How To Skin Hazelnuts… THE EASY WAY

This is by far the easiest, most thorough way to skin hazelnuts that I’ve found. If you’ve ever been frustrated by stubborn hazelnut skins, read on!

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

I use hazelnuts in my cooking and baking all the time. Their rich, nutty flavor goes well with pretty much everything, from desserts to salads and everything in between. The thing is, hazelnuts aren’t very pleasant to eat raw, because of their bitter skin. Remove the skins and roast them in the oven, and they become a whole ‘nother thing.

The most common method to skin hazelnuts is called the “roast and rub” method. Basically: roast the nuts in the oven, then rub them around in a clean dish towel to slough off the skins. This is how I have always done it (in fact, I wrote a whole tutorial about it, here) and it sounds easy enough at first… the problem is, it doesn’t always work very well. If you have a particularly stubborn batch of nuts, it can be a serious pain in the… hands. You know, from rubbing hot nuts for so long. And sometimes, even after all that effort, you’re still left with only partially-naked hazelnuts. Even the most Herculean effort can’t rid them of their bitter coats. It can be so much work, some people just avoid using them all together.

NOT ANYMORE.

The other day, I was sitting in my pajamas eating gummy bears and watching Baking With Julia on PBS (like all 20-somethings do on a Friday night… right?) and this came on. And it blew. My. Mind.

In the original clip, Alice Medrich shows Julia how to boil hazelnuts — blanching them — in a pot of water with a hefty scoop of baking soda added to help loosen the skins. After a quick dip in the boiling water, she was able to slip the skins off easily with her fingers. From totally clothed to birthday suit in no time flat. Very few life changing moments have happened to me while eating gummy bears, but this was one of them.

I was curious how much of a difference the baking soda made, so I immediately got to work trying it both with, and without. It turns out, it makes a huge difference in how easily the skins come off. The food nerd in me is dying to know what makes the baking soda so effective — does the alkaline environment soften the skins? Or does it act as an abrasive to help loosen them? If you have the answer, please share in the comments at the bottom of the page!

Alright, enough talking. Let’s skin hazelnuts.

How To Skin Hazelnuts:

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Only fill the pot about 1/2 way, or else it may overflow once you add the baking soda and nuts. Once boiling, add in 3 TBSP of baking soda (the pot will bubble up rapidly!) then the hazelnuts. You can use as many hazelnuts as you want (or as your recipe requires), but if you’re doing a really large amount you may need to work in batches, depending on the size of your pot.

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

Let the nuts boil for 3-4 minutes. The water will turn inky black, and a red-ish foam will start to appear on the surface. To check if their done, use a slotted spoon to remove one and plop it into a bowl of cold water. Give the nut a gentle pinch or rub between your fingers — if the skin comes off easily, their done. If not, let them boil for another 30 seconds and check again.

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

Once the nuts are done, dump them through a colander in the sink (holy cow, do you see that water?! No wonder hazelnut skins taste so disgusting), and rinse well with cold water.

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

Now all you have to do is pinch / rub the skins off with your fingers! If you’re doing a large batch, this can take a while — okay, a long while — but it couldn’t be easier to do. To make things go a little faster, I like to use both hands: one to collect the skins, and the other to pinch the cleaned nuts into. Once I have a handful of both, I dump the peeled nuts onto a clean dish towel, and the skins into the sink. (When I’m done, I scoop up all the skins and toss them in the compost.)

Hey, I said it was the easiest (and definitely the most thorough) method for skinning hazelnuts, not the fastest. But if you have ever run into a batch of hazelnuts that just would not give up their coats to the “roast and rub” method, then you know that this is worth the time.

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

Now you have a bunch of hazelnuts that have an uncanny resemblance to cooked chickpeas. They’ll feel a little soft, and if you eat one, it won’t have much flavor. Don’t worry, we aren’t done with them yet.

Roasting is still the best way to bring out the rich, nutty flavor that makes hazelnuts worth all this effort in the first place. Once they’re peeled, roll them around on a clean dish towel to blot off any extra moisture, then dump them onto a rimmed baking sheet and throw them in a 350F. oven until golden brown and fragrant.

Blanched hazelnuts will take a little longer to roast than dry ones, because they have to dry out before they will start to toast. I find it takes anywhere from 15-25 minutes, depending on how waterlogged the nuts are, so keep a close eye on them and give the pan a stir or a shake every 5 minutes to keep them roasting evenly. You’ll know the nuts are done when they are golden brown and smell nutty and delicious. Once cool, they should be crunchy and flavorful. If, once you’ve taken them out and let them cool completely, the nuts aren’t as crunchy or toasty as you’d like, throw them back in for another 5 minutes.

