I ruined a pile of fresh green beans I’d stir fried to perfection by tossing in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts at the last minute, thinking the nuts would add a nice crunch to the beans. Except I failed to notice the nuts had gone stale, permeating the beans with an unpleasant bitter, cardboardy flavor.
I’d opened the bag of chopped walnuts a week or so earlier. It hadn’t occurred to me walnuts would go stale in such a short time. I’ve subsequently learned that chopped nuts go stale more quickly than whole nuts. (Now I store all chopped nuts in the freezer.)
Too thrifty to throw away a perfectly good bag of chopped walnuts, I decided to refresh them by spreading the nuts out on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and toasting them in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, stirring them once or twice along the way.
When the nuts had cooled, I tasted them. The walnuts were crunchy and had lost that stale flavor. I quickly sealed them into a plastic zip-top bag and put them in the freezer.
After that unpleasant culinary fiasco (I fed the beans to my dogs, who love stale nuts!), I’m extra careful to smell any nuts I use, even freshly opened bags, to check to see if they’ve gone stale. It’s easy to refresh stale nuts, but not so easy to fix a recipe ruined by that cardboard-y flavor.
I like to keep bags of whole cashews, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts in my pantry for cooking and eating. But I’ve learned my lesson. If I’m not going to use them for a few weeks, I stash them in the freezer for safekeeping.
If you have nuts that are very stale or have absorbed odors from other foods, you can soak them overnight in a mixture of coconut milk and water. The next day, drain the nuts, allow them to dry, and toast them for 10 minutes. They should taste fine.
Nuts that have gone rancid (you’ll know by the acrid smell), should be tossed immediately! There’s no cure for rancid nuts, but stale nuts can be revived and put to good use in baking and cooking.
Refresh stale nuts by spreading them out on a parchment covered baking sheet, and baking at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Stir them a few times so they don’t turn dark brown or burn. Cool, then seal into a zip-top bag and freeze until ready to use for cooking or baking.