Snack, Appetizer, Dairy Free, Gluten Free

Imperial Walnuts

More often than not, my brain strolls through history while I’m working on recipes. Take, for instance, these nuts. Spiced nuts are a staple for me at the end of the year, whether I’m giving them as gifts or sampling them before dinner parties. And because they’re so frequently found in my candy dishes, I’m on an endless conquest for flavor variations. I’ve taken a Southeast Asian swing with these peanuts, and something more reminiscent of early Thanksgivings with this mixture, and now I’m following the footsteps of British Imperialism for inspiration.

Yes, the trail of British colonization/oppression left us with a unique flavor map that is hard to describe without looking through the lens of conquest. I started with the wintry walnut, and thought it might be nice to pair them with currants (I always like a bit of a chew to balance the crunch of the nut when I serve these). I steered the bowl around to early English colonies, picking up some palm sugar to sweeten the nuts and some ground cloves and ginger to spice them. I thought they needed some perfume, and so zested the rind of a few oranges for good measure. They were still missing something, so I took one more trip back around the globe and picked up a heady crush of ground black pepper. With that, I was done. A food map based on British Imperialism, potentially insensitive, definitely delicious.

The nuts are easy to make in massive quantities, throw them in the freezer and keep a batch on hand for an easy pre-meal offering at your next gathering. How do you find inspiration for recipes? Do you find yourself skimming history?


  • 1 pound Shelled Walnuts

  • Zest of one Orange

  • 1 tablespoon Ground Black Pepper

  • ½ tablespoon Salt

  • ¾ teaspoon Ground Cloves

  • ½ teaspoon Ground Ginger

  • ⅓ cup Packed Brown Sugar

  • 1 Egg White

  • ¾ cup Dried Currants


Get Busy

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. While it’s heating, slide the walnuts into the oven on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Allow them to toast while you prepare the coating.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk the orange zest, spices, sugar, and egg white until just bubbly and frothy. It needn’t be whipped, nor beaten too hard.

  3. Remove the walnuts from the oven, dump them into the waiting liquid, then add the currants and stir to combine.

  4. Reduce the oven heat to 225. Spread the coated nuts back onto your baking sheet/roasting pan and slide them into the oven. Bake them for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until they’re toasted and the coating is mostly dry.

  5. Remove the tray from the oven. The nuts will be a bit sticky as long as they’re warm, but as they cool the coating will harden and dry.