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

Ta-da! Now they’re ready for any recipe your heart desires. Like this Toasted Honey & Hazelnut Granola, or these Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies, or maybe this Butternut Squash with Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce, if you’re in the mood for something savory.

Now, tell me that didn’t just blow your mind. If you’ve been doing it the ol’ roast and rub way like I was, this is a total game changer.

In case you still aren’t sold, here’s a side-by-side comparison of nuts that have been roasted and rubbed to remove as much of the skins as possible, and nuts that have been blanched, skinned, and then roasted:

How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY | Will Cook For Friends

TOTALLY NAKED. Even the most stubborn hazelnuts will relinquish their jackets with this method, and you’ll be left with perfectly naked nuts. (Did I really just type that? Yes, yes I did.)

Thank you, Alice Medrich and Julia Child, for teaching me something new. This is DEFINITELY how I will be peeling my hazelnuts from now on.

I want to know: what’s your favorite way to use hazelnuts? Let me know in the comments below! They are one of my favorite nuts, and I’m always looking for recipe ideas!

 Yum

5.0 from 7 reviews
How To Skin Hazelnuts EASILY
 
If you've been frustrated trying to roast and skin hazelnuts in the past, this technique is a total game changer. It is by far the easiest, most thorough method I have found so far. I'm told that some specialty stores sell hazelnuts already roasted and skinned, but seeing as I have yet to find one that does, this is the next best thing!
Author:
Ingredients
  • Hazelnuts (as many as you like -- if you're doing a very large amount, you may have to do two batches)
  • 3 TBSP baking soda
  • water
Instructions
  1. Fill a medium-large saucepan about ½ full with water. Do not over-fill, or it may boil over when you add the baking soda and hazelnuts.
  2. Bring water to a boil, then add the baking soda (the water will froth rapidly), then add the hazelnuts. Let cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to submerge any hazelnuts near the surface. The water will turn inky black, and a red-ish foam will rise to the surface. To test if the hazelnuts are done, use a slotted spoon to remove on and drop it in a bowl of cold water. Pinch or rub the nut with your fingers. If the skin slips off easily, the nuts are done. If not, continue to boil for another 30 seconds and test again.
  3. Once the nuts are done, pour them into a colander set in the sink, and rinse well with cold water. Use your fingers to pinch/rub the skin off the nuts, one at a time. If you're doing a particularly large batch, this can take some time, but it couldn't be easier to do.
  4. To toast the nuts: preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the skinned hazelnuts on a clean dish towel and blot off any excess water. Dump the nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet, and roast for 15-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Once cool, the nuts should be crunchy and flavorful. If, once they are completely cool, the nuts are not crunchy all the way through, return them to the oven for an additional 5 or so minutes.
Notes
Note: Don't boil the hazelnuts any longer than necessary to loosen their skins, as they will soak up more and more water, and the flesh of the nuts will start to darken. This makes them take a lot longer to toast, and the dark color makes it difficult to tell when they are done. I also feel like if they boil too long, they start to absorb some of the black water in the pot, and pick up some of the bitterness you're trying to get rid of. I find that boiling them for about 3½ - 4 minutes works perfectly, so keep a close eye on them and drain them immediately once a test nut peels easily.

This method comes from Alice Medrich, a cookbook auther, chocolatier, and guest on "Baking with Julia". You can watch the original clip, here: hazelnut biscotti with Alice Medrich.

 

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43 Responses to How To Skin Hazelnuts… THE EASY WAY

  1. Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table January 26, 2016 at 9:17 am #

    Look at those beautiful naked nuts! Wow, this is definitely a game changer. I remember the first time I was using hazelnuts, for a chocolate-hazelnut tort for my boyfriend’s parents. I almost started crying trying to get those damn skins off, thinking it was going to run the tort. Well, it must have been OK because now they’re my wonderful in-laws but I was a bit scarred by the experience and have been hesitant around hazelnuts ever since. No more! Trauma over! Thanks for this great tip and now I can’t wait to have them back in my life :)

    • Willow Arlen January 26, 2016 at 9:24 am #

      I know so many people who have been there using the roast and rub method! To be honest, it never bothered me too badly because I love hazelnuts so much, they were worth it… but this is so much better. It does take a bit of time for a large batch, but I just put on some tunes and peel away! I hope you give it a try, it is definitely a game-changer!

