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Explaining Black Walnuts

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2014

How do black walnuts compare with regular walnuts?

Not long ago, black walnuts were available only via mail order. But Diamond has recently started offering this cousin of the more familiar English walnut in supermarkets.

We sampled multiple bags of Diamond black walnuts out of hand and in cookies. Tasters had a mixed reaction to the nuts when eating them plain. Some described the nuts as “grassy” and “floral,” while others found them unpleasantly bitter—even questioning whether the nuts were rancid. But a taster who grew up with a black walnut tree in his neighborhood assured us that the strong, even bitter flavor of the Diamond nuts was spot-on. The black walnuts were more likable in shortbread, where their strong taste complemented the buttery richness of the cookie.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Black walnuts are expensive ($1.55 per ounce versus $0.69 per ounce for English walnuts), probably because their tough outer hulls are extremely difficult to crack. And note that their unique flavor is not for everyone. We recommend that you sample a few before mixing them into a recipe.