Just about everyone loves brownies. Decadent chocolate fudgy confections baked to perfection. These desserts can be made in a variety of ways, but the basic ingredients remain the same. Eggs, Butter, Water, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Oil, Vanilla Extract. Fudgy vs. cakey brownies which the crowd is split on is an ongoing debate that I won’t tackle today. Any home baker can spruce up their creations by adding chocolate chips, nuts and so much more. But how do we choose which nuts for baking? Is one better than another?
When choosing nuts for baking brownies it’s best to choose a nut with a mild taste. A nuts’ texture and ease of preparation makes certain nuts better for baking in brownies. The best and most popular nuts for baking brownies are walnuts. Whole or sliced almonds, pecans, chopped hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts and peanuts can be used as well.
Although it can be overwhelming to see such a big selection of nuts for baking, every nut has its place in a particular recipe. You can adjust which nut is used based on which flavor profile or texture is desired, and what you have available on hand. Read on to learn about the different nuts, how to incorporate them for baking and how to store the leftovers.
We threw together a list of eight different nuts that would be great for baking brownies so you can “wow” everyone with crunch and flavor the next time you are on dessert duty. Each of the following varieties can be found year-round at grocery stores. They’re all easy to roast to bring out their nutty flavors before baking and can be stored for over 6 months whole.
The 8 Best Nuts to Bake With
- Walnuts – Their mild taste and smooth crunch make them one of the more popular nuts for baking brownies. If you are looking for a stronger walnut taste, simply substitute black walnuts into your recipe.
- Almonds – Almonds also have a mild flavor and are widely used as a nut for baking. Look for whole or slivered almonds, as well as almond milk or almond flour.
- Cashews – Cashews have a distinct taste that pairs well with brownies. They are crescent shaped when purchased whole. Their sweetness comes from the fact that they are the highest carbohydrate nut. They provide a flavor profile like peanuts or almonds.
- Hazelnuts – Also known as filberts, these nuts have a distinctive, exotic mildly sweet flavor. Their crunchy texture is softer than that of almonds. Make sure to purchase hazelnuts nude or without the skin to save prep time.
- Pistachios – These nuts for baking have a buttery sweet and slight cherry taste when shelled so they pair well with brownies. Pistachios are naturally green but will darken when toasted. Their color can be preserved by topping the baked goods with them after baking.
- Macadamia Nuts – Macadamia nuts are known for melting in your mouth when paired with chocolate. They feature a high fat content which lends to a mild and buttery flavor.
- Pecans – Pecans have a very distinct and mild taste which makes them a welcome addition to any tray of brownies.
- Peanuts – Although a peanut is not a nut at all, peanuts are still great options for baking. They have a mild taste, especially when roasted. More commonly, you’ll find that peanut butter is called for in brownie recipes instead of the whole or chopped nut.
A Boxed Mix with Walnuts!
Even Betty Crocker agrees that walnuts make the perfect nut to compliment that chewy fudginess of baked brownies. We found this boxed brownie mix at our local Target which contains pieces of California walnuts. So if you’re in a pinch or want those nutty brownies but don’t want to buy a whole bag of nuts this is a great option.
While we prefer baking our brownies from scratch it’s never a bad idea to have a box of mix on hand in your pantry because you never know when your plans will call for a homemade dessert. Just add egg, oil and water to the mix and bake!
An 8×8 pan is recommended for size and brownie thickness and will yield 16 brownies.
Can Nuts Be Used Interchangeably?
Rather than rushing off to the store to purchase more nuts, you can use certain nuts interchangeably for baking. Although a slight difference in taste will be unavoidable, you’ll still be able to get the balance and texture you’re looking for. These substitutions provided by Betty Crocker will also save you the headache of having to run out the store and allow you to make the recipe in a pinch. Below are the best nuts to substitute for one another in your next batch of brownies:
- Pistachios and almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
- Almonds and hazelnuts
- Pecans and walnuts
- Peanuts, macadamia nuts and cashews
Regardless of which nuts are used for baking, there is an easy way to bring out their natural richness. Toasting nuts in the oven will greatly enhance the flavor, texture and make the nuts easier to chop up. It’s a win-win!
Pro Tip #1: Toast the nuts in the oven while its pre-heating and then let cool before adding to the batter.
Pro Tip #2: Once cooled, transfer the nuts to a zip-loc bag and use the bottom of your measuring cup to chop them.
How to Toast Nuts for Baking?
