Walnuts are a nutrient-rich tree nut used as a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet recipes for home cooks and consumers. They are the edible seed from the Juglans genus, most commonly harvested from the Persian or English walnut tree, Juglans regia. Walnuts are characterized by their hard wrinkled shells that encase the brain-like shaped nutmeat, which offers an earthy, slightly bitter taste and a firm, yet crumbly texture.
Containing a high amount of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are praised for their potential health benefits, particularly in promoting heart health and brain function. They are commonly used in salads, baked goods, trail mixes, and various other dishes, or simply enjoyed as a wholesome snack.
When cooking with walnuts, people most commonly struggle with knowing when they are toasted just right because overcooking can cause them to turn bitter quickly. Some cooks are also unsure how to properly store them to maintain their quality and longevity. Another common mistake is not understanding the versatility of walnuts and only limiting their usage to sweet dishes or baking.
To get the most out of walnuts, try toasting them slightly to enhance their flavor before adding to dishes. However, be careful not to burn them. When it comes to savory dishes, walnuts can be used as toppings for salads, cheese platters, spread in sandwiches, or even ground up as a base for vegan burgers or meat alternatives. For sweet dishes, consider incorporating them into desserts such as brownies, cakes, cookies, and even ice cream.
One lesser-known tip for walnuts is adding a small amount to your morning smoothie. Not only will this provide a nutrient boost, but it will also give your smoothie a creamy texture without using dairy.
How should I toast walnuts?
Can I use walnuts in savory dishes?
How can I use walnuts in baking?
How can I keep walnuts from turning my food bitter?
What health benefits do walnuts offer?
Can I use walnuts in a smoothie?
I have a nut allergy, can I eat walnuts?
How can I use walnuts as a meat substitute?
Can I grind walnuts into a paste or butter?
Do walnuts need to be soaked before eating?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does walnuts expire?
Unopened walnuts when stored in a cool, dark, dry place can last up to a year. Once opened, they should be kept in a sealed airtight container and will stay fresh for up to 6 months in a pantry, up to a year in a fridge and up to 2 years if frozen.
How do you tell if walnuts is bad?
You'll know walnuts have gone bad if they start to smell rancid or sour, this is due to the high oil content in them. They can also go stale and lose their crunchy texture, taste dull or have an off flavor. Regularly inspecting them for any signs of mold, wormholes, or pests can also be helpful as they can sometimes infest the nuts.
Tips for storing walnuts to extend shelf life
• Always store walnuts in a cool, dark, dry place, like a cupboard or pantry away from heat and light.
• Once opened, transfer walnuts to an airtight container to maintain their freshness. The less exposure to air, the less likely they are to go rancid.
• It's highly recommended to refrigerate or freeze walnuts if you plan on keeping them longer than a few months. They can easily absorb odors from other foods, so use a sealed, airtight container. To defrost, let them stand at room temperature for a few hours or overnight in the fridge before use.
• Consider buying walnuts still in their shell as they can last up to a year due to their protective outer layer. Plus, shelling them yourself can be quite fun!