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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57 comments on why you should always toast your nuts

    1. John

      I baked a batch of shortbread today with pistachios (and pistachio-flavored pudding). The nuts were from a bulk store (shelled and roasted and very slightly salted. I thought it would be a good idea to toast the nut further to use as a topping. I also added some untoasted chopped but to the dough. I think that roasting might have given the nuts a off (bitter) taste Toasting them might have been a mistake (?) The nuts with out additional toasting used in the dough seemed to be better.

  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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  10. The best way to roast a nut is in a ceramic pan to enhance the flavor of it. Ceramic cookware was made using various types of clay and involved the mixing of various elements and minerals.

  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

  12. Mary Lewis

    I found this information extremely helful. It was well written and easily understood. My intent was to just skim over article but instead read in its entirety. Thank you.
    Have not use technique yet, but will shortly.

  13. Carolyn

    I truly appreciate your knowledge in toasting nuts.I always just opened the bag & poured into whatever I was making as I wasn’t taught how to cook,so I am still learning.

  14. Frank Ditzler

    If you are going to glaze nuts in the oven with sugar, maple syrup and spices is it still best to toast them before putting them in the oven with the glaze, even though they will get “toasted” again, but not w/o the glaze, or won’t they get toasted in the same way after the glaze is on?

  15. Raanan Shefa

    you haven’t mentioned roasting peanuts. I roast them a little longer,15-20 minutes. Then, if you want you can easily make wonderful peanut butter. Put them in a food processor, add a little oil, some salt and some sweetener and let the food processor run until you get a smooth texture. If it is too thick, add more oil. Add more salt and sweetener to taste.
    Next try almond butter the same way.

  16. Polly anna

    I forgot to grill my hazle nuts (too eager to use my new grinder….) is it too late to grill, they are concassée not finely ground, and i really love the taste when grilled and plan to make baklawa. Thankyou

    1. deb

      You might toast them at a lower temperature (300 or thereabout) in the oven on a baking sheet. Make sure to stir every 5 minutes, make sure they’re toasting evenly, and keep an eye on it.

  17. Joyce

    I was given 2 small shopping bags of walnuts to the shell. My grandson helped me she’ll them and placed the meats in a large bowl in my deep freeze until I had time to chop and bag them for holiday baking. My deep freeze quit. Now I have to do something else with them so I thought I’d roast them and this really helped. Thank you

  18. Ellen Lingerfelt

    This was not the best year for pecans in my area…we bought many pounds to shell and freeze for use through the year. Many of the ones that we shelled were not completely formed and had a “rubbery” texture.
    Since they were not bad, I decided to toast them to see what happened.
    The nuts firmed up and had a delicious flavor.
    Toasting definitely brought out the flavor and saved me a lot of nuts that I would probably have thrown away.

  19. Do you toast walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds etc and THEN freeze them? I have been searching the internet to see if this is safe for the nuts and how long I can keep them in air tight containers in the freezer AFTER toasting. We make a “nut butter” with each of these once a week in our house because of all of the food sensitivities that we have. It would be so much more convenient to batch roast them and containerize in nut butter quantities for the freezer!

  20. Bell

    Did we have to wash/soak raw nuts before toasting?
    After soaking process, can we just put the nuts for toasting instead of using the dehydrator?

  21. Don

    Thank you, this helped an old man, toast walnuts for the delicious quinoa bread my dear wife makes.
    She isn’t too happy right now, seems she wants to get the bread done & I feel like I’m getting in her way.
    PS. She bought the nuts, I was just trying to help

  22. Donna Leemhuis

    All I wanted to do was roast raw peanuts in the shell in the oven on a cookie xhett and i know you shake pan every little bit but how hot should ocen be and how long to riadt yhem

  23. barbkertscher

    I do toast nuts in the microwave. Seeds too. I put them on a big Corning Ware dinner plate, make a space in the middle and nuke them at 2 minute intervals until they are done. If you don’t leave the middle open they burn.

  24. David Zuskin

    Is there any benefit to toasting walnuts that are to be added to brownie mix right away or, does baking the brownies for 30 min negate needing to toast the walnuts?

  25. Monica Kovalchuk

    I broil nuts. I’ve done it for years and it only takes moments. I put them on a baking sheet on the top rack of the oven on HI and watch them closely. Depending on how hot the broiler is and the oiliness of the nut, they will start browning in moments. Keep your hot pad on your hand and stand ready to shake the baking sheet every few moments and be ready to grab it from the oven and set on a trivet to cool. I’ve toasted everything from sesame seeds to almonds and walnuts and pine nuts like this. It’s very quick and very easy.

  26. You can toast nuts in the microwave. I do it with raw Almonds often.

    On a microwavable dinner plate, toss and stir one cup of nuts with 2 TBLS Canola Oil until all are wet.

    Optional: Then toss and stir same nuts with 1 tspn Write’s Liquid Smoke until wet

    Add finely ground POPCORN salt to taste and stir again. (It doesn’t take much.)

    In 1100 Watt Microwave:

    Heat for 6 minutes.

    For Almonds: (Other nuts might require more or less heating)

    First 3 minutes at 70%.

    Second 3 minutes at 60%.

    Drain and cool in paper towel lined bowl.

    Cover with paper towel and saucer.

    Then invert the saucer and allow nuts to cool completely.

    Store in the covered lined bowl. Do not refrigerate.

    Stays fresh for about a week.

    1. Tracy

      Thanks for these tips, I have burned nuts on the stovetop so often that I’ve given up on roasting them. This seems pretty straightforward and foolproof though.

      If you’re going to chop the nuts, should you chop before or after toasting? (I think I saw this question in the thread but missed the answer). Thanks!

  27. Mandy Vernalia

    I always toast nuts in a big frying pan on the stove. I usually add a little salt and no oil. This is easier for me than using the oven. The big deal with this is that you have to stand there and stir them around or they will burn on the bottom and be raw on the top.