John D Lee is a chef and restauranteur living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He's always loved to cook.
It's the little things that transform the merely good to great—and in the kitchen, it's those little things that make all the difference.
It's also the little things that cookbook authors sometimes assume that everyone already has a sure grasp of, and much to the frustration of novice cooks everywhere, it's the little things that they tend not to explain.
But toasty nuts are where it's at. Seriously.
The difference between a complex, golden roasted almond and a sorry-looking blanched specimen is no small thing, and it's that three-minute toasting step that can make your next nut recipe so much better.
So here are four very easy ways to toast nuts.
1. Stovetop (No Oil or Butter)
- In a heavy-bottomed skillet, spread your nuts out in an even layer and heat over medium, shaking often. Be sure not to overcrowd your nuts.
- Keep stirring or shaking for about 5 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant and browned.
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- Nuts toasted using the stovetop method will not be uniformly browned; rather, they will be more mottled in appearance.
- Make sure to keep watching the nuts. Take your eyes off the progress at the wrong point for 30 seconds and you'll find yourself throwing out a pan full of burnt and bitter nuts.
- Do not try to toast different kinds of nuts at the same time. Different nuts will toast at different rates.
2. Stovetop (With Oil or Butter)
If you want to toast on the stovetop but also want that uniformly browned look, follow these instructions:
- In a heavy-bottomed skillet, spread your nuts out in an even layer and add a scant teaspoon of oil or butter.
- Heat over medium, shaking often. Be sure not to overcrowd your nuts.
This will result in a more evenly toasted nut—but a slightly oilier final product.
You can also toast any kind of nut in a hot oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350-425 degrees (honestly, the exact temperature doesn’t matter very much).
- Place your nuts on a baking sheet and bake away for a few minutes, watching carefully and shaking occasionally.
- They are done when golden and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Oven-toasted nuts are a bit slower than stovetop toasted nuts, but they will be more uniformly browned without needing the use of oil.
- Spread out your nuts on a plate and microwave on high.
- A ½ cup of nuts will take 3-5 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.
- Watch carefully, and take out when nuts are just slightly less browned than you want, as nuts will continue to brown for a moment after removal (from the heated oil inside the nut).
Using Toasted Nuts
Once your nuts are toasty and warm, salt them generously and enjoy. If you have any leftovers, the best way to store is always in the freezer. The oils in nuts spoils quickly and nuts stored in the cupboard will become rancid and unpleasant.
All of the above techniques will work to toast seeds or coconut, as well.