Guirlache recipe - a Spanish Christmas treat!

Recipe by Neil Morris - 21 December 2012


Region:Valencia, Aragon, Catalonia

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Cooking method: on the hob

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 6+


Guirlache is a Spanish sweet made from a basic recipe of nuts and caramel. It is traditionally a Christmas treat and is typically associated with the regions of Valencia, Aragon and Catalonia.

There are many regional variations of the guirlache recipe but the basic idea of mixing nuts with caramel forms the basis of all the recipes. The dish was introduced to Aragon by the French in the nineteenth century and has remained popular ever since.

Guirlache is a great way to use up nuts and seeds left in the store cupboard and makes a tasty, high energy snack.

Shopping list

  • 1 cup of mixed almonds and hazelnuts (almendres y avellanas)
  • lemon juice (zumo de limón)
  • 1 cup of castor sugar (azúcar extrafino)
  • Cayenne pepper (pimienta de cayena) *optional
  • salt (sal) *optional
  • butter (mantequilla) *optional


To begin, cover a baking tray with lightly oiled foil. Use either a flavourless oil such as groundnut, or a nutty oil such as almond or hazelnut.

Next, toast the nuts in a medium to hot frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes until lightly browned.

Tip: you can use blanched nuts but if you are using nuts that are still in their skins, be careful not to burn them.

Optional: once the nuts are toasted you can add some other favours if you wish. I like to toss the nuts in a small knob of butter with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a pinch of sea salt. This gives the guirlache a warm, grown-up flavour but is not to everyones taste.

Roughly chop the nuts with a knife or in a food processer to the desired size. The smaller they are chopped the thinner you can make the guirlache (and the kinder on your teeth!).

Next pour the sugar in a saucepan and add a squeeze of lemon juice (no more than a tablespoon). Heat the pan on a high heat and shake gently as the sugar melts until it is all combined and turns a rich brown colour (it can burn very quickly so be very careful not to let it go black). As soon as it is ready, add the nuts and stir quickly before pouring on to the prepared baking tray. The mixture will instantly start to harden so you will have to spread it quickly.

Tip: to spread the sticky guirlache mixture easily, tap it evenly with the back edge of a chefs knife. This will prevent the mixture sticking too much to the knife which WILL happen if you use the flat edge!

Allow the mixture to cool completely at which point it will be hard and brittle. Wipe any excess oil from the base of the snack with a kitchen towel and break into bite-size pieces. Serve.

Tip: put any left-over guirlache into a food processor and break into small crumbs. Add this to whipped cream and serve with meringues and hot chocolate sauce!

You can experiment with different ingredients and use any nuts of your choice including, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds and peanuts. You can also add sesame seeds which are very good when combined with almonds!

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