These yummy, quick-as-a-flash pecan clusters are a hit with kids and adults alike—they work just as well as lunchbox treats as they do party snacks. And they really are unbelievably easy: just mix all 4 ingredients together, make small mounds out of the mixture and bake. Turn the volume on the spice up or down, depending on your audience—grown-ups might prefer a hot and spicy version, while a mild and mellow version is suitable for the whole family.
Tips for making the 4-Ingredient Crunchy Savory Pecan Clusters
If, like me, you’re always looking for fast, easy recipes for your whole family, you’ll fall in love with this one for sure! But without further ado, let’s take a look at how to prepare these scrumptious clusters. It’s really straightforward:
Take a mixing bowl and add the crushed pecans…
…and the paprika (or your seasoning of choice).
Here we go. All 4 ingredients together.
Mix with a spoon…
…until well combined.
Take small mounds of the mixture…
…and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can also use a silicone mini muffin pan (see the video) to ensure even looks and size. (Just press the dough lightly with the back of a spoon when you place it to the muffin pan.)
Bake in the preheated oven…
…until crunchy all over. Don’t let them burn!
Remove the clusters from the parchment paper or mini muffin pan.
Enjoy as a snack or appetizer. (They also make a great bread substitute!)
My pecan cluster experiments
I first got the idea for this recipe when making my Pecan-Crusted Chicken Fingers. I was making the coating for the chicken fingers with crushed pecans, dipping the chicken pieces in beaten egg first. After coating a few chicken pieces, I realized that lots of the egg and crushed pecan mixture got stuck to my fingers. It made a nice, sturdy mass, and I thought it would make nice clusters or bites when baked on its own.
I wrote down the idea, and this week I finally got a chance to see how my idea would work in practice. The mixture created a nicely crunchy surface on the chicken when I used it as a coating, so I was hoping that my pecan clusters would be crunchy as well.
I had made a note of the initial amounts for the ingredients. At first, I was planning to call my creation Spicy Pecan Clusters, because I wanted to use a hot and spicy seasoning for them. Then I realized that, since it’s almost back-to school time (actually, school has already started here in Finland), the clusters would make the perfect lunchbox-friendly snack—and that a milder version would be preferable for kids.
Actually, when I was creating the chicken finger recipe, I conducted several seasoning experiments (you can check the post for further details), and onion powder, Cajun seasoning, and curry powder suited my taste buds best.
For this pecan cluster recipe, though, I definitely wanted to use paprika. Somehow that just sounded good, since paprika is mild yet flavorful. I did try using smoked paprika in my pecan-crusted chicken fingers, but I really didn’t like its taste in that particular recipe. However, I didn’t try regular ground paprika, so I thought that would certainly be worth a go this time around.
So, for my first pecan cluster experiment, I took 1 cup (240 ml) crushed pecans, 1 teaspoon Himalayan salt, 1 teaspoon ground paprika and 2 eggs. I mixed the ingredients with a spoon to combine them well.
Using a spoon, I created 9 mounds from the mixture, and placed them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Then I got the idea that I could bake the clusters in a silicone mini muffin pan, for uniform size and a nicer presentation.
After baking the clusters at 300 °F (150 °C) for 30 minutes, they looked crunchy all over. For the chicken fingers, I used a higher temperature (350 °F = 175 °C), but since I wanted to guarantee that the clusters would get crunchy but not too browned, I wanted to use a lower temperature and a longer baking time.
When the clusters had cooled a bit, I grabbed one and took a bite. The taste was really flavorful but mild, just as I’d hoped. This would be perfect for kids! However, the clusters weren’t as crunchy as I’d envisioned them. Maybe increasing the amount of crushed pecans to 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) would make them crunchier?
For my next experiment, then, I used 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) crushed pecans, but kept the amounts of all the other ingredients the same. It almost worked! The clusters weren’t as crunchy as I wanted them to be, so I still made another experiment with 2 cups (475 ml) crushed pecans. Now they were just as crunchy as I had planned! Then, for the final “test,” I packed some of the clusters in my son’s lunch box. He enjoyed them down to the last crumb! Here’s a photo of his lunch box — including the pecan clusters:
My husband also raved about the pecan clusters. But guess what he ate them with? OK, you’ll never guess, so I’ll just tell you: spicy herring! (Hey, if it works, it works, right?!)
Here’s the recipe for you and your family to enjoy:
|Nutrition Information||Whole batch||Per serving if 12 servings in total||Per serving if 24 servings in total|
|Protein||36.5 g||3.0 g||1.5 g|
|Fat||177.7 g||14.8 g||7.4 g|
|Net carbs||10.5 g||0.9 g||0.4 g|
|kcal||1805 kcal||150 kcal||75 kcal|
Tips for variation
Like I said, you can play with different seasonings here. From my chicken-finger seasoning tests, I found that the best seasonings are onion powder, Cajun powder and curry powder, but if you’re after hotter, spicier flavors, cayenne pepper or chili powder will deliver the perfect amount of kick. Conduct your own taste tests with different seasonings to see what you like best!
Naturally, you can use other crushed nuts instead of pecans. How about almonds, macadamia nuts, or walnuts—or a mix of all of the above?
Soon I’m going to try making a sweet version of these clusters – maybe with a warm, autumnal seasoning. If the recipe turns out well, I might post it here on my blog. Stay tuned!