If you've never toasted nuts before adding them to a recipe, this cooking tip may change your life. Toasting nuts bring out their earthiness and minimize any bitterness found in raw nuts. In just a few minutes, nuts will go from pale, somewhat waxy, and mild in flavor and smell, to golden brown, rich tasting, and with an intensity and delicious aroma that adds a whole new level of flavor to any dish. You may never serve raw nuts again!
There are two ways to toast walnuts: in the oven and on the stovetop. Both methods work very well, but they both also require that the cook pays close attention—walnuts go from being toasted to being burnt in the blink of an eye! So make sure to stay on task and to set a timer. Which technique you choose may depend on quantity and timing (oven roasting may take longer but can hold more nuts).
How to Toast Walnuts In the Oven
Preheat an oven to 375 F. While the oven heats, lay the walnuts on a baking sheet (you can line it with foil or parchment paper for easy clean-up). Make sure to only roast as many walnuts as fit on the pan in a single layer—ideally, a single layer with some space between the walnuts so there's room for hot air to circulate around them evenly. When the oven is heated, roast the walnuts until they just start to brown and smell toasted, 5 to 10 minutes.
Again, they go from toasted to burnt very quickly, so start checking them after 5 minutes; then check them every minute until you notice them starting to brown and they smell nutty. Their residual heat will continue to toast the walnuts as they start to cool, so be sure to pull them out of the oven as soon as you notice a color change. Let the walnuts cool completely before chopping or using.
How to Toast Walnuts On the Stove
Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts to the hot, dry pan, only toasting as many walnuts as fit in the pan in a single layer. Cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently until the walnuts start to brown and they smell toasted about 5 minutes.
Transfer the walnuts to a plate or baking sheet where they can stay in a single layer to help them cool evenly (and finish toasting from their residual heat) and get nice and crunchy.
How to Use Toasted Walnuts
If you're looking to learn how to toast walnuts, you may already have a recipe planned using them. But if you are in need of inspiration, consider adding roasted walnuts to salads, like a pear salad with walnuts and Gorgonzola, or stir into cereal or granola. Throw them into a healthy grain pilaf or include in roasted or sautéed vegetable dishes such as Brussels sprouts with walnuts. The toasted walnuts add a richness and crunch to broccoli walnut pasta and are a great way to get some protein into this vegetarian dish.
And let's not forget dessert. A toasted walnut cake filling turns any layer cake into something truly special, and toasting the walnuts for a Kentucky Derby chocolate walnut pie makes a decadent dessert even more irresistible. But let's be honest, a handful of toasted walnuts also makes a wonderful snack!