Toasted Hazelnuts Are The Topping Your Fall Salad Needs

During the fall season when the weather still teeters between warm and cold, sitting down to a well-rounded autumnal salad for dinner just makes sense. The jump from summer to fall is quite drastic when you consider the difference in available produce, which varies greatly depending on the chill in the air. A tasty fall salad typically begins with a bed of sturdy greens, such as kale, arugula, or any standard spring mix. And roasted vegetables are the hearty addition your fall salad craves. Next to using a pleasant mix of roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels Sprouts and adding a sprinkling of pomegranate arils and diced pear, every salad needs a crunchy component to bring together the vast assortment of ingredients. You may only be familiar with hazelnuts as one of the primary ingredients in one of your favorite sweet sandwich spreads, Nutella. However, when raw hazelnuts are toasted, they impart a delicious, savory flavor that serves as an ideal accompaniment to fall salads. 

By toasting these small, hard nuts, you're essentially removing that somewhat-strong earthy flavor and creating a more robust, almost buttery taste. Toasting releases nuts' inner oils, leaving them perfectly crunchy. Add a pinch of salt, and you won't be able to stop snacking. 

If you've been convinced to add toasted hazelnuts to your next bed of greens, you have many different options when it comes to finding your preferred method of toasting.

The right way to toast hazelnuts

Now that you're ready to add a handful of toasted hazelnuts to your next platter of seasonal produce, there's more than one way to achieve perfectly crunchy results. While learning how to toast nuts perfectly in the microwave is quite simple, the two most common ways of toasting hazelnuts are in an oven or skillet. For either method, you don't need any other ingredients besides a baking sheet or skillet, raw hazelnuts, and the optional sheet of parchment paper. 

However, if you're new to toasting nuts, you may want to stick to your oven. The range of a skillet can vary in temperature and nuts can easily burn if left for too long in close proximity to a direct heat source.

Either way, the process of toasting hazelnuts in your oven or over the stove can range anywhere from five to 15 minutes. Aim to keep the temperature of both appliances at a medium to low temperature, and be sure to stir the hazelnuts every few minutes. Because nuts can go from toasted to burnt very quickly, play it safe and remove hazelnuts from heat once they have turned a light golden-brown color. 

Tasty ways to upgrade toasted hazelnuts

Now that you know how easy the process of toasting hazelnuts is, let's reveal a few ways you can jazz up your next fall salad with these delightfully crispy additions. While toasted hazelnuts are delicious when served on a bed of dark leafy greens, especially when mixed with in-season produce, there are many ways to pair that toasted hazelnut taste with other popular autumnal flavors. 

If you're looking to make a salad that's convenient and doesn't require too many steps, you can try making a roasted autumn harvest salad, which calls for oven-roasting a blend of raw hazelnuts, apples, grapes, figs, olive oil, and vinegar on a sheet pan. Roasting hazelnuts with oil and fresh fruit is sure to highlight their depth of flavor. For even more savory goodness, add some of your favorite seasonal herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, to your next sheet pan of roasted hazelnuts to further highlight the aromas and flavors of the autumn season.

Alternatively, you can make slow-cooker candied nuts and sub in hazelnuts for almonds or pecans. The coating of cinnamon, sugar, salt, and vanilla, will give your toasted nuts a crunchy exterior. And sweeter, slow-cooked hazelnuts serve as a complimentary addition to a number of savory yet seasonally-specific salads. While you can always add more ingredients and roast hazelnuts with oil to increase their depth of flavor, toasted hazelnuts are enough to add a defining element to a number of your favorite salads this fall.