Walnuts are a fairly common tree nut used in cooking and baking throughout the world, but very much so in American cuisine. They can be eaten whole or chopped, raw or cooked.
Types of Walnuts Varieties
There are 50+ varieties of walnut trees throughout the world. The most common is the English walnut, sometimes called the California or Mission walnut (different than the black California walnut). Walnuts are also native to Asia and the Balkans but are grown in controlled settings in Asia, Europe and other parts of the US.
What do Walnuts Taste Like?
Thickness of the shell, skin and texture of the walnut flesh can vary. The flavor ranges from bitter to sweet, mild to quite pungent.
They can be described as buttery and earthy. The nut is fairly soft, but has a nice snap.
The walnut is most popular for snacking and baking, but is also used in savory dishes and on salads. Chopped nuts can:
top a salad
What is walnut oil?
Walnut oil is the oil extracted from walnuts when pressed. It has a low smoke point and therefore is not used for things like frying.
It also has a fairly distinct flavor, making it not as likely to be used as other more neutral oils.
It is good for caring for wood cutting boards and other items than need a food grade oil, salad dressings, topping crostini and finishing dishes that will complement the undertones of walnut.
Cooking With Walnuts
First, make sure your nuts are shelled. One pound of walnuts will yield about 2 cups of nutmeat.
Toasting walnuts will bring out even more flavor and enhance sauces, dips and dressing as well as reduce bitterness.
Ground walnuts have become a common ingredient substitute for flour for people leading a keto or low carb lifestyle.
The benefits to cooking with walnuts are the robust flavor, of course, but the meat doesn’t soften and will still be fairly snappy when cooked.
Most nuts can be swapped out for walnuts, especially in baking. I would say the best sub are pecans due to the size, texture and taste.
But you can also use pine nuts, hazelnuts or pistachios.
If you are subbing because someone has a nut allergy, you can commonly omit walnuts altogether or use a seed, like pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds, but that really depends on the recipe and useage.