How Long To Soak Pecans For Bourbon-Rich Nuts

Bourbon-soaked pecans are really no surprise, considering both are darlings of the same Deep South region and culture. Most bourbon is made in Kentucky, and pecan trees dot Southern landscapes by the thousands, lining highways, backyards, and orchards galore. Of the top U.S. states for pecan production, the vast majority of them are in the Southern part of the country, with Georgia topping the list at about 88 million pounds of pecans harvested every year. In Texas, the pecan tree even holds the title of official state tree.

There's the ever-favorite pecan pie served in just about every restaurant — and yes, you can make it with bourbon. Another way to enjoy the bourbon-pecan tango is in a derby pie, also known as a Kentucky bourbon pie, or by simply making candied bourbon pecans for snacking. Regardless of where they're headed, both professional and home chefs acknowledge the pecans must first be soaked in the bourbon to absorb that sweet, smoky, buttery taste into the nuts. How long to soak those pecans is a key factor.

It's pretty much agreed that the minimum soaking time for bourbon in pecans is 30 minutes, especially when making glazed or candied bourbon pecans. For a more intense nutty flavor and crisp texture, lightly toast the pecans first; six to eight minutes should do the trick. Specific recipes, such as boozy bourbon balls, may require soaking overnight, or at least for eight hours. The flavor intensifies the longer the nuts rest within the bourbon.

A nutty twist: Pecan-infused bourbon

If you thought you knew, or could at least imagine, all the ways of creating sweet magic with pecans and bourbon, this next one may be a surprise. There's such a thing as pecan-infused bourbon, sometimes known as simply pecan bourbon. In this unexpected twist on the bourbon and pecan duo, the focus reverses. Instead of letting bourbon coat and transform the taste of pecans, this approach lets the nutty flavor of pecans infuse the bottle of bourbon. It's still the sweet yet earthy, smoky, and nutty taste of bourbon married to pecans but in a drinkable version.

It's super easy to make but completely transforms the taste of the bourbon. It also takes a lot more soaking time than 30 minutes. To make pecan-infused bourbon, you only need the bourbon, toasted pecans, and either a vanilla bean or vanilla extract. The three ingredients rest together in a sealed or screwtop jar for at least five days, or longer, depending on your preference for pecan-forward intensity.

This hearty pecan bourbon spirit is a shoo-in for making nutty versions of old-time classic cocktails, such as a pecan old-fashioned or pecan-flavored hot toddy. Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest when making pecan-infused bourbon considerably widens the cocktail possibilities, including a spicy, nut-centric version of a cinnamon bourbon fizz.