Nuts are crunchy, healthy, and delicious. Obviously they make great a snack, but they can also be incorporated into to a lot of dishes to add some more flavor and texture. Using nuts is also a good way of adding plant-based protein into a dish. Most suggestions for adding nuts to a meal involve whole, halved, or crushed nuts added as a topping on a salad. While I love the crunch and flavor nuts provide when used as a topping, I've included some other creative ways to use nuts in savory dishes.
Use Nuts as a Gluten Free "Breading" Alternative
Breaded fried foods are a crave-worthy treat. Crunch on the outside and soft on the inside is a texture that's irresistible when made well. Using panko breadcrumbs is a typical way of achieving that delicious crunch, but nuts are a great alternative!
The key is to use roasted nuts and grind them coarsely before using. Using a food processor, you can pulse the nuts a few times to make nut crumbs. It's good to have a variety of sizes to create more texture, but make sure you don't end up making nut flour. The largest pieces should be around the size of a small lemon seed and the smallest should be around the size of a sesame seed.
If you want to add some extra flavor to your breading, mix in some grated parmesan cheese to up the umami. Mix everything well then bread like your normally would. Coat the raw food with something dry like corn starch, rice flour, or wheat flour, then submerge in raw egg or egg substitute, and finally pack on the nut crumbs. Shallow fry the food like normal and get ready for a delicious crunchy and decadent treat.
Nuts that work well for this are almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts. Santé Sweet and Spicy Pecans add a pleasant spiciness to the dish that's sure to get everyone reaching for seconds.
Use Nuts in Salad Dressing
I love making big salads for meals, but I struggle to find dressings that everyone will like. To please everyone I cook for, it can't be too acidic, too sweet, or too plain. A good dressing needs to add a lot of flavor, but not be too overwhelming.
Adding nuts to salad dressing means upping the creaminess without adding mayo or mustard. The dressing will be more satisfying and the nutty flavor will coat every bite. The idea is to just add a small handful of one or two nut varieties with the liquid ingredients and blend it in a food processor or blender. The high speed should help everything emulsify well and lead to a super creamy texture.
You can do it with just a simple vinaigrette, but it's also great adding spinach, watercress, or herbs. Making salad dressing this way is super flavorful and healthy, along with being really satisfying.
Use Nuts In Stuffing
Stuffing is one of those things that always makes me feel a meal is more elegant and luxurious. Doing it right requires some effort, but it can be really worth it if the idea is to make something feel a little more upscale or impressive. Mushrooms, squash, and tomatoes all make great vessels for stuffing. Apples can also work really well to make either a sweet or savory dish. The idea is to try to get the moisture and timing right so that the outside and inside are done at the same time. If using meat this can get a little more complicated because you need to make sure everything is cooked to a safe temperature without having the meat dry out. An easy way to solve this is by using veggies or fish instead.
For mushrooms, tomatoes, or summer squash you can hollow out the interior and add the stuffing while the vegetable is still raw. Then bake/broil until everything is soft and nicely golden. For winter squash you'll need to par cook it first before adding the stuffing and finishing in the oven. Either way, the results are delicious.
Shredded, cheese, spinach, garlic, and crushed nuts make an awesome combination to use as a filling. Make sure your mixture has some moisture in it, but it's not actually wet or the whole thing will be soggy. The more moisture is in the vessel, the less moisture should be in the filling. Adding some larger nut pieces on top at the end can make the presentation appealing and intentional.
Really any nut can work well for this method. Santé Garlic Almonds work great to add some zippy kick to a dish.