The Biggest Mistake People Make When Roasting Nuts

We really can't praise nuts highly enough. They're shelf-stable, portable, and seriously convenient, since they can be eaten raw or cooked. Nuts are a healthy snack, as well, and roasting them really brings out a depth of rich flavors while also enhancing the texture. Roasting relies on a chemical reaction of proteins and sugars in the presence of heat. Therefore, the extent of a nut's surface area in direct contact with the oven's heat dictates how long it takes to achieve that golden brown color. Most cooks recommend letting your nose be the ultimate guide; when the nuts smell fragrantly nutty, they're probably ready.

But if you just throw mixed nuts all together, on one pan, into the oven, it's easy to end up with burnt bits and some acrid flavors. The biggest mistake people make when roasting raw nuts at home is ignoring the nuances between different types of nuts. The size, shape, and surface area of each nut makes a big difference in its ideal roasting technique. Each variety has its own sweet spot for optimal flavor-enhancement.

Roasting nuts is not one-size-fits-all

You really need to adjust roasting times depending on the nut's shape and size. Smaller nuts like pine nuts or pistachios will be ready in a flash, whereas larger, denser options like macadamia nuts take significantly longer. Because of this difference, be sure to distribute each type of nut on a separate pan for individualized roasting. Sure, it seems easier to crowd those little guys together, but you'll be happier with the result when you aren't finding charred nuggets next to their still-raw neighbors.

When it comes to roasting, oven temperature is also key. Interestingly, there's no golden rule when it comes to oven temperature for roasting nuts; just use whatever it takes to turn them golden brown. A Food Chemistry study found that lower to moderate temperatures of about 250 to 320 degrees Fahrenheit garnered the best texture and flavor when compared to raw. What all sources seem to agree on is to avoid a very hot oven. Here, we're talking temperatures in the 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit range. Low-and-slow is the way to go for perfectly roasted nuts.

Specific times for various nuts

Of course, your chosen roasting temperature will determine the roasting time. If you increase the temp, be sure to decrease the time, and vice versa. Below are guidelines for roasting at a medium temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Macadamia nuts take the longest at 30 minutes, since they're large and dense. Cashews clock in around 28 minutes, whereas almonds, walnuts, and pecans all do best at about 25 minutes. For Brazil nuts, you're looking at 20 minutes, and a measly 18 minutes for the petite pine nuts.

If your batch of nuts is too variable in size, try chopping up the larger specimens to make the lot more uniform. That should save the smaller guys from a scorched fate, and it'll get all pieces browned evenly.

Bonus tip: Did you know that in a time-crunch, you can actually toast nuts perfectly in the microwave? Be sure to work in short time increments to avoid burning, though, and again, stop as soon as you smell that roasted aroma. Honestly, we still prefer to invest a little more time in the traditional oven-route to achieve the richest flavor. And to make up for lost time, just prepare a double batch.