  2. Stacy January 26, 2016 at 9:47 am #

    Okay, Willow, here’s the reason, brought to you courtesy of my recent Christmas gift, the science-geeky food book called “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee, and I’m paraphrasing here: A quick boil in alkaline water, that is, with baking soda added, helps dissolve pectin and hemicellulose cement in the cell walls, making the skins easier to remove. Mr. McGee knows everything!

    • Willow Arlen January 26, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Stacy, thank you! I love understanding how food works, or why things are done a certain way. I actually have that book sitting on my shelf right now, but have yet to read it. You rock!

      • Stacy January 26, 2016 at 10:04 am #

        It’s not really the kind of book you’d just sit and read. Well, I wouldn’t. I consider it more of a reference book. Whenever I’ve had a question recently, there’s the answer! It’s turning out to be one of my favorite gifts!

        • Willow Arlen January 26, 2016 at 10:14 am #

          Haha, it is quite a tome. I keep wanting to set aside time to read just ten pages a day or something, because I’m sure I would learn so much, but I think you have the right idea using it as a reference book. I hadn’t thought to do it that way, but I will now!

          • Stacy January 26, 2016 at 10:58 am #

            It is quite a tome! The person who gave it to me says he keeps his by the door, that way if he is waiting on someone or something, he picks it up and opens it at random and reads. Plus using it as a reference book.

  3. sue|theviewfromgreatisland January 26, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    What a beautiful post, the photos belong in a magazine. I have to confess, though, I love the skins on hazelnuts. I like the hint of bitterness, but for those recipes where they need to be naked I will definitely use this method!

    • Willow Arlen January 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

      Thank you, Sue! That’s really interesting to hear, I think you’re the first person I’ve met who’s said they like the skins (although, come to think of it, there was a trail mix I had once that had raw, skin-on hazelnuts in it, and I didn’t mind them mixed with the other nuts). I can definitely imagine some applications where that little bit of bitterness would balance out the other flavors!

  4. Adina January 29, 2016 at 4:44 am #

    Good to know about the baking soda. I skin almonds the same way and though it works ok I am glad to find out that adding the baking soda would make things even easier.

    • Willow Arlen January 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

      Oh, yeah, I bet it would work for almonds, too!

  5. movita beaucoup January 29, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    I’ve never wanted to eat a bucket of hazelnuts more than I do right now.

    • Willow Arlen January 29, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

      You’re welcome to come over — I think I’ve peeled about four pounds of them since discovering this method!

  6. Erin @ Thanks for Cookin'! January 29, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    It’s crazy how black the water gets. Great tutorial!

    • Willow Arlen January 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      I know, right?! A little bit scary!

      • Cat November 17, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

        The dark water got me to thinking if this could be used as a natural stain for wood, muslin (other cotton materials), papers, etc. Hmmm, something new to try.

        • Willow Arlen November 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

          That’s a really interesting idea — if you try it, I’d love to know how it goes!

  7. Samara January 31, 2016 at 2:17 am #

    Try this to get ahead of the game. If you put them in a really porous colander, powerhouse them with your sprayer! Amazing how much gets loosened up. I rubbed them while under the sprayer, then returned them to a pot with cold water. The skins sink and the good nuts float. The nuts that sunk were mostly ones that got drilled by bugs and we’re unsightly enough to just toss. Still had some salvageable.

    • Willow Arlen January 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      Thanks for the tip, Samara! I’ll have to try that next time!

      • Pamela A. December 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

        I actually shook them around and MOST of them just came off! I didn’t have to do much individual rubbing at all. For me, this made the method even more amazing. I will never shy away from dealing with hazelnuts again! Thanks much!!

        • Willow Arlen December 22, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

          That’s awesome, Pamela, thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try giving ’em a good shake next time.

  8. Ellen February 4, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Great info, thanks Willow

  9. Kim February 8, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    This method is also used to remove the skins on dried beans, such as chickpeas when making hummus. That roast and rub method sucks! Thanks for the great article and recipe.

    • Willow Arlen February 8, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

      You’re welcome, Kim! I’ve seen the method used before, but had never thought to apply it to hazelnuts. It’s so much better than the old roast and rub way!

  10. Bana September 2, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    Thank you for the great article, this is so helpful. I was wondering if adding the baking soda would change the flavor of the hazelnuts even a little? I make homemade Nutella and I couldn’t find skinless raw hazelnut, I was only able to find raw hazelnuts with skin and I need to know if applying this method to remove the skin would affect the end result in regards to taste!?

    • Willow Arlen September 2, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

      Hi Bana, thanks for asking! These hazelnuts tasted no different to me than ones skinned the traditional way. Good luck with your nutella!

