Looking to go more plant-based this month? Then make walnuts the star of your plate! With their cache of plant protein, good fats, fiber, and magnesium*, walnuts are the perfect addition to your healthy eating habits. In fact, research links walnuts with potential health benefits for your heart, brain, and beyond! And get ready for versatility—there are so many delicious ways to cook with this mighty nut. What are you waiting for? Learn more about the nutrition power of walnuts, and dig in with these 5 Walnut Cooking Tips!
*1oz of walnuts contains 2.5g omega-3 ALA, 4g protein, 2g fiber, 45mg magnesium. Learn more about walnut nutrition here.
Walnuts are filled with nutrients that are important for plant-based diets, including protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals (plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities), and good fats. In addition to containing magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese, walnuts have something unique among nuts—they are the only nut that is significantly high in omega-3 ALA fatty acids, which are critical to various body processes. This is why research links them with so many positive potential outcomes, such as heart health, healthy aging and brain health, gut health, reproductive health, and longevity.
A nutrient-dense food, walnuts are a super easy addition to a plant-based diet. A one-ounce serving—that’s one small handful, which is about 12-14 halves, or a quarter cup—of walnuts delivers 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and 2.5 grams of omega-3 ALA. Just a little goes a long way! Add in walnuts’ versatility and it goes even further. When ground, walnuts have a meat-like texture, making them perfect in plant-based burgers, “meatballs,” pasta sauces, and taco fillings, or use them as a flavorful, nutrient-dense breading for your favorite dishes. Walnuts are also easily whirred into creamy nut butter or blended into a sauce, milked, added to morning oats, breakfast bowls, and smoothies, as a garnish on salads and other dishes to dress up the plate, or straight up as a snack on their own or in a fun trail mix. Making walnuts the star of the plant-powered plate can be as simple as a beautiful topping or finishing touch to any dish or as creative and adventurous as your imagination—or tap into the many must-try clever and delicious walnut recipes available!
Keep ‘em Cool
Walnuts store best in the refrigerator or freezer. Stash unopened packages directly in the fridge—or freezer if you plan to store them for a month or longer. Once opened, seal walnuts in an airtight container to maintain their fresh walnut taste. Fresh walnuts have a mildly nutty and subtly sweet flavor, with a smooth, creamy texture. Exposure to warm temperatures for long periods may cause walnuts to go rancid because heat changes the structure of those good-for-you fats, which creates that slightly “off” smell and taste.
A staple in my fridge, walnut halves are my go-to purchase because they give me the most options for versatility. I can easily chop the halves, or grind them in the blender or food processor into a crumb, meal, or flour—whatever coarseness I need. For convenience and time-saving, walnuts are also available in pieces and various grinds. Seal and store them the same as whole or halved walnuts, but they won’t likely stay as fresh and flavorful for as long a time as when you chop them yourself, just before use.
5 Top Walnut Cooking Tips
1. Top It! Walnuts are the perfect go-to topper for so many dishes from salads, porridges, and overnight oats to casseroles and desserts. They deliver crunch, flavor, and they make a gorgeous garnish. The best part? Toss ‘em on last minute, halves or chopped—and done!
2. Bread ‘em. Ground walnuts are a more flavorful and nutritious coating than plain bread crumbs. Season as you would your favorite breading and coat sliced eggplant, zucchini, broccoli—like my Vegan Broccoli Walnut Au Gratin, or plant protein, like tofu and tempeh. Bake or sauté with a touch of olive oil and garnish with herbs as an easy side dish or serve on top of pasta or potatoes.
3. Get Saucy. Ground or coarsely chopped walnuts kick up sauces and dressings with a texture that can be satisfying, substantial, and creamy, or fresh and light. Try them in classic sauce dishes, such as my Vegan Bolognese with Lentils and Walnuts recipe and Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Walnut Sauce. Or whisk them into a salad, like in this Quinoa Waldorf Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette.
4. Get Your Burger On. Walnuts can help make the perfect veggie burger. With a texture that’s hearty and meaty, especially when combined with whole grains, beans, and lentils, walnuts are sure to be a staple in your master burger recipes.
5. Butter Them Up. Walnut butter is a wonderful spread on fruit, sandwiches, and crackers. It’s also super easy to blend at home in the food processor to keep on hand for a source of good fats in baking as well as a creamy, delicious addition to sauces and vinaigrettes.
Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Sponsored by California Walnuts
Leave a Reply