Nuts are good, but they’re FANTASTIC with a bit of salt on them.
But salted nuts are so expensive! So you decide to buy some plain ones and salt them at home.
How hard can it be?
Nearly impossible!! That salt just doesn’t want to stick.
Don’t worry. Help has arrived.
I’m going to tell you four tried and tested methods to get salt to stick to your nuts whatever type you have.
So, how do you salt unsalted nuts? There are four ways to salt unsalted nuts: heat them in a pan, steam them, soak them in brine, or spray and dry them in oil. Heating them in a pan is quickest, steaming is healthiest, brine is best for shelled nuts, and roasting is best for maximum crispness.
How to salt unsalted nuts
Method 1: Heating in a pan (good for already roasted nuts)
This is a good method for nuts that are already roasted because it doesn’t involve any extra roasting.
Oil, unsalted nuts (roasted or raw), and salt
Frying pan, heat resistant spatula, and a bowl
- Heat your pan on a medium flame
- Add in enough oil to just coat your nuts. For best results pick a neutral oil that won’t impart a taste onto the nuts e.g. vegetable oil
- Then add the nuts. Toss them in the oil and sprinkle in some salt
- Keep the flame low and keep tossing the nuts for about 1 to 2 minutes
- Leave the nuts to cool before you eat them. As they cool, the oil will get reabsorbed back into the nut leaving a nice even coating of salt
Ensure you don’t add too much oil. Too much will make the nuts greasy, and they’ll turn rancid quicker
If you want to forgo the oil, you can. As you heat the nuts, they’ll naturally release oils that can help the salt stick. Extra oil is recommended if you want super salty nuts.
This method also works well with other seasonings.
Method 2: Steaming (good for already roasted nuts)
Steaming the nuts is a super healthy and straightforward method. Water is the sticking agent, so this is an excellent method to use if you want to avoid oil.
This is another method that’s good for already roasted nuts.
Water, salt and unsalted nuts (roasted or raw)
Pan, a strainer, tray, dehydrator / oven
- Boil some water in a pan
- Put your nuts in a strainer and place them over the boiling water for around 30 seconds. The steam will coat the nuts with a layer of sticky water. Stir the nuts to make sure they’re all exposed to the steam
- Immediately sprinkle the nuts with the desired amount of salt and toss
- Leave the nuts to air dry for a few minutes before serving
Be careful not to over-steam the nuts or they’ll go soggy. Definitely don’t leave them for more in a minute.
If the nuts do go a little soggy, you can dry them in a dehydrator or in the oven on a low temp until they’re nice and crispy again. Keep an eye on them in the oven to make sure they don’t burn.
Method 3: Brine (best for nuts still in their shells or raw nuts you want to roast)
If your nuts are still in their shells, then using brine is the only way to salt the nuts. The saltwater can penetrate the shell and soak into the nut. This is how commercial nuts are salted, albeit on a much bigger scale.
You can also use it with de-shelled nuts. Since your soaking the nuts in water you’ll need to dry them afterward and the most common way to do this is in the oven. If you have roasted nuts you might find they burn quite quickly, so I would try another method first.
The method is great for raw nuts.
Before getting started with this method, let me tell you first how to make brine:
For about 1lb of nuts, mix around 60 grams of salt with 650 ml of water. You can experiment with the ratio of salt to water until you get a taste you’re happy with. A more concentrated solution will yield saltier nuts.
Brine and unsalted nuts (raw is best, then you can roast them afterwards)
Bowl with a lid, parchment paper, strainer, oven / dehydrator
- Add nuts into a deep bowl
- Fill the bowl with brine until the nuts are completely covered
- Now, cover the bowl adequately and place it somewhere cool and dry
- How long to soak the nuts depends on the type of nut you have. Cashews will only need 2-4 hours while almonds are best soaked overnight. If you want to reduce soaking time, boil the brine. This way you only need to soak the nuts for 1-2 hours. It’s similar to soaking dried beans.
