toast your hazelnuts! Tips

why you should always toast your nuts

If I could spread the gospel of a single, tiny cooking trick that will immensely improve outcomes of an entire category of recipes, I wouldn’t even have to pause for a second before shouting from the highest rooftops: TOAST YOUR NUTS!

Of course, I live with boys, which means that this leads to all sorts of fits of giggling, and of course, I’m just blaming them, it’s mostly me. What? I never promised you maturity.

But once the snickering dies down, do know I am as serious as can be about this. Nuts — almonds, I’m especially looking at you — that have not been toasted taste like waxy nothingness. Those same nuts, spread on a tray and roasted until they’re faintly beige within and a toasty brown on the outside taste heavenly, with a depth of flavor, intensity and nuanced aroma unimaginable 10 minutes earlier. Think of the difference between granulated and caramelized sugar, or between straight-from-the-package and browned butter and you’ll begin to get the idea.

Toasting improves the texture of nuts too, so that they stay crisp whether buried in baked goods or on top of a salad.

And the best part is, it doesn’t cost a thing. You don’t have to buy “the best” or “artisanal” nuts for this to work for you at home; this is about taking a simple, everyday ingredient an amplifying it. You won’t believe the way it can transform the most bland, no-name grocery store pecans until something that reminds you of pie, even before you add the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.


So, here’s how to do it:
Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or whatever you like to cook or eat) in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes, and up to 12, tossing the nuts around occasionally to ensure even cooking. Nuts are done when they appear a shade darker and smell toasty. Let cool completely before using.

More specific cooking estimates: For pine nuts, you’ll definitely be done at 5 minutes. Thinly sliced or slivered almonds often take just 8 minutes. Whole almonds, walnuts and pecans are usually good at 10. And for hazelnuts, especially if I hope to skin them when I’m done, I find a couple minutes extra, sometimes even as long as 14 minutes, watched carefully, can really make the difference in both flavor and in skin that easily flakes off.

A few more tips:

  • I always toast nuts in the oven. I have had less luck doing so in skillets. I find that toasting nuts on the stove requires a lot of attention, as the nuts often scorch before they develop a good flavor inside. Seeds, however, work well on the stove.
  • I have not tried toasting nuts in the microwave, but I’m very curious to!
  • I toast nuts dry. I don’t find that you need to add any oil to improve texture or flavor when you’re done; in fact, I find that if there is a coat of oil on the outside, I have a harder time keeping the nuts crisp once cool.
  • You can toast nuts in advance. If I’m going to open a one-pound bag of nuts but only need half, I often just toast the whole of it and keep the rest in an airtight container until I use them again — or for snacks. The flavor and texture keeps if they were fully cool before you stored them.
  • That said, if I don’t plan to use nuts within a week or two of buying them, I store them in the freezer. Nuts are very oily, and that oil is eager to go rancid. The freezer will stop this from happening any time soon.

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20 comments on why you should always toast your nuts

  1. Annette

    I am obsessed with toasting nuts! And I have been doing so in the microwave these past couple months since I no longer have access to an oven, etc… and it works great! It is very important to keep it short and keep an eye on them, though. Usually like 1-2 min on a med-high setting is enough. YUMM!

  2. Matt

    I’ve started toasting small batches in an air pop popcorn popper. You have to shake it for some types of nuts but it’s very quick for a small quantity.

  3. inez

    I am wondering if and how you could flavor them at the same time. Have you tried that? I had roasted almonds with sea salt and rosemary in a bar a while ago and my mouth is still watering when I think of it, but I cant find them anywhere…

  4. I couldn’t agree more! I remember the first time I tried toasting the walnuts I use in my banana muffins and realizing the flavor went up at least 20 fold…it’s really amazing. I buy raw mixed nuts from Trader Joe’s all the time and toast them for snacks – I give my husband some to take to work and put the rest in an airtight container to snack on at home. The little one even loves them.

  5. deb

    Tamera — Not in any way that I can imagine, but I’m not a nutrition expert.

    Lori — What happens when you do?

    Marianne — Maybe toasting them too long? Walnuts are faintly bitter to begin with (this is what I love about them). It’s also possible that you might not like this quality, which is amplified by roasting them.

    Matt — No way, that sounds like a great idea.

    inez — I don’t have a recipe that’s my go-to but you might like this classic version from the Union Square Cafe.

  6. Astrid

    As a nutritional therapist I can say that dry roasting nuts does not affect the nutritional value of them but if you use oil, salt and sugar then it does!

    An added benefit of roasting nuts makes them easier to digest.

  7. sarah

    Soak your nuts in salt water for 7-12 hours, depending on the nut, then dehydrate at about 150 for about 24 hours. Delicious and makes digesting them a breeze.

  8. pam

    If you need your walnuts chopped, should you toast them before chopping? Or can you chop them before toasting? Will it make any difference in flavor, except perhaps in the time it takes to roast them?

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  11. Great sense of humour, my rude little wife had fits about me toasting my nuts.
    Question please : my walnut tree has just been plucked, I wore gloves like good boy, and poued boiling water over them to try and delay the mould.
    Do you roast them in the shell if not how do you get them out without too much damage. Thanks, David