The best snacks—the ones that keep you coming back for more—aren’t just heavily seasoned. They’re layered, with a parade of flavors that dance across your tongue, no one lingering for too long, so that your palate never gets satiated. Just as one begins to settle into your tastebuds, it disappears, making room for the next taste sensation. A mere salted nut mix does not offer such a parade; it’s more of a small procession.

Deviled cashews might as well come with ticker-tape.

Deviling: It’s not just for eggs

Eggs are the most commonly deviled food, though they are not all that deviled. “Deviling” a food is simply making it spicy, and deviled eggs rarely bring the heat. They do, however, contain mustard, which can be hot, sharp and bitter, depending on the volume (and type of mustard) used. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, the word was first used as a verb in the early 19th century, "meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments." The yellow mustard most commonly used to devil eggs isn’t "fiery hot" by today’s standards, but it probably seemed a lot spicier back then (especially to English-speaking populations).

You can devil anything from ham to Brussels sprouts, but deviling is one of the easiest ways to make your snacks stand out, especially if you use a combination of pungent mustard seeds and spicy chili pepper flakes, with a little brown sugar to balance the heat.

Deviled cashews are the sleeper hit of any snack spread

We first had deviled cashews at Lankan Filling Station, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Sydney. Offered as one of their “short eats," the simple starter combined whole cashews with mustard seeds, chili powder and fresh herbs, all fried briefly in ghee. The gentle spice and crunchy seeds perfectly balanced the rich, tender cashews.

Our interpretation has a similar flavor profile, with whole, bloomed mustard seeds, sizzled red pepper flakes, and crispy fried cilantro, which flavors the cooking oil before it’s removed to crisp. (Not a fan of cilantro? We also have a version with crispy curry leaves.) They look more elaborate than they are and take five to 10 minutes to prepare. Things move quickly, so I recommend assembling a mise en place before you start, lest you end up burning the seasonings instead of blooming them.

Spicy-sweet deviled cashews

Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee over medium-high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Carefully add 1 cup of cilantro leaves—they will pop and splatter when they hit the hot oil—and cook for 30 to 60 seconds, until they crisp and darken. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Add 2 teaspoons of mustard seeds to the oil and stir until sizzling, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 cups of roasted cashews, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (if you want them extra deviled). Cook, stirring, until the nuts are golden and shiny, about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with the cilantro and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Let cool until comfortable to handle, then serve with a cold, frosty beer. Reheat any leftovers in a nonstick skillet over low heat until shiny.

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest.

And if you're looking for more Milk Street, check out our
livestream cooking classes with our favorite chefs, home cooks and friends for global recipes, cooking methods and more.