Nuts and seeds are a healthy source of protein, and make an excellent snack when you’re looking for something crunchy that’s not junk food. They’re high in fiber and antioxidants, and with a wide variety available, you can use them in a lot of unexpected ways.
Adding more nuts to your diet is a great way to eat healthy. The following are ways to use up nuts and seeds that may or may not surprise you. Keep in mind that in some cases, you can substitute almost any nut, but sometimes, only a certain type will do.
Bread Your Chicken or Fish
You can grind up any nut or seed or combination and use it to bread chicken and fish for baking or frying. You can mix these with herbs or your favorite seasonings, or even mix with breadcrumbs for a crunchy, healthy breading everyone will love. If you’re frying your chicken or fish, make sure you use raw nuts instead of roasted; the roasted may have too much oil, which could result in a greasy flavor or texture.
You can grind the nuts as coarse or fine as you like. Softer nuts like pecans are best used if you want something with a coarse crumb, while almonds or pistachios are good ground into a fine crumb.
Make a Crust
Nuts make an excellent pie or tart crust. You can use almost any type of nut you have; almonds, pecans, and walnuts are top choices. You can simply grind them in a food processor with some dates for a sweet, healthy crust that’s easy to press in a pan. You can use this method for cheesecakes, raw tarts, or cream pies. You can also use nuts for a savory dish like a quiche. Simply grind them with cold butter until crumbly and press into your pie pan.
Make Nut Butters
Peanut butter is the most popular nut butter (even though peanuts are technically legumes, not nuts), but you can make any nut or seed into nut butters for a delicious alternative. Almonds, pecans, and cashews are good choices, but if you’re looking for an allergy free alternative to peanut butter, try using sunflower seeds.
Simply put the raw or roasted nuts in a food processor and process until smooth. Dryer nuts, like almonds, may need a tiny bit of oil to blend well. You can add flavorings like cinnamon, vanilla, or sea salt for a healthy homemade treat that is much better than store-bought.
Throw Them in a Smoothie
You can add protein and fiber to your smoothies by adding raw nuts and blending with fruit or protein powder. If you have a powerful blender, you can throw them right in; if not, simply soak them in your smoothie liquid for a few minutes to soften them up. You can also just use nut butters, which will blend pretty effortlessly.
Make Homemade Almond Milk
Instead of buying almond milk at the store, you can easily make your own by soaking a cup of almonds in hot water for a half hour. Drain and combine with 3 cups of cold water in a blender. Blend until liquefied and strain through a cheesecloth lined mesh strainer. Add honey, cinnamon, or whatever flavorings you like and you have fresh, delicious almond milk that will rival anything you can get in the store!
This same method can be used for most nuts and seeds, although it may take some experimenting depending on the particular nut.
Make a Cream Sauce
If you’re looking for a healthy, vegan alternative to cream sauce, cashews are the answer. High in healthy fat, they make a rich and luscious sauce that will rival anything dairy based.
The key is using raw cashews, not roasted. Simply soak them in cold water for a few hours, drain and blend, adding water to your desired thickness. Then you can simply pour the sauce in a pot and add whatever seasonings you want for your sauce.
Make a Salad Dressing
When blended with some oil and vinegar, nuts and seeds make a thick and rich salad dressing that has unbeatable flavor. Start by adding a tablespoon of whatever nut you like to your favorite salad dressing recipes. Think about which type of nut will go with the ingredients. Walnuts add nice flavor to a raspberry vinaigrette, while pine nuts go well with Italian dressing. Use your imagination and you’ll be amazed at what you can create!
Use Them as Flour
Nuts make an excellent, high protein gluten free flour that you can use in baked goods, as breading, or for thickening soups and stews. Almond flour in particular is a great alternative to wheat flour, as it has a neutral taste. While any nut can be ground into flour, keep in mind that you can’t just swap the ground nuts for wheat flour in a recipe and expect the same results. Using nut flours takes patience and practice while you get it right. Once you do, however, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious gluten free, healthier baked goods every time.
Use as an Egg Replacement
If you are looking for a healthy egg replacement, try using either flax or chia seeds. Take a tablespoon of either (if using flax, make sure they are ground) and mix it with three tablespoons of cold water. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes, and you’ll notice that it will gel up to the consistency of an egg. You can use this in place of one egg in a baking recipe with decent results. You can also use this mixture to bind together homemade veggie burgers for an egg free version. Keep in mind that the more eggs you need, the more likely you are to notice a difference, so try to use this method in recipes with as few eggs as possible.
Make an Exotic Drink
Chia seeds have a unique property that makes them gel up when combined with liquid. In some Asian countries, bubble tea is a popular drink using tapioca pearls, but you can use chia seeds instead. Simply add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your iced tea, fruit juice, or any cold beverage and allow it to sit for a minute or two to firm up. Then drink with a straw. Chia seeds add protein and fiber, and make a unique drink that is inexpensive and easy to create.
Roast Them Yourself
Instead of buying roasted nuts at a premium price, you can make your own using your favorite herbs and spices. Nuts are delicious in both sweet and savory applications, so you can use ingredients like curry powder, dried herbs, or even maple syrup and cinnamon to make something that fits your tastes.
Nuts are a staple food in many people’s diets, but it can be difficult to use them besides snacking, topping a salad, or in a dessert. By using them in one of the above ways, you can get more protein, heart healthy fat, and fiber into your diet rather than skipping them altogether. Just remember that nuts are high in calories, and a little goes a long way. If you’re going to eat them in your morning oatmeal, you may want to watch that you don’t eat them with every meal or those calories will add up quickly!