All nuts need to be toasted, full stop. Nuts are bursting with natural oils that become so fragrant when heated up that they can fill a whole room with their intoxicating aroma. A pale, raw nut that has never felt the kiss of warmth is a mere shadow of what it could and should be: a blissfully potent, flavor-packed experience. (This recipe proves it.) You should never put a single nut in your mouth that hasn’t reached its full potential, and in my opinion, the best way to do that is by sticking your nuts into an air fryer.
For those of you who have somehow resisted the resisted the siren song of the air fryer, allow me to briefly explain what they are in hopes of converting you. Air fryers are not over-hyped gadgets, flash-in-the-pan gizmos, or as-seen-on-TV miracle machines; they are simply small, high-powered convection ovens. My air fryer has become as indispensable in my kitchen as the stove, and the only small appliance that I use every single day. If you’ve previously been on the fence about buying one, this news about what it can do to nuts might nudge you toward a purchase.
If you examine nuts closely, you’ll see that they’re full of pockmarks, divots, nooks, and crannies. This is obvious with nuts like pecans and walnuts, but if you zoom and enhance, you’d see that even smooth nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews are riddled with them. In an air fryer, the nuts are surrounded by rapidly cycling hot air that blasts its way into all those empty spaces, coaxing the flavor from every square millimeter in ways no other cooking method can.
Best of all, an air fryer gets your nuts toasty fast. No need to grease them up or chop them up into bits first—simply preheat your air fryer to 375 degrees, throw in your nuts, wait exactly one minute, then give them a look. The exact cooking times will vary depending on the size and shape of your nuts, but I’ve found that for small pieces, 60-90 seconds will do, and for halved or whole nutmeats, the sweet spot is around the two-minute mark.
Although I emphatically suggest using an air fryer for toasting nuts, I understand there are people who haven’t purchased one yet, and have nut needs that must be serviced immediately. So here are some other ways to toast nuts in your kitchen:
- Microwave: Spread out your nuts on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high in 45-second increments, stopping when they begin to smell toasty and delicious. If you’d like the outside of the nuts to brown up a bit, too, mix them with a tiny drop of oil first, just to give them the thinnest possible coating.
- Oven: Dump your nuts onto a sheet pan, give them a good shake to space them out a bit, and slide them into a 350-degree oven for five minutes. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the nuts around a bit, put them back in the oven, and stay close by until you begin to smell them. When that happens, give one a taste to see if it’s toasted to your liking; if they’re not quite ready yet, continue baking while keeping a close eye on things, as nuts can go from perfect to burnt in a flash.
- Stove: Preheat a heavy-bottomed saute pan over high heat for a few minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and add the nuts. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts are toasted without burning. If you care to, you can add a small nub of butter or a drop of oil to the pan. which will help the surface of the nuts brown more evenly.