Nuts for Trader Joe’s

As someone who’s been kicked out of countless grocery stores, camera in hand, I especially enjoyed the contraband video that Carl Willat, a San Francisco-based animation director, recorded with his humble Treo. Although the chain has stopped carrying some of my favorite products — oh sweet, spicy ginger gelato, where did you go?! — I still stop by their SoMa store before any major baking session. Nuts and dried fruit for me, unpasteurized orange juice and onion rye bread for my husband.

Walking down that dry goods aisle, I always go overboard. Later, there will be bags and bags of walnuts, pecans or cashews left lying around the kitchen. Spicing them up and distributing them among friends is the best way to deal with that problem. While you can keep them around your house for snacking, they’re so addictive that I recommend dividing them up into many small caches, like a squirrel, to extend their goodness as long as possible.


Makes: About 2 cups


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pound shelled walnuts, pecans, almonds or cashews


Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or brush it lightly with oil. In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, sugar and spices. Add the nuts and toss until evenly coated. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Take care not to overcook; the nuts will continue to crisp as they cool.

Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

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