After the autumn harvest of fresh nuts, we’re looking for ways to work them into every meal — sprinkled on pancakes in the morning, tossed with salads for lunch and dinner and baked into rich pies for something sweet. Here’s everything you need to know about nuts, plus some of our favorite recipes to use them in this season.
Look for: Choose whole nuts that are free of holes, cracks and mold. Nuts in their shells stay fresh longer; you just have to be willing to shell them yourself. Look for whole nuts sold in bulk at health-food stores or in specialty markets from autumn to winter.
Shelled nuts should be plump and crisp — avoid kernels that look withered or don’t snap when broken. Shelled nuts come whole, halved, chopped and sometimes ground. Supermarkets stock shelled nuts in plastic bags or vacuum-sealed jars and cans year-round. Many nuts are available raw, roasted or dry-roasted. Learn about the many different nut varieties in our glossary.
Since they contain high amounts of oil, nuts will eventually turn rancid. Raw, unshelled nuts keep well for 6 months to 1 year if stored away from light, heat and moisture. On the other hand, shelled nuts, especially chopped and unsalted ones, are convenient but have a shorter shelf life — they will keep in an airtight container for 1 to 2 months at room temperature, 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator, or 9 months to 1 year in the freezer in a zippered plastic freezer bag. Store nut butters in the refrigerator for up to 6 months and nut oils for up to 4 months. Nut flours can stay in an airtight container or zippered plastic freezer bag in the freezer for 6 to 9 months.
Prep tips: Often, recipes will call for toasting nuts before you use them — here’s how to do it in an oven or microwave. It’s best to chop nuts by hand with a chef’s knife, as chopping them in a food processor can crush them and extract too much oil. If a paste consistency is what you’re looking for — a nut butter — then do use a food processor or blender. Some nuts, like hazelnuts, also need to be skinned before they’re used in recipes, because the skin can taste bitter. To skin the nuts, you can either blanch or toast them first; learn more here.
Uses: Whenever a dish needs a little crunch, throw in some nuts! They make great toppings to salads, soups and side dishes, but they’re also delicious baked into breads, cakes, pies and other desserts. They’re staples on the breakfast table, mixed into nut butters or toasted in a granola mix. Unshelled nuts are also beautiful when piled high in a festive bowl to help mark the autumn season. Nut flours are wonderful for gluten-free baking, too.
|Hazelnut Streusel Bread
This bread is a hazelnut lover’s dream: a tender, nutty texture studded with melty chocolate chips and a thick layer of crunchy hazelnut streusel on top.
|Warm Dates with Parmesan and Walnuts
Dense, sweet dates are delicious paired with salty Parmigiano-Reggiano and earthy, crunchy walnuts in this easy appetizer.
|Cashew Chicken Lettuce Tacos
This playful spin on tacos starts with a savory Asian-style chicken-and-vegetable stir-fry, then uses crisp, fresh romaine lettuce as a stand-in for tortillas. Chopped cashew nuts add healthy crunch and cilantro lends freshness.
|Sirloin Steak Salad with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts
This main course salad combines strips of steak with tangy gorgonzola cheese and rich, toasted pine nuts.
|Spicy Peanut Sauce
This piquant sauce, made with dry-roasted peanuts, coconut milk and curry paste, is a great accompaniment to grilled chicken skewers and flank steak.
|Focaccia Stuffing with Chestnuts, Bacon and Apples
Here, roasted chestnuts, bacon and chunks of sweet apple add texture and flavor to our sensational focaccia stuffing.
|Haricots Verts with Toasted Almonds and Caramelized Shallots
Caramelized shallots and fragrant crunchy almonds take this classic side dish to the next level.
|Ricotta with Blood Orange, Pistachio and Honey
This simple but gorgeous dessert combines winter’s blood oranges with bright pomegranate seeds, creamy ricotta cheese and chopped pistachios for a colorful treat.
|Chocolate Chip-Pecan Bars
Chocolate chips and pecans add texture and contrast to this big batch of blondies. Try other nuts and chips — like almonds and butterscotch — for a different flavor profile.