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Here’s a quick public service announcement: you should be toasting your nuts.
(That is, tree nuts, ahem.)
Most recipes that call for nuts start with raw nuts that need to be toasted before going into baked goods or scattering over a salad.
Why? Because raw nuts taste bland and vaguely bitter and have a kinda mealy texture. But toasted nuts? Toasted nuts are fragrant and complex and crunchy and delicious.
Occasionally, like in my granola recipe, the nuts get toasted in the course of baking the granola itself and you can get away with tossing them in raw.
But usually, if you’re stirring them into a batter or mixing them into a streusel or tossing them on a salad, they need to be toasted first.
Why won’t they just toast in the middle of that pumpkin coffee cake or that banana walnut bread? Because they’re insulated by all that wet batter.
But what if I’m lazy? Do I, like, really need to toast them?
Yes. It’s worth it.
And it’s easy.
There are a few ways to toast nuts. In the oven, on the stove, and, apparently even in the microwave.
But I’m going to focus on the oven method here because I’ve always had better results with getting the nuts to toast evenly in the oven than on the stove (and toasting nuts in the microwave just feels wrong, but don’t let me stop you from trying it if you want).
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange your nuts in an even layer on a sheet pan. Toast until they turn a shade darker and smell fragrant and delicious but before there’s a whiff of anything acrid or burnt, generally about 5-10 minutes.
Check them every few minutes. Stick your nose in the oven and give the nuts a sniff. It’s better to take them out a minute early than a minute too late—burnt nuts cannot be saved.
For small nuts, like pine nuts or sliced or slivered almonds, they should be done around 5-6 minutes.
For walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or whole almonds, about 8-10 minutes is usually right.
For hazelnuts, I find anywhere from 12-15 minutes to be about right.
But always let your nose be your guide. Some ovens run hotter than others. When the nuts start smelling fragrant and, well, nutty, they’re done.
If the recipe calls for chopped nuts, toast the nuts whole and chop them after they come out of the oven. It’s easy to burn small chopped pieces that go from toasty to blackened quickly.
What about the toaster oven?
I actually use my toaster oven for toasting nuts all the time. And I just put them on a small sheet pan (whatever fits in the toaster oven) and just use the toast function. The trouble is it may take a few tries to figure out what setting is right. Err on the conservative side and set it to the shortest toasting time, then if they need more time, toast them again.
That’s it! Easy.