Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Almonds

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! This is the seventh post in the second annual Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! celebration at LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. Only two more posts to go. Well, unless I decide to throw in the Chocolate Ginger Stout Cake that makes me wonder why in heaven’s name beer isn’t used in more desserts.

To check out the wonderful chocolate creations we debuted last February, as well as this year’s creations, be sure to visit the All Chocolate! recipe archive. Just click on any picture to go to the post. And do come back soon, as we are saving our pièce de résistance, LunaCafe Truly Chewy Bittersweet Brownies, for the last post of the celebration.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Are you ready for one of the most spectacular desserts I have ever made? How about Fried Banana Split with Mexican Bittersweet Chocolate Chile Sauce, Strawberry Mint Salsa, and Caramelized Ancho Chile Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds?

I flipped on my first bite of this dessert and on each subsequent bite, until I was left with only an empty plate and a serious thought of licking it. I think this is one dessert that you are going to LOVE!

But first you need to make and have on hand Mexican Bittersweet Chocolate Chile Sauce and Caramelized Ancho Chile Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds (variation at the end of this recipe). Both are very quick and easy.

Then grab a quart of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and put it in the freezer. While you are at it, pick up a container of the brightest strawberries you can find, a few small, under ripe bananas, a ripe mango, a kiwi, a lime, and a handful of fresh mint. Now you’re set, and the final dessert will go together in minutes.

Rather than include the caramelized nuts as part of the fried banana split post, I decided to post the nuts separately, so that I can point more easily to them when needed in other desserts.

I definitely rely on the building block approach to dessert creation. If you have ten key dessert techniques at your command, you can make hundreds of different desserts. If you have twenty key techniques at your command, well then, the sky is the limit.

This particular technique is essential in my book. Caramel is the spark in so many desserts. Here it adds crunch, as well as flavor, and is the carrier for little bursts of spicy, salty heat.

Try not to eat all the caramelized nuts before you get to making the banana split. Better yet, make a double batch.

Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Almonds

The method used here to melt the sugar is the one most often used by professional chefs. It’s not difficult, but it may take some practice to master. If you have no experience with this method, be prepared to discard just the sugar in your first couple of attempts.

Without water as a buffer, the sugar melts, then caramelizes very quickly and if you error it will probably be on the side of letting the caramel get too dark. If in doubt, toss it out. Don’t risk adding the toasted nuts to a caramel that smells burnt and that you suspect is too dark.

½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more in a grinder to finish
1/8 teaspoon cayenne chile powder (or ¼ teaspoon if you want it to be really spicy)

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup lightly toasted whole almonds, roughly chopped

  1. In a small bowl, combine the ancho chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne chile powder. Reserve.
  2. Locate a silicon spatula and set the spices, butter, and vanilla next to the stovetop, within easy reach. Lightly coat a 9- by 12-inch, edged baking sheet with vegetable spray and set it next to the stovetop as well.
  3. In a 9½-inch-diameter stainless steel-lined sauté pan (light color interior is important), add the sugar.
  4. Turn on the heat to high and watch closely as the sugar starts to melt. Swirl the sugar in the pan to distribute the portions that are caramelizing first, and then if necessary, stir with a silicon spatula to evenly melt the sugar. This process goes very quickly. Do NOT step away from the stove.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat immediately after the caramel turns a medium amber, and swirl in the butter, spices, and vanilla. Be careful as the mixture will sputter and foam up. Stir with a silicon spatula until creamy and smooth.
  6. Quickly add the almonds and coat with caramel. Pour into the prepared pan, and spread and separate as best you can with the spatula.
  7. Cool completely and then break into small chunks with your hands.
  8. Store in an airtight Ziploc bag at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Makes about 1½ cups.


Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

  • Substitute toasted pumpkin seeds for the almonds.

Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Pecans

  • Substitute toasted pecans for the almonds.

Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Walnuts

  • Substitute lightly toasted walnuts for the almonds.

Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Hazelnuts

  • Substitute toasted, skinned hazelnuts for the almonds.

Caramelized Ancho Chile & Cinnamon Peanuts

  • Substitute toasted, skinned peanuts for the almonds.

Print Friendly


  1. LOIS says

    Thank you – I will give it a go – I’m sure we’ll enjoy it even if it isn’t quite autentic! Should I add a smidgin of cumin do you think?

  2. says

    I am so going to try this! I’m sure some people might be hesitant to add chile powder to something sweet, but I’m here to tell you it will turn out fabulous (especially with the cinnamon)! I had a similar out of body experience making Chipotle Apple Pecan Cake with a Spicy Caramel Glaze (and I do know what you mean about licking the plate!). It seems that chile and cinnamon were meant for each other!

    • sms bradley says

      Ohhh Leah, you have to give us a pointer to that Chipotle Apple Pecan Cake with Spicy Caramel Glaze. It’s calling my name! :-)

  3. Lois says

    Hi – these almonds sound delicious! I live in the UK and not sure if I can find ancho chile powder – can I substitute ordinary chile powder?

    • sms bradley says

      Thanks Lois! Yes, try regular chile powder. It has other dominate flavors, such as cumin, but should still be quite interesting and good here. Let us know how it turns out. :-)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge