A walnut substitute is a great alternative for when you’re baking for someone who has a nut allergy or if you’ve simply run out.
Walnuts are often used in baking and as toppings to some savory dishes, but if you are out of them or need a nut-free walnut substitute, you might be surprised at some of the substitution options available.
What Are Walnuts?
Walnuts are a type of nut that comes from a walnut tree. Two commonly found varieties are the English walnut and the black walnut.
English walnuts are native to Iran, and black walnuts are native to North America. They are not true nuts, as they are classified as drupes in botany.
Health Drawbacks of Walnuts
- Digestive stress – due to the high fiber content of walnuts, if you have digestive issues, they may aggravate the problem.
- Allergies – even if they are not technically a nut, they trigger allergies in some people with tree nut allergies.
- Weight gain – although they are great for your digestive system, if you don’t have any underlying issues, they are high in calories. If you consume too much, you will gain weight. 7 walnuts have about 183 calories.
- Choking hazard – as with any small hard food, they are a significant choking hazard for small children.
- Ulcer implications – if you have a stomach ulcer, it has been shown to aggravate the symptoms of a stomach ulcer, although more research is needed.
How to Choose a Substitute for Walnut
- Baked goods – usually, when walnuts are added to baked goods, it’s more for texture than flavor, so choose a substitute like granola or other nuts as a substitute when baking
- Sauces and Pestos – walnuts are added to soft foods for their flavor, so consider a similar tasting substitution if you want your recipe to taste as intended.
- Health foods – if you add walnuts to salads or smoothies, you can choose a healthy walnut substitute to achieve the same or better nutritional value in your health foods.
10 Best Walnut Substitutes
Tree Nut Walnut Substitutes
1. Pecan nuts
2. Walnut Oil
If you want the taste of walnuts to be present in your recipe, you can use walnut oil. The texture will be different, but the flavor will remain. If you need to replace walnuts in a salad, why not make this walnut oil dressing by Food.com instead?
Hazelnuts go exceptionally well with sweet baked goods, so try using hazelnuts in a sweet recipe. It’s best to use them chopped up rather than whole. They will do well as a 1:1 replacement in Nutrition in the Kitch’s no-bake brownies.
4. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts have a mild flavor, which means they work well in savory dishes. Lively Table made stuffing using walnuts, but you can substitute them in a 1:1 ratio with Brazil nuts for the same great flavor.
Almonds are versatile tree nut that can be used in savory and sweet dishes and even in some sauces. Use them in dishes that won’t require too many walnuts, as almonds have a distinct flavor that might not work too well with your recipe’s flavor profile.
They work well in a dessert like a pear coffee cake using a 1:1 replacement for walnuts.
Cashews have a creamy and mild flavor, so they work very well as a substitute for sauces. In fact, they’re used in this basil pesto recipe by a Couple of Cooks.
7. Walnut Butter
Walnut butter isn’t always available, but when you do find it, it actually makes for a better substitute for whole walnuts in smoothie recipes since it will blend in very well. Try following this walnut and strawberry smoothie by California Walnuts.
Substitutes for Walnuts That Are Nut-Free
8. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a very healthy nut-free alternative to walnuts, and due to their bigger size, they’re good to use as a 1:1 replacement for chopped walnuts. Foodstruct compares the nutritional value of the two.
9. Sunflower Seeds
You can use shelled sunflower seeds raw as a topping to salads, bread, and even soups to give you a nutty flavor without the risk of triggering an allergy response. Ela Vegan has a quick and easy sunflower seed granola you can use as a topping or enjoy with yogurt.
10. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds have a great nutty flavor profile when toasted or used raw. If you need a nut-free banana bread recipe without sacrificing the nutty flavor, try making 101 Cookbooks’ sesame banana bread.
Walnut Substitute in Baking
- Omission – baked goods add walnuts and other nuts as a flavor and texture additive, but omitting them won’t make a huge difference.
- Walnut Oil – if you simply want the flavor of walnuts in your cookies or bread, replacing some of the butter or oil with some walnut oil will yield a tasty cookie or bread.
Substituting Walnuts in Salads
- Seeds – they are an easy way to add texture and flavor to your salad. Toasting them enhances their nutty flavor. Sesame or pumpkin works best.
- Croutons or Whole Wheat Crackers – they add a bit of texture and volume to your salads.
Walnut Substitute in Breads
- Seeds – they work well as a crunchy topping and ingredient when making bread whilst adding some nutty flavors.
- Other tree nuts – they won’t change the flavor profile too much of your bread, but if you’re worried, add a little bit of walnut oil to add the walnut flavor.
Walnut Substitute in Snack Mixes
- Toasted Seeds – they will add a nutty element to the snack mix and still provide you with the energy boost that nuts would have. Flax, pumpkin, and sesame seeds work very well.
- Peanuts or other nuts – walnuts give you a great energy boost, but most other nuts and peanuts will give you a similar energy boost in your snack mix.
Pecans are the Closest Nut to a Walnut
Pecan nuts are the closest substitute for walnuts. They have similar nutritional values, sizes, and textures.
Tree Nut Healthier Than a Walnut
Pistachios are a healthier nut than walnuts. They are lower in calories compared to walnuts and have higher levels of potassium and phytosterols – which are ideal for cardiovascular health.