Pickled Walnuts Recipe - How to Make Pickled Walnuts | Hank Shaw (2024)

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4.88 from 25 votes

By Hank Shaw

June 30, 2014 | Updated June 06, 2022


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Pickled Walnuts Recipe - How to Make Pickled Walnuts | Hank Shaw (2)

There may be a few foods that are more English than pickled walnuts, but with the possible exception of fish and chips, I can’t think of one. Chances are, however, you’ve never heard of them. I hadn’t, until several years ago when I ordered the meat-and-cheese plate at alocal Irish place called deVere’s.

On this place was a black disk. I asked the waitress what on earth it was, and she smiled; she’d had this question before: “It’s a pickled walnut. It’s good with the cheddar.”

I followed her advice and stabbed the disk with my fork, adding a bit of cheddar cheese and a bit of cold roast beef to round things out. Wow. It was a bit like eating solid steak sauce, with a little floral aroma and a zephyr of bitterness that just barely let you notice it.

I ate another disk all by itself: Fairly soft, puckery and strangely floral. And yes, there was definitely a Worcestershire-Heinz 57-A1-thing going on here. How had I never had these before?

Turns out that very, very few people outside of Britain eat them. This should change, which is why I am presenting you with this recipe. And the reason I am posting this now is because you need to get out and get your walnuts now. That’s right, you need green, unripe walnuts to make pickles. And yes, you use the whole thing, hull and all.

Pickled Walnuts Recipe - How to Make Pickled Walnuts | Hank Shaw (3)

I got mine a few weeks ago, after an unsuccessful fishing trip with my friend Joe. We were in the Delta and as we were driving out, I noticed a NorCal black walnut (Juglans hindsii) absolutely laden down with nuts. “Pull over!” Joe, used to this by now, did. I gathered about 150 nuts in less than 15 minutes. It was a bonanza.

I knew I was in business right when I got to the tree, but just to be sure I pulled out my pocketknife and sliced an unripe nut in half. You need to do this, either with a knife or a stout needle or a long nail, because you have to catch the unripe walnuts before the shell forms. Once that shell forms inside the walnut’s hull, you’re too late; the traditional harvest date in England is late June.

The process for pickled walnuts is not hard at all, but it takes more than a week. You need to brine the green walnuts for a good long time before they will be ready to pickle properly. The brine time helps with preservation and removes some of the bitterness in the unripe walnuts. Once brine pickled, they are pretty durable.

Do you need to sun-blacken the walnuts? No, but doing so gives you a nice, uniform look to them. Otherwise they will be olive green in some places, blotchy black in others.

Pickled Walnuts Recipe - How to Make Pickled Walnuts | Hank Shaw (4)

Once you have your pickled walnuts, what do you do with them? Look to the English. Traditionally they are part of a ploughman’s lunch, with other pickles, cheese and cold meats. But I see them a lot tossed into beef or lamb stews (pot pies and pasties, too!) in wintertime, and in summertime I’ve seen them served in cool salads alongside tomatoes, and accompanying shellfish such as scallops or shrimp.

4.88 from 25 votes

Pickled Walnuts

Any walnuts will work with this recipe, from tiny native Arizona walnuts to big, fat English walnuts, which are the kind you buy in stores. But you do need them hull and all, so this only works if you have a tree nearby. The pickling liquid in my recipe is very traditional; you'll see variations on it throughout England. I've also made a Chinese-inspired version with Sichuan peppercorns and star anise replacing the allspice. This recipe makes about 3 quarts.

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Course: Appetizer

Cuisine: British

Servings: 25

Author: Hank Shaw

Prep Time: 30 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes minutes


  • About 50 to 60 green, unripe walnuts
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 2 quarts cider or malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cracked allspice berries
  • 1 ounce ginger, about 1 1/2-inch pieces, smashed
  • 1 cup brown sugar


  • Dissolve the salt in the water to make a brine. Put on some rubber gloves if you have them, because walnut juice will stain your hands for weeks -- and it won't come off. Trust me on this one. Properly gloved, stab each walnut with a fork in several places; this helps the brine penetrate. Submerge the walnuts in the brine and let them ferment for 8 days at room temperature.

  • Remove the walnuts and put them on a baking sheet and leave them outside in the sun for a day, until they turn uniformly black. You can do this step without gloves if you want.

  • Pack the walnuts into quart jars. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil and pour over the walnuts. Leave very little headspace in the jars. Seal and keep in a cool place, either the fridge or a basem*nt -- you just want them to rest below 70°F -- for at least a month before you eat them. Kept this way they will last a year.


