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Raw or Roasted Nuts for Baking: Which Is Better?

For baking, raw nuts are a better choice for two important reasons.

For baking, raw nuts are a better choice for two important reasons.

Raw Nuts Add Flavor and Nutrition

After many years of perfecting my biscotti recipe, I have learned that the best results come from using raw nuts instead of roasted nuts. Roasted nuts are much easier to find in grocery stores, but raw nuts are a better choice for two reasons.

Why Raw Nuts Are Better in Baking

  1. Flavor: The biggest reason for using raw nuts in baking is that they taste much better in the finished baked good. When it comes to baking, each ingredient has its purpose, and nuts add crunch and flavor. They also add protein, which leads us to the next benefit...
  2. Nutrition: The second reason for adding raw nuts to your baking is that they are much healthier. With raw nuts, you control exactly what is going into your baking. Raw nuts are just the nuts—with no added ingredients like oil and salt. With roasted nuts, the nuts have been roasted in some sort of oil, and they often have added salt. That means that you are adding useless calories, salt, and an unknown flavor to your baking.
Double chocolate cookies with peanuts

Double chocolate cookies with peanuts

Where to Find Raw Nuts

As I mentioned above, raw nuts are a bit harder to find than roasted nuts, so you may want some guidance.

  • Your local grocery store: If you live in or near a city, then you can probably find raw nuts fairly easily in your local grocery store.
  • Organic/health-focused grocery: e.g., Whole Foods or Sprouts
  • Health food store: These markets will almost certainly carry raw nuts.
  • Trader Joe's: I buy a lot of my raw nuts at Trader Joe's when they have them in stock.
  • Online: If push comes to shove, you can always order them on Amazon.

Are Some Raw Nuts Easier to Find?

The easiest raw nuts to find are almonds. Almonds seem to be universally loved and used in many different cuisines, and you can often find them in any grocery store.

After almonds, hazelnuts (filberts), and cashews are usually the next most popular raw nuts that you will find. However, cashews are not suited for most baking recipes. Other raw nuts—for example, raw pistachios, raw walnuts, raw macadamia nuts, raw peanuts, and raw pecans—are typically a little bit harder to find.

Do They Look Different?

Raw nuts do not usually look all that different from their roasted counterparts. Raw nuts may be slightly lighter in color. However, the flavor difference is immense. Even the conventionally grown raw nuts that I buy at Trader Joe's taste much better than the organically grown roasted nuts that I can find at a grocery store or Whole Foods.

Biscotti with almonds

Biscotti with almonds

How to Use Raw Nuts in Baking

You have a couple of options when you use raw nuts in baking.

Two Ways to Add Raw Nuts

  1. Use them as-is: You can certainly just throw them in—in their raw state—into any recipe. Obviously, this is the easier option, and it can work well.
  2. Lightly toast them first: This is my preference. I like to lightly toast them in my oven before using them to bake. I find that taking the time to do this elevates the flavor of the final product.

Toasting Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the raw nuts on a baking sheet and spread them out.
  3. Depending on the size of the nuts, bake for between 5 to 9 minutes. I have found that raw pistachios take about 5 minutes, whereas raw almonds and hazelnuts take about 9 minutes. Every oven is a bit different, though, so keep an eye out so the nuts don't get too toasted.
  4. Let them cool before adding them to any baking recipe.

How to Store Them

Either raw or toasted, raw nuts can be stored at room temperature for months, if not longer. Raw nuts make a great snack for children, and they never really last very long in my house.

You can also freeze nuts, but be aware that they will lose a bit of flavor, and they will take on moisture during freezing. Unless you won't be using them for over a year, I wouldn't bother freezing them.

Keep nuts in an airtight container on your shelf, and if you are worried about bugs, then add a dried bay leaf in your container to keep any pests away.

You can store nuts whole, chopped, or ground, but just like coffee beans, nuts taste better if you chop them immediately before using them. Once you chop them, they can take on moisture and flavors from the air that will affect their taste.

Enhancing Flavors With Extracts and Liqueurs

Did you know that you can add even more nut flavor to your baking by also adding a complimentary nut-flavored extract or liqueur? For example, you can add Amaretto with almonds or Frangelico with hazelnuts. Either of these will also taste good with other raw nuts.

Grinding Nuts to Make Gluten-Free Flour

You can also grind nuts into a meal for inclusion as part of a recipe in place of flour, and in fact, many gluten-free recipes use nut-based flours as substitutes for all-purpose flour. An added bonus is that these baked goods contain protein!

Let's Get Baking!

© 2011 Paula Atwell