34 Ways to Cook With Walnuts

Walnuts are so much more than a nutty snack.

December 21, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

I've never been a person that goes wild for walnuts. They're a superfood, so you're supposed to like them. I dutifully buy walnuts in bulk and store them in one of those large hermetic jars (so they don't go stale, of course) and they stare back at me…quietly, like walnuts do.

Enough with this game of chicken! I set out to create walnut recipes I'd hunger for. And I succeeded: 20 steal-your-heart savory-ish recipes, and 14 knockout sweet ones. Who knew walnuts could be so much more than a snack or a salad topping that really reads as an afterthought, a “might as well” addition.

Walnut skins can be bitter, but toasting them brings out a richer nuttiness and makes those skins easy to rub off. Many of the recipes here call for toasted walnuts but even if they don’t, there’s no reason to avoid doing so. It will make everything taste that much better.

1. Pasta With Creamy Crushed Walnut Sauce From Heidi Swanson

You don’t need many ingredients to make this speedy pasta, but at the heart of the dish is two cups of toasted walnuts.

2. Walnut Cake

It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s nutty without being too nutty (though is there such a thing?). It’s a baking project, but not one that will take you hours and hours to complete. In short, this cake hits all the marks and offers something for everyone.

3. Laurie Colwin's Rosemary Walnuts

The ultimate bar snack is spiced, herby nuts. Toss walnuts in a combination of butter, rosemary, salt, and cayenne pepper for a flavorful, poppable bite.

4. Creamy Kale & Walnut Strudel

“A savory take on strudel, that’s perfect alongside a big salad for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Paired with a little creaminess and plenty of walnuts, this strudel is perfect for nearly any season, but is an especially comforting baking project when the weather is chilly outside,” writes recipe developer Erin Jeanne McDowell.

5. Brown Butter Pasta With Butternut Squash, Walnuts & Sage

Come October 1st, we are all about butternut squash. And brown butter. And walnuts. And sage. Bring it all on.

6. Flourless Walnut Brownies

Chocolate lovers have very divisive takes about brownies: Should they be plain or have mix-ins like chocolate chips or nuts? What about a swirl of peanut butter? If you’re team nuts, you’ll love these extra-fudgy, extra-nutty brownies.

7. Banana Bread Walnut Butter

No, this isn’t a recipe for banana bread. It’s a recipe for banana bread butter. “Freeze-dried bananas are the key to transforming an otherwise straightforward walnut butter into banana bread butter. The freeze-dried bananas offer a concentrated hit of banana flavor, while also absorbing some of the nut oil yielding a thick and spreadable butter,” explains Food52 resident Sohla El-Waylly.

8. Sage-Candied Walnuts

The trick to getting herbs and spices to stick to any kind of nut (in this case, we’re using walnuts) is tossing them in a frothy egg white, which acts as a “batter.” Maple syrup, light brown sugar, and regular granulated sugar ensure plenty of sweetness.

9. Herby Whipped Ricotta With Pea & Walnut Pesto

Two Italian-inspired classics go on a blind date for a one-of-a-kind crudité dip that could easily double as the ultimate pasta sauce.

10. Walnut-Lentil Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps often call for beef or chicken, but Food Editor Emma Laperruque found a marvelous meaty swap using a duo of walnuts and lentils.

11. Ruth's Peanut Butter–Date Balls

This is the easiest recipe ever. In fact, you could memorize it and do it in your sleep. That’s because it calls for one cup each of chopped walnuts, chopped dates, crunchy peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar. Roll the balls in melted chocolate for an easy bite.

12. Nutty Espresso-Chocolate Chip Cookies

At first glance, you’ll see these and think, “Hey chocolate chip cookies, I know you!” But once you read the recipe list and realize that these are no ordinary cookies: there’s sweetened condensed milk, espresso powder, two kinds of chocolate (semi-sweet and white chocolate), and toasted walnuts, too.

13. Parsnip Risotto With Caraway-Paprika Oil & Orangey Walnuts

When you think about risotto, mushrooms, lobster, shrimp, and lots and lots of Parmesan probably comes to mind. What you might overlook (but shouldn’t!) is topping a bowl with an orange-infused walnut paste.

14. Smoky Eggplant Dip With Kefir & Buttered Walnuts

This is kind of like baba ganoush…until it’s not. Walnuts are toasted and sauteed with dried mint, paprika, and lemon zest, which is served over warm roasted eggplant.

15. Whole Grilled Red Onions With Sage, Honey & Walnuts

Who knew red onions could look so pretty?

