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Quick guide to toasting nuts
Your goal is to bring out and intensify the nuts’ flavor, making it more pronounced.
Q: What’s the best way to toast nuts?
— Rose Marie Donovan, Brighton, Mich.
A: Using a toaster oven is one of my favorite ways to toast nuts — especially in small amounts. I place them on a sheet of foil and pop them in for about 5 minutes, depending on the nut variety. Any nut that’s already chopped or in smaller pieces will take less time. So walnut halves will take longer than slivered or sliced almonds.
You can also toast nuts in the oven or on a dry skillet and even in the microwave.
Although good in a pinch, microwaving is my least favorite way to toast nuts because it doesn’t produce an intense enough nut flavor.
And that’s the goal: to bring out and intensify the nuts’ flavor, making it more pronounced. In some recipes, by toasting the nuts, you can use less. Toasting nuts is also used as a method (see how-to below) to remove the skins of some nuts, which can be bitter, like hazelnuts.
The important thing to remember when toasting nuts is that you need to watch them carefully so they don’t burn.
Here is how to toast nuts:
In the oven
Spread nuts in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Don’t use a cookie sheet without sides because you run the risk of the nuts rolling right off.
Place the nuts in a 350-degree oven; no need to preheat.
Roast shelled, whole nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans) about 8 minutes. Once the nuts start becoming fragrant, check to see if they are done. The color should be a few shades darker than their original. Sliced or slivered almonds, pine nuts and skinned hazelnuts should be a nice golden or honey color.
Once the nuts are toasted, remove them from the oven and immediately transfer them to a separate plate to cool before chopping them or using them in a recipe.
In a skillet
Use a large skillet set over medium heat. This will take a few minutes, but you will need to shake the pan while toasting to prevent the nuts from burning.
A dry skillet is the best option for toasting pine nuts because of their higher oil content. Pine nuts need to be constantly stirred to prevent burning.
In a microwave
Spread the nuts on a microwave-safe plate or shallow dish. Microwave on 100 percent power about 2 to 3 minutes. The nuts will be fragrant.
To remove skins
Toast hazelnuts or pistachios about 6-8 minutes to remove their skins.
Remove from the oven and place them on a clean dish towel and encase them. Rub the nuts with the towel to remove the skins. If not all the skins come off, repeat, placing nuts back on the baking sheet and in the oven to continue toasting. It’s OK if some little specks of skin remain.
Most nuts, untoasted or toasted, chopped or whole, will keep several months in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For longer storage, place in a freezer-safe bag and freeze up to one year for best quality.
Try toasting nuts for this spring greens salad recipe. Any variety of nut will do.
Swiss Chard and Arugula Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Walnuts
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
11/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
11/2 tablespoons honey
11/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) arugula or spicy greens mix, thoroughly washed, torn into pieces if leaves are large
1 bunch (about 1 pound) chard, thoroughly washed, stems trimmed, and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
In a small bowl, whisk together to emulsify the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the arugula, chard and onion with 1/4 cup of reserved vinaigrette. Divide the mixture among six plates. Sprinkle with walnuts, and serve with remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Adapted from Country Living Magazine, December 2012 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Nutritional information per serving: 176 calories (67 percent from fat), 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 13 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 521 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber.
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