If you have been following me on my Nuttylog, you’ll know I’m not a fan of walnuts. It is the bitter taste that I dislike. But given the health benefits eating walnuts, surely there’s a way or ways to make walnuts taste better. You like to know too, don’t you? Read on…
Why Do Walnuts Taste Bitter
First of all, let’s find out what gives walnut its bitter taste.
There are 2 reasons for this unpleasant taste.
It is the paper-thin skin covering the nut that causes the bitterness. Scientifically speaking, the bitter taste is a result of the tannins and catechin from the skin. Both are antioxidants and naturally bitter.
In this case, you can simply remove the skin to remove the bitter taste. Well, it’s easier said than done and I’ll explain further below.
Another reason for the bitterness may be the walnuts are going or gone bad. Instead of bitter, rancid is a better word to describe the off-taste.
Walnuts have a good amount of unsaturated fats that give a buttery flavour and texture. Because of the high-fat content, walnuts tend to go stale fairly quickly. In scientific terms, it’s called oxidization. Oxidation leads to the natural oils in walnuts turn rancid.
For that reason, it’s best to throw them away as oxidised oils in food may be harmful to your health.
What is the Best Way to Eat Walnuts
In order to make walnuts taste better, a little effort is needed.
There are 2 ways to alleviate the bitterness. Either you remove the skin or balance the taste.
Let’s start off with
How to Remove Walnut Skin – 3 Ways
1. OVEN TOAST. Preheat your oven to 175°C. Lay walnuts on a lined baking sheet in a single layer, leaving some space between the nuts so that hot air circulates around them evenly. Once the oven is heated, bake for 5-10 minutes. I suggest you start checking on them after 5 minutes and every other minute thereafter because they go from toasted to burnt quite fast. After the first 5 minutes, the nuts will start to brown and you could smell the nutty aroma.
You need to remember the residual heat will continue to toast the walnuts as they cool, so pull them out of the oven once you noticed the colour change.
When cool completely, use two clean paper towels and rub the walnuts between the towels. The skins should come off but don’t expect they do completely. Small pieces will still be stuck to the deep nooks of the nuts.
This is the part where I got frustrated having to manually remove the skin bit by bit. What did I do now? Forget about the small stuck pieces and eat them anyway. The walnuts actually taste much better.
By toasting, besides removing the skin, it makes the walnuts crunchier and brings out the nutty flavour. Try a raw walnut vs a toasted one, you’ll immediately taste the difference.
If you don’t want to fire up your oven just for a 5-10 minute toast, use your stove.
2. STOVE TOAST. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts to the hot, dry pan just enough to loosely fit the pan in a single layer. Stir constantly until the walnuts start to brown with a toasted aroma. This should take about 5 minutes or so. Don’t forget about the residual heat. Once cool, remove the skin using the same method mentioned above.
3. BLANCH. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the walnuts into the pot and simmer for about a minute. Drain and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, rub them in the towel paper.
TOAST OR BLANCH BETTER. To bring out the full flavour of the walnuts, TOAST! But removing the skin with the toasted method can be messy. The pieces of paper-thin skin “fly” everywhere. To counter this problem, use a bigger piece of kitchen towel cloth and/or a larger underliner to catch the skin pieces.
Raw walnuts. How TO Balance the Bitter Taste
In fact, you don’t need to toast walnuts every time in order to remove the bitterness. Balancing the bitter taste is just as good.
I skipped the toasting process depending on what I use walnuts for, especially in baked goods such as bread, muffins and granola.
On a lazy day, I would soak my overnight oats together with raw chopped walnuts. Soaked overnight, I barely taste the bitterness.
Another balancing act is to make a favourite of mine, cinnamon honey glazed walnuts and I use raw walnuts plus almonds and pumpkin seeds.
Here is a simple recipe should you like to try. Combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons honey and a pinch of salt. Give it a good stir and add 1 cup walnuts or assorted nuts. Make sure they are coated evenly. Lay on a lined tray in a single layer and bake in a preheated oven at 175°C for 10-20 minutes.
Using Toasted Walnuts
Now that you know how to make walnuts taste better, how would you use them besides eating them as is?
Here are several ideas
- Salads. Roughly break walnuts into smaller pieces (to your preference) and sprinkle on a green salad or fruit salad.
