Mollie Katzen's 5 Favorite Uses for Walnuts

June  4, 2014

Today: Mollie Katzen professes her undying love for walnuts, and shares 5 ways to bring them into your life, thanks to California Walnuts.

In recent years, nuts have enjoyed a status upgrade, rising steadily from snack-land into high-end ingredient territory. It doesn’t hurt that nuts are increasingly considered nutritional gold, so we can feel even better about loving to cook with them -- and noshing on them in the process. 

Walnuts are my clear favorites, and I eat them daily: before (and for) breakfast, between meals (my mood and blood sugar are highly improved), and as a part of lunch and dinner as well. I hope walnuts are never banned from airplanes, because I would possibly then need to stay home. I can’t count how many of my own miles they’ve fueled -- and improved -- up there in the sky. But perhaps I’ve floated off point...

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Walnuts on Food52

I like to roast walnuts in a 200° F toaster oven, spread in a thick layer on the tray. I leave them in for a good 15 to 20 minutes, shaking a few times to redistribute, and keeping a nose out for that telltale toasty aroma that eventually wafts forth. It’s a wonderful ritual, and once done, the results are irresistible. This is my standard preparation, whether I’m going to cook with them or grind them into a sauce or paste, or simply eat them by the handful.

My top five favorite walnut destinations at this moment (and this changes daily, depending on all sorts of things. Just know the list is long and sincere…) include:

1. Using them in basil pesto in place of pine nuts.

More: Learn How to make pesto -- with whatever nuts you like -- in 5 steps.

Pesto on Food52

2. Buzzing them into walnut butter in a food processor with touches of walnut or grapeseed oil -- just enough to smooth the action -- and salt.

3. Pulverizing them with a little honey and cinnamon, then rolling them into 1-inch balls and freezing them. This makes a great on-the-go breakfast or late afternoon tea accompaniment.

4. Grinding them into a brilliant dip -- here's the food processor again -- with equal amounts of crumbled feta, a little garlic, and touches of parsley, paprika, and cayenne -- plus enough milk or water to move it along. Scoop it up with vegetables.

Spinach, Feta, and Artichoke Dip on Food52

More: For another walnut-cheese pairing, try Walnut Gorgonzola Crostini with Crumble Fried Sage.

5. Chopping them and sautéing in olive oil and/or butter with delicious, coarse whole-wheat bread crumbs until toasty. It makes a delicious topping for pasta, especially mac and cheese.

Brought to you by our friends at California Walnuts.

Photos by James Ransom 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Dottie Jenison
    Dottie Jenison
  • jane.coombs88
  • LauriL
  • laurenlocally
  • aargersi
Cookbook author: Moosewood/Heart of the Plate.


Dottie J. September 2, 2017
Have used your inspired recipes almost exclusivelyfor over 20years. They're DAZZLING!! I so miss the website where we all shared comments./suggestions.
Dottie Jenison
jane.coombs88 June 4, 2014
No maple walnut ice cream, eh! It is the fave of Canucks.
laurenlocally June 5, 2014
aargersi June 5, 2014
JaneC - mine is double walnutty - have a look!
LauriL June 4, 2014
Thank you Mollie....after all these years, I hang on to every word/recipe you share with us!!! I will try them all....walnut butter sounds yum!