Walnut Oil 101

Can Walnut Oil be substituted for olive oil?

Can Walnut Oil be substituted for olive oil?

Most nut oils (like walnut, hazelnut, and almond) are available in refined and unrefined versions. We tasted both refined and unrefined walnut oils against extra-virgin olive oil in our recipes for Basic Vinaigrette (see related content), Garlicky Croutons (see related content), and Classic Hummus (see related content), as well as plain. To see how it would fare in cooked applications, we also tasted plain oil that had been heated to 350 degrees and then cooled.

We found the refined walnut oil to be neutral-tasting and not very interesting in all applications. The unrefined walnut oil, however, has a strong taste of roasted walnuts when tasted raw (it was especially fantastic in the vinaigrette). When heated, it loses much of its flavor—therefore, cooking with unrefined walnut oil is a waste of relatively expensive oil. We repeated these tests with refined and unrefined hazelnut and almond oils and had similar results.

THE BOTTOM LINE: We suggest saving unrefined nut oils for raw applications, as heat destroys much of their flavor. Most nut oils, especially the unrefined versions, can go rancid quickly; store them in the refrigerator, and use them within a few months of purchase.

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