Roasting nuts couldn’t be easier and doing so will greatly improve the flavor of your nuts for baking brownies. Because I love roasted nuts, I tend to double the number of nuts called for in the recipe and keep the extras for a yummy snack. Follow this process for roasting walnuts since they are a popular choice for brownie baking.
While roasting nuts in the oven is preferred, walnuts can be roasted in the oven or in a skillet on the stove.
Roasting Nuts in the Oven
- For oven roasted walnuts, set the oven temperature at 250 degrees and arrange the nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. (Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper to prevent the walnuts from sticking.)
- The walnuts will take approximately 7 – 10 minutes to roast and are ready to be removed from the oven when they are brown and fragrant. (Due to the high oil content, nuts are extremely easy to burn, so do not walk away while performing this step.)
If your oven is occupied or you don’t have one, follow this method for roasting your nuts for baking on the stove or induction cooktop.
Roasting Nuts on the Stove or Induction Cooktop
- Set the walnuts in a single layer on a skillet over medium heat.
- Roast for 2-5 minutes and stir frequently to avoid uneven roasting and burning. (You’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown and fragrant.)
Different nuts will have slightly varied roasting times. For instance, pecans tend to burn fast so it’s important to remove them quickly once you smell their fragrance. Typically, the smaller the nut the shorter the roasting time. Times may also vary depending on your oven temperature. Trial and error are the best way to discover the sweet spot for getting those perfectly roasted nuts for baking in your oven.
Pro Tip #3: Take a small portion of the butter (if the recipe calls for 10 tbsps., use 2 tbsp.) and stir into the warm roasted nuts until all are coated. This will enhance the overall flavor of the brownies.
Chopped Nuts – How to Chop Your Nuts Based on the Recipe
Have you ever noticed the price difference between whole and chopped nuts at the grocery store? Unless you are looking to save time in the kitchen, purchasing whole nuts will both save you money and extend the shelf life of your nuts for baking. Recipes may also call for different techniques for chopping your nuts, depending on what texture is desired within the brownie. For this reason and because we prefer to buy our nuts in bulk whole nuts are recommended. Your brownie recipe may call for any of these chopped nut sizes:
- Coarsely Chopped Nuts: These nuts are chopped into irregularly sized pieces larger than 1/4 inches.
- Chopped Nuts – Chopped nuts for baking are usually uniform pieces about 1/4 inches in size. These are usually the ideal nuts for baking brownies, because they are not too big and not too small.
- Finely Chopped Nuts – These nuts for baking brownies are uniform pieces about 1/8 inches in size.
- Ground Nuts – Ground nuts are usually not chopped by hand. Rather, these nuts are ground in a blender or food processor until they resemble a corn meal texture. Ground nuts are not commonly used when baking brownies.
Chop First then Measure or Measure First then Chop?
The age-old question – do I chop first, or do I measure first? The answer depends on how the recipe is written. If the recipe calls for “chopped nuts” for baking, you will want to chop up the nuts according to the size listed in the brownie recipe and then measure it out. Alternatively, if the recipe calls for “nuts, chopped”, you should measure the whole nuts and then chop them up. This will ensure that you are using the correct number of nuts needed in the recipe.
Can You Use Raw Nuts for Baking?
Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. Roasting brings out the subtle flavors of the nut which is why it is the recommended way of baking brownies with nuts. However, it is perfectly acceptable to make with raw nuts. These are safe to consume and will taste great.
How to Store Nuts that Are Left Over from Baking
Using nuts for baking can get expensive, so they should be stored in a way to preserve freshness and prevent spoiling. Nuts spoil quickly due to their high fat content. If you happen to buy your nuts in the shell, only crack what you need for the recipe. Nuts stored in shells generally have a longer shelf life than kernels.
Any leftover nuts should be stored in an airtight container, such as a resealable container or a plastic baggie. The nuts should be room temperature when put into a container and stored in a cool location.
Storage location has a large influence on the shelf life of tree nuts. Nuts stored in a pantry will have an average shelf life of 3 months. Another option is to refrigerate them, which will extend the shelf life to 6 months or freeze them, which will keep them fresh for about a year. When taking nuts out of storage, check them for signs of spoilage prior to use. Any nuts with mold or a rancid smell should be discarded prior to baking.
No matter what your personal taste preference is, nuts can spruce up any batch of brownies. Get more out of your nuts by roasting before baking. Not only will your friends and family members be impressed by your newfound culinary technique, but your taste buds will thank you as well!