- After soaking, drain all the brine
- To dry the nuts you can either put them in a dehydrator or in the oven. If you’re using the oven, dry them on a low heat for longer to make sure they don’t burn
- Different nuts will take different times to dehydrate completely. Check the nuts regularly and take them out when they reach your desired taste and texture
- Leave the nuts to cool before you eat/store them. As you heat the nuts their natural oils come to the surface, making them seem soggy. They will crisp up as they cool and the natural oils are reabsorbed
This method is by far the most common recommendation. I tried it with peanuts and was very happy with the results. The nuts tasted really salty and were super delicious.
Method 4: Roasting (best for raw nuts you want to roast)
If you have unroasted (raw) nuts and want to roast them as well as salt them, then this is the method for you.
This method can also work with pre-roasted nuts, but you’ll have to reduce the heating time in the oven to just a few minutes (max 10 minutes).
Doubly roasted nuts take on a bitter taste.
There are quite a few different things you can use as a sticking agent when you roast the nuts. Oil is a popular one, but a healthier alternative is egg whites. Melted butter or honey are good options if you want a rich flavor. Or you can use salted water.
I discuss the different sticking agents in more detail later on.
Unsalted nuts, a sticking agent (neutral oil, butter, egg whites, water) and salt
A baking tray and a regular tray for cooling
Procedure (with oil):
- Preheat the oven first to a low temperature
- Spread the nuts evenly on the baking tray
- Spray the nuts with oil so they’re evenly coated. Spraying is better than tossing the nuts in poured oil because it gives a lighter coating. If the oil is too thick, the salt won’t adhere as well
- Heat the nuts in the oven for 5 minutes on medium heat. This will encourage the natural oils to come to the surface of the nut (putting the nuts in the microwave for 30 seconds will have the same effect)
- Take the hot nuts out and coat with salt
- Put the nuts back into the oven. If raw, roast them until the nuts are two shades darker. If pre-roasted only keep them in the oven for 2-3 minutes to let the salt adhere.
- Take the nuts out and let them sit for a while to cool down. As they cool all the oils will be reabsorbed into the nut and they’ll end up nice and crunchy
If you’re using a different sticking agent, swap the oil in the procedure with this. You can use water and melted butter in exactly the same way as oil.
If you’re using egg whites, whisk them first so they’re not gloopy and you can get a thin coating. As the protein in the egg white dries, it creates a crispy layer on the outside of the nuts. If you like super crispy nuts, go with the egg whites.
What salt should I use to salt nuts?
The best salt to use to salt unsalted nuts is popcorn salt. Popcorn salt has a super fine texture and will stick to the nut much better than coarse salt. Think of it like icing sugar – it sticks to everything!
If you don’t want to buy popcorn salt, you can try grinding table salt with a mortar and pestle. Grind the salt until it has a powdery texture and it should adhere well to your nuts.
Or you can blend the salt in a food processor.
What other ingredients can I use to flavor my nuts?
We’re all used to eating salted nuts, but if you want to be a bit more adventurous, there are lots of other things you can use to flavor your nuts.
Why not try a few until you find your favorite?
You can swap the salt out in the methods above with any of the ingredients below, or use a mixture of them to create a flavor explosion!
- Curry powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Black truffle
- Cajun spices
- Maple syrup
- Rosemary (or any herb)
- Cheese powder
- Soy Sauce
- Cocoa powder
How to get the seasoning to stick to nuts
I’ve touched on this throughout the article, but here’s how to get the seasoning to stick to nuts. This applies to any type of seasoning, not just salt.
You need a sticking agent. Common sticking agents include oil, water, honey, and egg whites. Coat the nuts in your sticking agent and apply the seasoning. Grind your seasoning into a powder form, as this will help it adhere. You can use a pestle and mortar.
A good way to apply the sticking agent to the nuts is with a mister (amazon link), a device that atomizes liquid and mists the food. This is much better than pouring oil onto the nuts because it allows you to get a thinner, more even coating.
How to unsalt nuts that are too salty
If you’ve accidentally added too much salt to your nuts, here are two ways to de-salt them. You can either shake the salt off or soak the nuts in water. I recommend the shaking method because it’s much easier and very effective.
