That fabulous pecan pie from Grandma's secret recipe. The almond-studded biscotti you gave away as holiday gifts. The dregs from the can of mixed nuts that were a big hit at your family celebration. Now that the holidays are over, your kitchen cabinet is probably filled with half-empty bags and canisters of nuts. Don't let them go to waste! Follow our quick and easy plan to get the most from these tasty leftovers.
Step One: Freeze Them
One of the reasons we love nuts is their savory richness, which comes from their high oil content. But because of that oil, they're especially prone to turning rancid when kept for too long at room temperature. So gather up all your leftovers, put them in airtight packaging, and store them in the freezer, pronto. (It's okay to store and use them together – the variety of the combinations will give a one-of-a-kind flair to any of our suggestions.)
Most shelled nuts will keep their flavor in the freezer for as long as a 12 months, so feel free save up and dip into your stash all year long.
Step Two: Toast Them
All our "nutty" suggestions will gain a new flavor dimension if you toast the nuts first. "Toasting nuts in a 350 degree F oven or on a stove-top skillet helps deepen and caramelize their flavor," says culinary strategist Linda Hall. She warns to stay near the oven or stove, and to stir often, because nuts can burn quickly. "I like to toast them until I can smell them. When they begin to give off a nutty aroma, they're done."
Step Three: Try One of These Ideas
Here are some easy ways to incorporate crunchy, tasty, protein-rich nuts in your favorite recipes – and try some fun new ideas, too.
Tried and True
- Granola: If you make your own, add nuts to your favorite recipe. Or sprinkle a handful on your packaged morning favorite for a delicious boost to your day.
- Muffins and crisps: Stir a ½ cup or more of nuts into the batter of muffins or quick bread. Or stir a few tablespoons of chopped nuts into the topping of a fruit crisp.
- Oatmeal: Warm oatmeal and freshly toasted nuts are a perfect combination.
- Salads: Tossing buttery and crunchy nuts into your salads is a terrific alternative to croutons.
- Pesto sauce: Substitute leftover nuts for those pricey pine nuts the next time you whip up a batch of pesto.
Fun and Fancy
- Roasted Mix: If leftover nuts are in larger pieces, toss them with a beaten egg white and add flavoring to make them sweet (brown sugar, white sugar, or maple syrup), savory (garlic powder) or spicy (chili powder). Spread them on a baking sheet and cook in a 300 degree oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Pie Treats: If you also have leftover pie dough, roll it out into small circles, press on chopped nuts, brush with melted butter, then bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden. Is it a pie? Is it a cookie? It's so delicious that it won't last long enough for you to find out.
- Compound Butter: Whir together fresh herbs and nuts in a small chopper or food processor. Add one stick of room-temperature butter. Spoon the blended mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap, roll into a log, and chill. Use in place of regular butter to elevate even the humblest grocery store baguette into something truly elegant.
Need more ideas? Browse dozens of nut candy recipes.