Quick, easy, and keto-friendly, Spiced Nuts and Seeds are a pantry essential in my low carb kitchen. I sometimes use them as snacks, but more often as condiments to kick up the crunch factor and flavor of many dishes, such as salads, soups, stews, and casseroles.
As a foodie, texture contrast is important to me. In my SAD (Standard American Diet) days, I would add items like croutons, tortillas, and crispy bread crumbs to dishes to achieve that crunch factor. Now, my go-tos for crunchification are toasted and/or spiced nuts and seeds. They’re super-simple to make, especially if you already have one of my spice blends on hand.
Not only are home-prepared spiced nuts and seeds the least expensive choice, they are the most “clean” because you start with raw, unadulterated ingredients. Often, what you think are simply roasted packaged nuts have been processed in unhealthy industrial seed oils, such as soybean, vegetable, or canola. I always check the ingredient list to avoid these. Of course, if you enjoy raw nuts and seeds, you can go ahead and use those. They’re probably even healthier, but they don’t appeal to me because I find them bland and not sufficiently crunchy.
With prepared spiced nuts or seeds, there are nearly always undesireable additives, usually MSG, sugar, and starches (including those with gluten), as well as industrial seed oils. Most of them are a designed to be hyper-palatable and irresistable.
Sometimes, I use packaged dry-roasted nuts and seeds as long as the only added ingredient, if any, is salt. Trader Joe’s has a good selection of nuts and seeds, raw or dry-roasted, salted or no salt. Most often, however, I toast nuts and seeds myself, whether I choose to spice them or not. It couldn’t be more easy — just spread them out on a sheet pan (rimmed baking sheet) and place in a pre-heated 350F oven (325F if using convection) and bake for about 6 to 10 minutes for chopped nuts or small seeds, or about 10-14 minutes if using whole nuts or large seeds. Halfway through the cooking time, I stir the nuts/seeds and rotate the pan for even cooking. At the lower end of the time range, I remove the pan from the oven and taste (after letting them cool slightly). If I’d like them a little more toasty, I return them to oven and check again in 2 minutes, repeating as needed. That’s it!
Let me warn you to keep a close eye on your oven when toasting nuts and seeds. They can go from toasted to burnt in a couple of minutes. I speak from experience. I can’t tell you many pans of burnt nuts I’ve seen while working in commercial kitchens, and even a few at home! It’s an expensive mistake. I’ve learned my lesson; I always set a timer and never leave the kitchen while they’re in the oven.
It’s nearly as simple to make spiced nuts and seeds. Just place them on a sheet pan, toss with a little avocado oil (or other healthy oil), then sprinkle with spices and stir to coat evenly. Taste and add more seasoning, if needed. Bake as with raw nuts and you’re done. Your seasonings can be as basic as salt, and perhaps pepper, a little garlic powder or smoked paprika. For more complex flavors, you can use one of my seasoning blends.
One of my favorite combinations is BBQ Almonds, made with my low carb BBQ Dry Rub. I prepare them whole for snacks or chopped for garnishes. My other favorite is Spiced Pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels), using my low carb Mexican Seasoning Blend. I usually have a variety of these on hand, stored in my freezer.
While I don’t snack regularly, I usually carry baggie of a few toasted and/or spiced whole almonds in my purse, just in case I need to eat and there’s nothing available that’s keto-friendly. Do keep in mind that it’s easy to over-do it, even with healthy nuts and seeds. They are tasty, especially when toasted, salted, and/or spiced. A handful or two a day is good, but don’t sit down with a jar in front of the TV or with a glass of wine. The next thing you know, it will be empty! OK, I speak from experience on that one, too. Toasted and/or spiced whole nuts and seeds are also a nice addition to an appetizer plate or light meal of cheese, hard-cooked eggs, olives, etc.
If you don’t already have my BBQ Dry Rub or Mexican Seasoning Blend, you might consider making a batch to have some on hand. Not only are they great for spicing nuts and seeds, they’re fantastic for seasoning proteins, such as chicken, seafood, pork, and beef. I often add them to sauces and dips for a quick flavor boost. I sometimes use them to season my homemade low carb crackers, or even sprinkle them on pork rinds. See the bottom of this page for a list of the recipes we’ve already published that use the blends.
This post is the second of our Low Carb KISS (Keep It Simple for Summer) series. Have fun with creating your own combinations of nuts, seeds, and seasonings. We’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments section!
- Preheat oven to 350F (or 325F with convection).
- Place nuts/seeds on rimmed baking sheet, add avocado oil, and stir to coat. Sprinkle on seasoning and stir to coat evenly. Taste and add more seasoning and/or fine sea salt, if desired.
- Place sheet pan in the oven and bake for 6 to 10 minutes for chopped nuts or small seeds, or 12 to 14 minutes for whole nuts or larger seeds. Halfway through the cooking time, stir nuts/seed and rotate pan for even cooking. Remove the pan from the oven at the low end of the time range and taste (let cool slightly first) for doneness. It should taste toasted and have a crunchier (than raw) texture. Return pan to oven, if needed, for two more minutes and repeat until you are satisfied with the taste and texture. Keep a close watch and set a timer so that they do not overcook.
- Remove pan from oven, cool completely, and transfer nuts/seeds to a tightly-sealed container. Can be stored at room temperature for a month, or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Nutritional info* for a ½-ounce portion Spiced Pepitas: 82 cal, 7 g total fat (84%), 2.8 g total carbs, 0.6 g fiber, 2.2 g net carbs, and 3.6 g protein
Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol in the total or net carbs.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.