Note that prep time does not include fermenting time.


Calories: 49kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2272mg | Potassium: 24mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

Categorized as:
Appetizers and Snacks, British, Featured, Foraging, Preservation Recipes, Recipe

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Read More About Me

Pickled Walnuts Recipe - How to Make Pickled Walnuts | Hank Shaw (2024)


How to make fermented walnuts? ›

Properly gloved, stab each walnut with a fork in several places; this helps the brine penetrate. Submerge the walnuts in the brine and let them ferment for 8 days at room temperature. Remove the walnuts and put them on a baking sheet and leave them outside in the sun for a day, until they turn uniformly black.

Is there such thing as pickled walnuts? ›

Pickled walnuts are made from the fruit of both common walnut tree varieties: Juglans regia, the Persian, royal, English or common walnut, and Juglans nigra, the black or American walnut.

Are pickled walnuts good for you? ›

They are a good source of fiber and magnesium, as well as vitamin E. Pickling walnuts will ensure that you receive all of these health benefits no matter what time of year, along with probiotics which are great for gut health.

What do you eat pickled walnuts with? ›

You can put them next to meats; lovely with a steak; they're great with terrines. They love mustard, vinaigrettes, purple-sprouting broccoli. I like them in a beetroot salad; to a cold beetroot soup I might add a bit of pickled walnut liquor. Very thinly sliced and put in a ham, cheese and watercress sandwich.

Will walnuts ferment? ›

Note the bubbles. The walnuts will ferment naturally with no added liquid.

How do you make rancid walnuts more edible? ›

To make rancid walnuts tasty again, a "chemical engineer" (consulted for this purpose) advises to soak the rancid walnuts in milk or other emulsive ingredient which is then rinsed off with hot water, and the nuts gently dried and roasted with sea salt.

What is the Flavour of pickled walnuts? ›

A traditional English accompaniment to cold meats and blue cheeses, pickled walnuts have a buttery texture and sharp flavour with a hint of nuttiness that's curiously addictive.

What happens when you soak walnuts in water overnight? ›

Walnuts should be soaked because doing so makes them easier for the body to digest than eating them raw. The phytic acid found in nuts, which is reduced by soaking walnuts, contributes to increased absorption as well. Raw walnut digestion may be more difficult for those with weak gut.

What makes it pickled? ›

Pickling is the process of using an acidic brine to preserve a food. Acidic brines are made with either salty water, sugar water, lemon juice, or vinegar. Either substance (or sometimes a combination of them) is poured over vegetables, fruit, meat or fish which are then placed in a tight jar for a few days.

What does eating walnuts everyday do to your body? ›

Eating walnuts every day reduces your blood pressure and blood levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and apolipoprotein B, protecting your heart. Walnuts also contain fiber, which is good for digestive health and prevents colon cancer.

How many walnuts can you safely eat a day? ›

A 2021 article on the effect of walnut consumption found that consuming 30–60 grams of walnuts daily is beneficial for heart health. 30–60 grams is the same as 1–2 ounces or a 1/4–1/2 cup of walnuts.

Who eats pickled walnuts? ›

Pickled walnuts (from English walnut, Juglans regia) are a traditional British delicacy.

What makes walnuts taste better? ›

Walnut skins can be bitter, but toasting them brings out a richer nuttiness and makes those skins easy to rub off. Many of the recipes here call for toasted walnuts but even if they don't, there's no reason to avoid doing so. It will make everything taste that much better.

What is the best combination with walnuts? ›

Top 5 Pairings

Although people enjoy a mix of sweet and savory flavors with walnuts, a sweet combination is most liked by all: (1) Dark Chocolate, (2) Sesame Cayenne, (3) Vanilla, (4) Sea Salt Caramel, (5) Coffee.

How to make soaked walnuts? ›

Put two teaspoons of salt into mason jar and add 4 cups of filtered water, stir until salt is dissolved. Put walnuts into jar. If water does not cover nuts, add more water until nuts are covered. Let sit overnight.

What does soaking walnuts overnight do? ›

Omega-3 fatty acids, known for their heart-healthy properties, are more readily absorbed when walnuts are soaked, boosting cardiovascular benefits. Antioxidants become more available, helping to combat oxidative stress and inflammation, while vitamins and minerals contribute to improved overall wellness.

What happens when you ferment nuts? ›

Fermented nuts are made by soaking raw nuts in water with yeast and salt for a couple of days. The process breaks down the fat molecule, which produces better flavor. This is different from how most people cook or bake their food as it requires no heat to digest this type of nut.

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