Toasting walnuts brings out their earthy flavor (and minimizes the bitterness of raw walnuts). There are two ways to toast walnuts, they both work very well, but they both require that the cook pays close attention—walnuts go from being toasted to being burnt in the blink of an eye! I'm serious. Set a timer!
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 toast 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 toasted.
Let the walnuts cool before chopping or using. Their residual heat will continue to toast the walnuts as they cool, so, again, be sure to pull them out of them oven as soon as you notice a color change.
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 other vessel where they can stay in a single layer to cool to help them cool (and finish toasting from their residual heat) evenly and get nice and crunchy.
How to Use Toasted Walnuts
If you're looking to toast walnuts, you may well already have a plan for them. In case you're looking, here are a few of the reasons I toast walnuts on a regular basis:
- Toss them in salads (like Pear Fennel Walnut Salad)
- Stir into cereal or granola (I like this Homemade Granola)
- Throw them in grain pilafs (try Nut Rice Pilaf)
- Include in roasted to sautéed vegetable dishes (as in Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts)
- Put some crunch in a pasta dish (like Broccoli Walnut Pasta)
- Add them to desserts (give Maple Date Walnut Cake or Chocolate Walnut Pie a whirl)
Truth be told, I often toast a bunch of walnuts up just to have them on hand to snack on!