- Cheeseboard. Include walnuts on your cheeseboard enhancing the flavour and texture of cheese.
- Roasted veggies or casseroles. Add walnuts to your roasted vegetables or casseroles for texture and nutty flavour.
- Crumb coating. Use finely chopped walnuts instead of breadcrumbs for coating chicken, meat or fish.
- Oatmeal and yoghurt. Sprinkle crushed walnuts atop oatmeal or layer Greek yoghurt for extra crunch and protein.
- Trail mix. Make your own trail mix with toasted walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and dried fruits such as dried cranberries and raisins or sultanas.
You ought to know toasted walnuts spoil faster than raw nuts. In this case, toast in small batches and eat within 2 weeks.
Tips. Don’t chop or grind walnuts until you need to use them. This ensures you get optimal flavour.
Raw walnuts can be stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place for 6 to 12 months. In the refrigerator, walnuts will remain fresh for up to 3 months whereas they’re good for up to a year in the freezer.
If you intend to use walnuts immediately as in daily, they can be left on the kitchen counter or pantry for about 2 weeks but ensure they’re at a cool place out of direct sunlight.
When exposed to warm temperatures for long periods of time, the fat in walnuts will change and turn rancid. You can tell walnuts are turning bad if they are rubbery or withered and have a strange odour similar to paint thinner. Throw away rancid walnuts.
Also, it is best to place them at a distance from foods with strong odours such as onions because walnuts tend to absorb odours easily.
Health Benefits of the Walnuts
I have a detailed article on the health benefits eating walnuts you can read more and here’s the summary at a glance.
- Boost bone health
- Support weight loss
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce risk of some cancers
- Boost brain health and memory
- Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
- Decrease inflammation
- Promote a healthy gut
- Plant sources of omega 3 & 6 → deliver healthy fats – prevent heart disease
- Rich in antioxidants → fight oxidative stress – prevent cell damage
In a Nutshell
It is natural that walnuts taste bitter and the paper-thin skin is the culprit. If the bitterness bothers you, it can be easily sorted out by toasting or blanching the nuts to remove the skin. It takes a bit of effort though and they won’t be completely removed.
But, do you really want to remove the skin? Tannins and catechin, both are antioxidants, are what make walnuts bitter. By removing the skin, you’re removing antioxidants which are important in fighting free radicals in your body.
Alternative? You can balance out the bitter taste by introducing something sweet or salty. Cinnamon honey glazed walnut is a very good example. So is roasted walnuts with sea salt or rock salt. You can easily buy roasted salted walnuts online but by doing it yourself, you can control the salt that goes into them.
So tell us in the comments section below, would you buy or toast walnuts yourself? How else would you use walnuts? Even though I’m not a huge fan of walnuts, I still include them in baked goods and oatmeals. Walnuts are highly nutritious and I’ll not dismiss them just because they’re bitter. What say you?
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Thanks for reading.
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Medical Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do your own research. The material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.
4 thoughts on “How to Make Walnuts Taste Better”
Hi Sharon, this is a very interesting and crucial information about how to make walnuts taste better.
It’s great that the bitterness on walnuts can be easily sorted out by toasting or blanching the nuts. I’ll go with your recommendation in toasting. Not going to miss the full nutty flavor. I’m thrilled by the health benefits of walnuts.
This is detailed and very helpful, thanks for sharing.
You’re most welcome. Thanks for dropping by again.
Hi. I have long been a big fan of walnuts. Other than just grabbing and swallowing a fistful, which is something I frequently do, I also add them to porridge. I am saying porridge rather than oatmeal as I always make it warm as they do in Scotland and I like the added taste and texture of raw fruit and nuts and I will always opt for walnuts first. I know the nasty taste of a walnut that is going off but I have never found that their regular taste is bitter. So I guess I am fortunate in that respect. There is one use of cooked walnuts that I am particularly fond of though. There is a special Chinese, well probably Chinese-American dish that uses jumbo shrimp with honey glazed toasted walnuts in a thick white sauce. Some restaurants make this better than others and I think much has to do with the sauce. In my book, this is a combination to die for. Best regards, Andy
That sounds yummy, Andy. Now I have to search for this dish if it is available here in Malaysia. At least, something similar. Or I’ll cook them myself 😉