16. Pakoras With Coriander & Walnut Chutney

These bite-sized snacks are popular street food in India; this particular recipe calls for a filling of cauliflower, potatoes, kale, red onions, and green chiles. Each pakoras is served with a walnut-based chutney.

17. Lentil Walnut Loaf

Anytime you’re looking for a substitute for ground meat, just turn to lentils and walnuts. They’ll take care of business, as is the case with this “meat” loaf.

18. Orange, Parsley & Walnut Salad

“This salad can be the perfect light start to heavier dishes served in colder months, like shepherd’s pie or baked chicken casserole, bringing a pop to winter meals. An ingredient as strong and sweet as an orange is a perfect companion for the parsley and the sharp crunch of endive,” writes recipe developer Ali Rosen.

19. Calabrian Walnut Cake (Torta di Noci)

Our take on the traditional Italian torte is made with just three ingredients—walnuts, eggs, caster sugar—plus powdered sugar for dusting on top of the baked cake.

20. Chocolate-Walnut Rugelach

Bless you Jake Cohen and your recipe for triple chocolate rugelach (there’s dark, milk, and semisweet chocolate) with chopped walnuts.

21. Walnut Sage Scones with Brown Butter Maple Glaze

You wanted walnut recipes and we heard you. These scones were voted our readers’ favorite walnut and sage recipe, which is proof of its belonging here.

22. Walnut Sponge Cake

You might think that walnuts would weigh down an otherwise light and airy cake. To avoid such a sad fate, recipe developer Alice Medrich grinds the nuts into a fine powder, which acts entirely as the flour. Bonus: Now the cake is gluten-free!

23. Grilled Broccolini Salad With Basil-Walnut Vinaigrette

You’ll find a double dose of walnuts in this salad: First, they’re mixed into the salad base, which includes broccoli and chopped cabbage; but wait, there’s more! Think of the vinaigrette as walnut pesto in the form of a more vinegary salad dressing.

24. Roasted Onion Salad with Arugula and Walnut Salsa

Onion salad sounds kind of unappealing, right? That is, until you roast them until they’re caramelized and serve them over a bed of arugula and parsley with goat cheese.

25. Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake

Leave it to Dorie Greenspan to develop our new favorite walnut cake recipe. This one falls somewhere in between a regular yellow cake and a mocha cake. We love her suggestion of serving it with vanilla ice cream and warm fudge sauce.

26. Broccoli Salad With Pesto, Apples & Walnuts

Yes, raw broccoli can be, and is, delicious and yes, you should try it in this salad. It’s served with honeycrisp apple slices and tossed in a walnut pesto.

27. Walnut-Crusted Trout with Rosemary and Thyme

Instead of panko breadcrumbs, we coated trout filets in crumbled walnuts mixed with Pecorino, thyme, and garlic.

28. Vegan Apple Brownies

This autumnal take on brownies features apples and walnuts; there’s no chocolate, so I guess they’re not technically brownies, but they’re delicious nonetheless.

29. The Perfect Cheese Ball

On New Year’s Eve, the only ball I’ll be watching drop is this cheese ball…onto my plate. Bad jokes aside, take in the beauty of this nut-crusted ball made of cream cheese, cheddar cheese, horseradish, and plenty of herbs.

30. Toasted Walnut Teacake with Herbal Lemon-Honey Glaze

Doesn’t a slice of soft lemon cake with a zesty glaze and a cup of tea sound just delightful?

31. Olive Oil Carrot Cake with Sesame Buttercream

We know everyone loves sheet cake, but we wanted to figure out a way to make it a little bit friendlier: so we turned it into a sheet cake. And we added a lot of olive oil for extra-moistness and pineapple for sweetness. And then we smeared the whole thing in a tahini-based frosting.

32. Teta Ole's Walnut Torte

Not only does this torte have an abbreviated ingredients list (seven total!), you can also freeze it in advance of serving, which is a dream for holiday entertaining.

33. Roasted Autumn Vegetables with Walnut-Miso Sauce

If you’re bored of maple- or honey-glazed roasted vegetables, try this: coarsely ground walnuts mixed with olive oil, red miso paste, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic.

34. Nut BonBon Cookies

Simple and twistable, a single walnut or maraschino cherry is tucked into a tender cookie dough. The twists are baked and ready to be served at your next cookie swap or holiday party.

What’s your favorite way to use walnuts? Let us know in the comments below!

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Former Food52 Staff Editor