Ina Garten Has The Best (And Easiest) Holiday Hostess Gift Idea

During the festive season, you may feel pressure to think of a unique item to bring to holiday parties to thank your hosts. While many people opt for a bottle of wine, it might just be placed in a stack of other reds and whites. Flowers can stand out, but might be tough to keep fresh if you're shopping ahead. Thankfully, the ultimate entertainer herself, Ina Garten, has shared what she calls "the perfect hostess gift" — and it appears she's nuts about nuts.

The cookbook author and culinary personality has advised Instagram followers to whip up a big batch of salted caramel nuts. The balanced treat looks elegant and is easy to dress up in cellophane. Plus, the recipe (also available in her "Make it Ahead" cookbook) shows off your kitchen skills.

The chef makes a batch by roasting a mix of salted and unsalted nuts. She then creates a stovetop caramel and combines everything in the pan. She spreads the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet, and, for extra finesse, tops with a sprinkle of fleur de sel, a flaky French finishing salt.

Making a killer caramel for the salted nuts

Though Ina Garten makes caramel look easy, some beginner cooks (and even seasoned ones) can find the sticky substance intimidating, and while the process is straightforward, it may take a few practice rounds to get the technique down. It's also suggested to make the nuts ahead of time so you don't have to rush the sugar's caramelization process.

To make sure you set up your station for success, first select and carefully clean a large pan. (The latter step is essential since melted sugar will snag any crumbs from dinner, and therefore alter the taste and texture of your caramel.) Also be sure to get rid of any distractions before you turn on the burners. The amber liquid can tip into burnt goo territory quickly, so you'll want to pay attention as it cooks and stick with a moderate heat.

Though it sounds arbitrary, it's also helpful to follow Garten's advice to swirl rather than stir the pan. Stirring can encourage the mixture to form crystals, which will ruin your hard work. Patience and a tilt of the wrist are all you need to get your work to the finish line.

How to wrap up your gift, Ina Garten style

If you're finding yourself constantly cleaning burnt sugar from your pots or simply don't have the time to make the salted caramel nuts, you could also try making Ina Garten's chipotle and rosemary roasted nuts instead. The aromatic snack forgoes caramel in favor of an oven-baked maple syrup mixture, which may be easier to work with.

Both recipes yield beautiful flavors, especially when paired with the Barefoot Contessa's other recommendation for presenting the gift. Once the nuts are cool and no longer sticky, place them in a decorative bag or festive wrapping to make sure they look beautiful; or, keep up with the latest TikTok fashion trend, and tie the shiny packages up with a bow.

No matter what you choose to bring to the party, the best idea is to prioritize giving hostess gifts with a personal touch. And, above all, Garten emphasizes that the best gifts are ones the host doesn't have to serve.