Nuts are an energy-dense and nutritionally beneficial (not to mention delicious!) part of a healthy diet. Sticking to one ounce serving sizes means that you’ll not only satisfy your cravings for nuts without putting a dent in your daily eating plan but you’ll also potentially be consuming plenty of nutrients such as manganese, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you plan on buying nuts in bulk keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. This will ensure freshness and prevent the nuts from going rancid. So head to your closest supermarket or bulk foods store and go nuts!
How to buy nuts
Look for nuts without blemishes, wrinkles or discoloration. If they're in shells, pick them up and shake; you'll hear rattling if they're old and dry.
Avoid nuts that have been roasted with hydrogenated oils or sugar (read the labels). When it comes to nut butters, look for brands with just nuts and a little salt (no added sugars or oils), or grind your own. Nut oils are great for imparting a deep flavour—just be sure to use sparingly. Drizzle over a finished dish, but don't sauté with them; the heat destroys their nutrients.
How to store nuts
Nuts can go rancid quickly, so store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry spot, away from light. The fridge or freezer is ideal for up to a few months. But be sure to taste before using, rancid nuts will be bitter and oily. Here are tips on techniques that make the most of your favourite nuts:
Shelling: An old-fashioned hinged nutcracker is best for hard shells, and a nut pick can help you wheedle out the meat. Sometimes putting the nuts in the freezer for a few hours makes the shells easier to crack.
Roasting: To bring out nuttiness, roast in a 170°C oven or in a dry frying pan on the stovetop until fragrant and golden (5-10 minutes). Cool, store in the fridge, and use within a few days.
Skinning: Skin or no skin is an issue of personal preference. If you want a cleaner look for ground nuts, like hazelnuts and walnuts, lightly roast and then rub the nuts vigorously in a clean, dry towel to remove their skins. For almonds, first blanche them, then remove their skins.
Grinding: If a recipe calls for ground nuts, use a cheese or nut grater. If you opt for the food processor, use quick, short pulses so you don't wind up with nut butter.
Delicious ways to enjoy nuts
There are a million ways to enjoy a nut. Out of hand or spread on a sandwich are two favourites, but there are many creative, delicious possibilities:
- Stir nut butters into soups and stews to thicken.
- Toast pine nuts in a dry frying pan until fragrant and sprinkle atop a salad.
- Add a sprinkling of peanuts to frozen yoghurt.
- Add chopped nuts to steamed vegetables for extra crunch.
- In lieu of croutons, use nuts in salads or soups.
- Add protein to a vegetarian pasta dish with chopped nuts.
- Mix chopped nuts and dill into low-fat cream cheese for an easy spread.