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What Are the Benefits of Toasting Walnuts?
Oily nuts, like raw walnuts, hazelnuts, or pine nuts, are an omega-3 powerhouse, but they can taste bitter or even rancid when stale.
Toasting walnuts softens those harsh flavors, gives them a subtle chew, and makes them more likely to play nice with other ingredients in salads or baked goods.
Most nuts (and even some seeds, like sunflower seeds or pepitas) could benefit from a quick toast. If you’re not using all the nuts you toast, store them in an airtight container to best preserve the oils that toasting brought out. Find our complete guide to walnuts here.
How to Toast Walnuts on the Stovetop
The easiest, quickest way to toast walnuts, especially for smaller serving size, is on the stovetop. Because walnuts release their oil when heated, toasting on the stovetop allows for ultimate control in preventing that flavor-packed oil from burning. Watch for golden-brown coloration and toss frequently to avoid burning—about 7 minutes total time.
- Place walnut halves in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan every minute or so to check color.
- When they smell deeply nutty, pull them from the heat and transfer to a plate to let cool before chopping or incorporating whole.
How to Toast Walnuts in the Oven
If you have a large amount of walnuts to toast, the oven is the best for toasting in large batches. The nuts develop a crisp, even browning, and turn soft and buttery on the inside.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Spread walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for an even easier clean-up), and toast nuts for 5–10 minutes, checking frequently and gently stirring to rotate them halfway through. Let cool before handling.
How to Toast Walnuts in the Microwave
To toast walnuts in the microwave, spread the nuts on a microwave-safe plate or dish.
- Microwave for 2 minutes at a time, until fragrant and crisp.
- You won’t get the golden-brown color from concentrated heat contact like you might with the stovetop or oven, but that same flavor of toasted walnuts will absolutely come through.
3 Creative Ways to Use Toasted Walnuts
Toasted walnuts are a great way to add texture and depth of flavor to many dishes. When used whole or in pieces, walnuts add a harmonizing crunch and texture to salads.
Roughly chopped, they lend a creamy, heartiness to dishes, like an herbaceous gremolata. A bonus is that walnuts are gluten-free, meaning you can use chopped and toasted nuts to replace breadcrumbs in many recipes. Here are some ideas to use already-toasted walnuts:
- Rosemary walnuts. Warm a few teaspoons of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add two tablespoons of destemmed rosemary leaves. (Be careful, as the leaves will sizzle and pop immediately.) Fry the leaves until just crisp, 1–2 minutes, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Combine with toasted walnut halves or pieces in a bowl, and season with kosher salt. Toss to coat, then use to top pasta in cream sauce, sautéed mushrooms, or alongside a cheese plate.
- Candied walnuts. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. In a large mixing bowl, toss 2 cups walnuts with ½ cup brown sugar, then add to the melted butter. Mix carefully to combine. When all nuts are coated in the melted sugar, remove immediately and transfer to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Using two spatulas or spoons, separate the candied walnuts as quickly as you can so they don’t cool into a mass or clump together. Let cool completely to room temperature before using in salads, on top of ice cream or oatmeal, or in a homemade trail mix. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- Baked goods. Add ½ cup chopped toasted walnuts to the batter of any quickbread or cookie batter before baking, like banana bread. Chop into smaller pieces before incorporating into waffle or pancake batter for added nutritional value and crunch. Find our recipe for the best banana bread here.
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