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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.