Method 1: Shake the salt off
A large container
- Half fill your container with the salty nuts. If you don’t have a big enough container, you can use a colander covered with a plate
- Vigorously shake the container in all directions to get the salt to fall off. But don’t shake so hard that the nuts smash
- After 1-2 minutes of shaking, you should see the salt settling at the bottom of the container
- Remove the nuts and taste
- If they’re still too salty, repeat the process. Or you can try the next method of soaking the nuts in water
Method 2: Soaking in water
Soaking the salted nuts in water for a 1-2 hours will cause the surface salt to dissolve into the water.
Water and salted nuts
Bowl, oven, and baking tray
- Place the nuts in a bowl and cover them with water
- Taste the nuts every so often until enough salt has been removed
- Drain the nuts
- Dry the nuts in the oven on a low heat or in a dehydrator
Ensure the nuts are fully dry after you soak them. The presence of water will decrease the shelf life of your nuts. If you’re not sure if they’re dry enough, it’s best to consume them within 3-4 days.
How To Salt Unsalted Nuts
- 1 portion unsalted nuts
- 1 portion oil
- 1 portion salt
Method 1: Heating in a pan
- Take out a pan and heat it on a medium flame.
- Now pour in enough oil to just coat your nuts. Pick an oil that won’t impart a taste onto the nuts, e.g. vegetable oil.
- After giving them a quick stir in heated oil, sprinkle some salt.
- Keep the flame low while you let the nuts sit for about 1 to 2 minutes in the pan with salt and oil.
- Meanwhile, keep stirring.
- Ensure you don’t add too much oil. Too much will make the nuts greasy, and they’ll turn rancid quicker.
- Leave the nuts to cool before you eat them. Heat brings the natural oils of the nut to the surface. As they cool, these oils get reabsorbed back into the nut.
Method 2: Steaming
- In this easy and simple method, first, you have to boil some water.
- Then put your nuts in a strainer and place it over the boiling water. The steam will coat the nuts with a layer of sticky water.
- Immediately sprinkle the nuts with the desired amount of salt and shake so all nuts are evenly coated.
- But be careful, too much exposure to steam will make nuts go soggy. Only expose them as long as needed (less than a minute).
- If you think the nuts are a little soggy, you can dry them in a dehydrator or in the oven on a low temp until they’re nice and crispy again.
Method 3: Brine (best for nuts still in their shells)
- For about 1lb of nuts, mix around 60 grams of salt with 650 ml of water. You can experiment with the ratio of salt to water until you get a taste you’re happy with. A more concentrated solution will yield saltier nuts.
- Add nuts into a deep bowl.
- Fill the bowl with brine until the nuts are completely covered.
- Now, cover the bowl adequately and place it somewhere cool and dry.
- Soak the nuts overnight for better results. If you want to reduce soaking time, boil the brine. This way you only need to soak the nuts for one to two hours.
- After soaking, drain all the brine.
- The nuts will be a little soggy from the soaking, so now you need to dry them out again.
- You can either put them in a dehydrator or in the oven. If you're using the oven, dry them on a low heat for longer to make sure they don’t burn.
- Different nuts will take different times to dehydrate completely. Check the nuts regularly and take them out when they reach your desired taste and texture.
- Leave the nuts to cool before you eat/store them. As you heat the nuts their natural oils come to the surface, making them seem soggy. They will crisp up as they cool and the natural oils are reabsorbed.
Method 4: Roasting (best if nuts are raw and you want to roast them)
- In this method, preheat the oven first to a low temperature.
- Spread the nuts evenly on the baking tray.
- Spray the nuts with oil so they’re evenly coated. Spraying is better than tossing the nuts in poured oil because it gives a lighter coating. If the oil is too thick, the salt won’t adhere as well.
- Heat the nuts in the oven for 5 minutes on a medium heat. This will encourage the natural oils to come to the surface of the nut.
- Take the hot nuts out and coat with salt.
- Put the nuts back into the oven. If raw, roast them until the nuts are two shades darker. If pre-roasted only keep them in the oven for another two to three minutes.
- Take the nuts out and let them sit for a while to cool down. As they cool all the oils will be reabsorbed into the nut and they’ll end up nice and crunchy.