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Walnuts: Beyond desserts to meat and dairy alternatives

Walnuts: Beyond desserts to meat and dairy alternatives

05 November 2019

California walnuts are a unique and innovative choice incorporated into recipes and applications. While walnuts are commonly added into trail mixes and desserts or eaten as a quick snack, their greater potential should not be underestimated. In fact, the possibilities are endless when it comes to showcasing their flavor and versatility.

Walnuts can be the perfect addition to many dishes by providing new texture and taste while also acting as a familiar ingredient to allow consumers to venture into bolder flavors. Further, walnuts are nutrient-rich and incredibly versatile. They are the only nut with an excellent source of alpha linolenic acid, or ALA, the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, and contain protein, fiber, and are a good source of magnesium. Ranging in size and color from light to amber, walnuts can be selected to fit a chef’s needs, from aesthetic to flavor. 

As California walnuts are naturally plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, and, as research suggests, offer a myriad of health benefits, they are a nutritious way to appeal to a wide range of consumer diets. According to recent research commissioned by California Walnuts, 94 percent of consumers are looking for creative ways to explore a more balanced diet. And as new and interesting food trends continue to surge, walnuts can cater to what is currently popular. But how can chefs use walnuts in their day-to-day cooking classes in ways that appeal to these dietary trends? Think beyond desserts and toppings and read on to learn more about their versatility. 

Meat Alternatives
California walnuts work with many culinary trends. As the plant-based trend continues to explode, so will the need for more nutritious meat alternatives. When made into a crumble like this California Walnut “Chorizo”, walnuts have a texture similar to meat while also offering great flavor and providing 4 grams of protein per ounce. And depending on the spices used, walnuts can transform into alternative meat applications ranging from California Walnut Firehouse Chili to California Walnut Omega Burgers to Queso Fundido with California Walnut Chorizo.

Dairy Alternatives
On this same note, California walnuts can also be made into dairy alternatives. Chef instructors may already be familiar with walnut milk, but walnuts also make walnut cream – a dairy-free and gluten-free thickener that can be used to create both sweet and savory menu items. For fall, consider this hearty California Walnut and Mushroom Soup, incorporating the “cream” as a healthier alternative to butter or traditional cream that thickens the soup without sacrificing flavor. For a sweeter application, the walnut cream can also be transformed into a filling for desserts like profiteroles.

Gluten-Free Crusting
In recipes and products that may typically require breadcrumbs, walnut pieces or meal can be used as a great gluten-free alternative, such as in meatballs or for crusting meat and protein. This simple Walnut and Herb Crusted Fish, Tarator Style is an excellent example. And instructors can try Walnut Crusted Baked Chicken Nuggets as a variation to a child’s meal.

All it takes is looking beyond traditional applications for walnuts. With a bit of creativity, chefs can create trend-forward applications with ingredients already in the kitchen.

Visit the California Walnut Board for more information. 

Photos courtesy of the California Walnut Board