Bar Nuts

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I inherited my passion for cooking from my mom. But my dad is the one who got me hooked on cookbooks.

For a few years in the 1990s, my dad gave me a cookbook every Christmas. I do not know what precipitated this tradition (my mom was always the holiday shopper in the house). And it was a short-lived one, ending after four or five years, as mysteriously as it had begun. It had a lasting effect, though, whether intended or not. For material me, it is not really Christmas unless there is a cookbook under the tree.

The books my dad gave me shared a common theme—they were all New York City restaurant cookbooks. Among them were Alfred Portale’s Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, The Mezzaluna Cookbook, and The Union Square Cafe Cookbook.

For a while I cooked from these books often, especially The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, which I gravitated towards. I liked the tenor of the book, and the slightly grainy black and white photos (which I suspect might not go over well today given our penchant for food porn photography). I liked the recipes, too. They were sophisticated but still within reach of a young, interested cook. Many of them riffed on Italian classics.

My cookbook shelves have filled to capacity since I was given that book and it’s been a long while since I’ve cooked from it. In that, it is not alone; most of the cookbooks in my collection don’t get the workout they deserve. But there is one recipe from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook that never got shelved: the bar nuts.

These are my favorite spiced nuts and I’ve been asked for the recipe more times than I can count. I think it might be the rosemary—there is lots of it and it is sharp and resinous and fragrant. These nuts smell and taste of the holidays.

On Thursday, set out a bowl or two or three of bar nuts to calm the hungry hordes while you are basting the turkey or mashing the potatoes or whipping the cream for the pumpkin pie (perhaps while knocking back a bourbon). And be sure to save a handful or two for yourself.

Wishing you and yours a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. Buon appetito. 

Makes 5 cups

Bar Nuts

(adapted slightly from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano; 1994 Harper Collins)


  • 5 cups mixed raw nuts (I like almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a rimmed cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

In the large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the warm toasted nuts with the spiced butter.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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15 Responses to Bar Nuts

  1. Laura November 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    These nuts look awesome. I love your phrase about material you needing a cookbook at Christmas. Material me agrees completely!

    • Domenica November 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

      Ha ha! Thank you, Laura. Glad to know my material girl is in good company. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Adriana November 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi mom!!! I love your bar nuts! They’re so yummy!! 😀
    Keep cooking!
    Love you 🙂

    • Domenica November 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      love you more, angel : )))

  3. Wendy November 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I love these nuts, too, and have been making them for years! They are definitely my standard for roasted nuts. And I think as a younger cook, I thought the cookbook was elegant in a sort of new and more relaxed way. And, a part of NY that I miss.

    • Domenica November 22, 2011 at 8:55 am #

      I miss that NY, too, Wendy. I was at Columbia journalism school back then and have fond memories of those days. That is a perfect description of The Union Square Cafe Cookbook. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Elizabeth @Mango_Queen November 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Love this idea! My family can’t wait to eat so they start snacking. This should tide them over before the big feast. Thanks for sharing, Domenica! Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

    • Domenica November 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth. Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving as well. I am sure it will be delicious…

  5. Elisa November 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    I will definetely make them and I will make an extra 2 cups without the brown sugar so that I will put them through the food processor and slightly chop them, then I can sprinkle them over pasta. Adesso ho fame! Grazie per le belle ricette!

    • Domenica November 22, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      E’ un ottima idea, Elisa–I love it, and I am going to do the exact same thing with the next batch of nuts I make. Thank you for sharing this ingenious idea, and thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Melissa December 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I want to give these as Christmas gifts. Will they keep? Should I package in cellophane bags, glass, tins? Please tell me quickly, as they are being devoured before they leave the kitchen! Thanks! Melissa

    • Domenica December 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

      Good question. They will keep through Christmas. I would package them in glass jars with tight-fitting lids, or even cellophane bags, tightly tied. Or just enjoy them and make another batch to give away!


      • Melissa December 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

        Thank you so much! I will package up what’s left of them!!! SOOOOO yummy!
        Happy Holidays to you!

      • Melissa December 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

        Ok, these are just TOO good!!! Can I double the recipe?

        • Domenica December 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

          Absolutely! Double away. I love your enthusiasm. I think I need to make a batch now. Cheers and Happy Holidays, D

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