  11. Janet September 17, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    If u r going to bake nuts after peeling, do u need to toast first?

    • Willow Arlen September 17, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi Janet! It depends on the recipe, which should specify if you need raw or toasted hazelnuts. For most recipes (like this cake, or this granola), I toast the hazelnuts first. Hope that helps!

  12. Lucia November 19, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    Great method. I’m a hazelnut lover and this will encourage me to use them more often! I want to bake an orange and saffron cake, using ground hazelnuts and polenta. Well, the hazelnuts are now ready!

    • Willow Arlen November 20, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks Lucia! That sounds wonderful. Hazelnuts, orange, and saffron sound like an amazing combination!

      • Csilla Homan December 3, 2016 at 7:11 am #

        Willow! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
        My family and I live in the land of Nutella (Italy), but trying to keep the pantry stocked with the stuff would not be within our budget. So we make our own, healthier three ingredient version, but unfortunately that was never enough incentive for anyone to sit there and peel the skins off the nuts after roasting. Then there was also the bitterness from the leftover peels which I didn’t really want to use more sugar to cover! With this method (plus the roasting), I noticed the hazelnuts became hazelnut butter, sooner, in the food processor than before and the overall flavour and texture was smoother and creamier! The soaking and rinsing helped the nuts to not dry out during roasting (even if accidentally left a few extra minutes in the oven). We will be able to make our favourite spread more often now thanks to your post, so again I say, thank you!!!

        • Willow Arlen December 3, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

          Thank you so much, Csilla! I’m so glad this technique helped you out, and that’s awesome that your family always makes their own nutella. I adore nutella, but have actually only tried making it from scratch once, a long time ago, and wasn’t happy with the results (hence why I haven’t tried it again — though I’ve been meaning to). It’s great to know that this peeling technique makes a smoother and creamier spread, because the biggest issue I remember having was it being super grainy and a bit bitter. I’ll have to give it a go with this new peeling method! Any other tips or advice for a newbie nutella maker?

  13. Csilla December 5, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    We had the same problem at first. But this last time, using this awesome method, it really was smooth and silky when still warm. Still tweeking our recipe as it tends to become very solid, but that just might be because our kitchen is cold in the winter and hopefully not due to too much chocolate (I can’t believe I just wrote that!)
    We use coconut sugar, which can get quite clumpy so I put 3 Tbsp. into a coffee grinder and grind until it becomes powdered. Then add that to the melted chocolate in the double boiler and stir until completely blended. The coconut sugar gives a really nice flavour to our Nutella and blends beautifully with the flavour of the hazelnuts. Other than that our method is still a work in progress so any tips would be appreciated! Thanks again!

    • Willow Arlen December 5, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

      Ooh, coconut sugar is a great idea! And thanks for the tip about powdering it in the coffee grinder, I’ll have to try that. I’ll let you know if I ever perfect a homemade nutella recipe, and we can swap notes!

  14. Laura | Tutti Dolci December 8, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    Thanks so much for this great method! I needed blanched hazelnuts for a yeast bread I’m making, and this worked perfectly. I will link to this post when I blog my bread recipe :)

    • Willow Arlen December 8, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

      You’re welcome, Laura! Glad my post was helpful, and thank you so much for planning to link back to me. Let me know when your bread recipe is up, I’d love to see it! :)

  15. Gaik December 16, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    This method is amazing. Once I had the skins removed I put the wet hazelnuts in a heavy duty salad spinner to remove the remaining skins and water prior to roasting. Worked like a dream.

    • Willow Arlen December 17, 2016 at 10:41 am #

      That’s a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad you found this method helpful. :)

  16. Angeline February 23, 2017 at 4:17 am #

    Can I use cornstarch instead?

    • Willow Arlen February 27, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Angeline, thanks for the question! I don’t think cornstarch will work the same way the baking soda does.

  17. Brad Niemcek April 17, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    Hi Willow,

    Just stumbled onto this interest piece and thought you might like to know that the nuts from our Midwestern hybrid hazelnut bushes need not be skinned because their pelicles are thinner and much less bitter than your average Turkish/Oregon/etc. varities.

    • Willow Arlen April 19, 2017 at 10:54 am #

      Hi Brad! Thank you for sharing this, I didn’t realize there were different varieties of hazelnuts. I’m not sure which kind are in the bulk section of my grocery store, but the skins are definitely on the bitter side. Maybe it comes down to personal preference, too? It would be so cool to compare the different varieties side by side.

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