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Baking with Nuts

Created January 10, 2017
Love the look and taste of nuts in your cookies? We thought so. That's why we put together this collection of tips for baking with nuts. Learn how to make the most of these rich, tasty nuggets when baking your favorite treats.

What kinds of nuts can I use in cookies?

Almonds: Flat, oval-shape almonds have a mild, rich flavor. They can be purchased whole, sliced, slivered, chopped, and ground. You can remove their brown skins by blanching. 

Cashews: Crescent-shape cashews go well with chocolate, and offer homemade cookies a rich, buttery flavor. When your cookie recipe calls for cashews, choose roasted ones unless directed otherwise. 

Hazelnuts: Also known as filberts, these small round nuts feature a mild, sweet flavor that is enhanced by toasting. Hazelnuts can be used blanched, toasted, chopped, ground or whole. When used for baking, their brown skins should be removed by blanching. 

Macadamia Nuts: These rich, sweet, tropical nuts also pair well with chocolate. Macadamia nuts are most often used roasted and chopped in cookies.

Peanuts: The most popular nut (despite being a legume), the peanut is usually roasted and salted to bring out its buttery flavor. When your cookie recipe calls for peanuts, use cocktail or dry-roasted peanuts. Spanish peanuts are usually reserved for candies. 

Pecans: Grown in the South, pecans have the highest fat content of any nut. They can be used toasted, roasted, salted, chopped, whole, or broken into pieces. 

Pistachio Nuts: Pistachio nuts have a mild, sweet flavor. They’re available all year long: shelled or unshelled, raw or roasted, and salted or unsalted. 

Walnuts: Walnuts can be purchased year ‘round in both shelled and unshelled versions. English walnuts boast a mild flavor, while black walnuts bear a strong taste.

Can nuts be used interchangeably?

Sometimes nuts can be substituted for one another. Use your own judgment based on what flavors people like and which nuts have similar textures. Here are some swaps to try.
  • Almonds and pistachios
  • Almonds and hazelnuts
  • Pecans and walnuts
  • Peanuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews

Why do recipes call for toasted nuts?

Toasting nuts brings out the richness in their flavor. It also makes them easier to chop. Here’s how you toast nuts for use in baking.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spread shelled nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet or in a shallow baking pan.
  • Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring or shaking once or twice, until nuts are fragrant and golden brown. The cooking time varies by type of nut, so check often to make sure they don’t over-brown.

How do I go about chopping nuts?

Chop nuts using a large chef’s knife with a tapered blade. With one hand on the handle and the other on the tip of the knife (watch your fingers!), carefully rock the knife blade across the nuts until they are the right size. Go slowly so the pieces don’t fly off the cutting board.

Here’s how to interpret the recipe terms related to chopped nuts.

  • Coarsely chopped nuts are cut into irregular pieces that are ¼ inch or larger.
  • Chopped nuts are cut into irregular pieces that are about ¼ inch big.
  • Finely chopped nuts are cut into irregular pieces that are closer to 1/8 inch big.
  • Ground nuts are usually prepared in a blender or food processor, where they are chopped until they resemble coarse flour.
  • If the recipe calls for chopped nuts, chop the nuts first, then measure into a dry measuring cup.
  • If the recipe calls for nuts, chopped, measure the nuts first, then chop.

How nuts should be stored?

Nuts are high in fat content so they spoil easily. The higher the fat content, the faster they will go bad. For the freshest taste, store nuts in their shells until you are ready to bake with them. Always store them in airtight containers or resealable plastic freezer bags.
  • Shelled nuts can be stored in in a dry, cool location (such as a pantry) for up to three months.
  • Shelled or unshelled nuts can be refrigerated for up to six months.
  • Shelled or unshelled nuts can be frozen for up to one year.