makes snacks so addictive.

You will need:

  • 4 cups cashews
  • 1/4 cup finely diced dried pineapple
  • 3 Tbs gochujang (Korean chili paste) sauce*
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 3 Tbs sesame seeds (I use black but white works too)
  • 2 tsp grated ginger

*Okay, I have to talk about the gochujang one more time. As I said, you can probably find it at your normal grocery store, and definitely at a fancier one like Whole Foods. It usually comes in a tub of paste or a bottle of gochujang sauce. The one I’m calling for in this recipe is the sauce variety. The straight paste is stronger and is not meant to be used on top of foods in the way we use sriracha. Just make sure you buy the sauce variety, which is cut down for you ahead of time, or if you do get the paste, I would use only 1/3 of the amount, and a little extra soy sauce. Here is the brand that I usually find, but use whatever your store carries.

Whew, now I promise I’ll only talk about the actual recipe, which is actually very simple. In a small bowl, combine the gochujang, soy sauce, sesame oil and honey. Just to make it a little easier to mix, I microwave this mixture for 20-30 seconds. Grate the ginger into this sauce and mix through.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet, or use parchment paper. Dice the dried pineapple into very small pieces and toss together with the cashews and sesame seeds in a large bowl, or a ziplock bag for easier cleanup. Pour in the sauce and stir to coat everything evenly.

Dump the coated mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it all evenly over the pan into one flat layer. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, making sure to stir them around halfway through so that they cook more evenly. And that’s all there is to it. Let them cool on the tray until dry. I am not one to tell people not to test their food straight off the pan, just don’t add them to any jars or bowls or anything until cool, or else they will all clump together.

Speaking of jars, this makes for a great gift. I actually gave jars of this to my family for Christmas this year. And then, you know, withheld the recipe until well after the primary food-gift season. Oops. But I’m sure you have some friend birthdays coming up. I always prefer food gifts I can eat straight away, and since these pack a little heat and have a slight sweetness to them, they don’t feel as dated as the standard brown sugar-candied nuts. Even if you choose to make these for just yourself, like I will continue to do from now on, jars or other airtight containers are the way to go when it comes to storing these. I couldn’t begin to make up a rule on how long they keep because I haven’t had them around for more than a couple of days yet.

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