You Can Toast Nuts in the Microwave — Here’s How

updated Mar 2, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Whether you’re putting together a simple salad, adding some protein to a pasta dish, or looking to garnish a flourless cake, if you’re adding nuts of any kind, one of the easiest ways to make them more flavorful is by toasting them first.

The simple technique can give otherwise bland almonds or bitter walnuts a bold, rich flavor that completely elevates the dish. Add toasted almonds to a salad and suddenly it’s disappearing out of the bowl. Add them to a baked good and you have a pastry worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake.

But the thing about toasting nuts is it takes time. If you’re using the oven, you’ll need about fifteen minutes for it to preheat, and then another 8-12 minutes for the nuts to brown, then some time for the pan to cool. That’s not endless, but it means that the step that often gets skipped over — especially on busy weeknights. Like most people, I find myself justifying adding raw nuts to my recipes simply because I’m in a rush. But not anymore, all thanks to a clever trick I wish I knew sooner: toasting nuts in the microwave.

Yep, you really can toast nuts in the microwave — and it’s surprisingly easy to do! It takes just a few minutes and results in perfectly toasted nuts that are flavorful and crisp. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk
Walnuts, pre toasted.

How to Toast Nuts in the Microwave

Because the microwave cooks items from the inside out, toasting nuts in the microwave makes a lot of sense. It cooks them evenly so the outside does not burn before the center toasts. Here’s how to do it:

1. Toss your nuts in a bit of neutral cooking oil: This is a tip I picked up from Serious Eats, and it helps the nuts brown on the outside so they toast more evenly. A thin coating of oil is all you need, so 1/4 teaspoon of a neutral cooking oil (such as canola) should be plenty for most quantities of nuts.

2. Spread them onto a microwave-safe plate in an even layer. It does not matter how many nuts you toast at once (although toasting nuts in the microwave is best suited for small quantities. If you want to toast nuts in bulk, the oven is still your better option). The thing that matters is that the nuts are in a single layer, not in a pile, and that the plate you are using is microwave-safe. You can also spread them onto a piece of parchment paper if you do not own a microwave-safe plate.

3. Microwave on high power in one-minute increments: Because every microwave is different, and the amount and type of nut you’re toasting will change the cooking time significantly, you’ll want to microwave them in one-minutes increments on high power, checking for doneness between each. Depending on the nuts, and the amount, 3-5 minutes is often enough time. The nuts won’t brown as much as ones that are toasted in the oven, so the best way to test for doneness is to break one open and look at the color inside. It should be lightly browned and smell nutty. You can also let the nuts cool off for a minute and taste them if you’re unsure. You want them to taste nutty, not waxy.

And that’s it! The nuts will be super hot at this point, so make sure to let them cool completely before chopping them or adding them to your recipe. The toasted nuts can be stored in an airtight container left at room temperature for several days or in the freezer for several months. It’s a quick, time-saving technique that comes in handy when you’re in a pinch — so no more excuses for cooking with raw nuts!

Have you ever toasted nuts in the microwave? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!