While it’s true that walnuts are one of the most versatile nuts out there—we love them in anything from pesto to trail mix—sometimes they’re just not the right fit.
If you’re having a problem with them, or if you’re just looking for a different crunch in your carrot cake, we’ve got some excellent substitutes for walnuts in carrot cake.
10 Best Substitutes for Walnuts in Carrot Cake
Walnuts are a common ingredient in carrot cake recipes, but they aren’t essential. Almonds and pecans can be used in place of walnuts. If you want to use a nut that is more readily available, you can replace the walnuts with macadamia nuts.
They can be found in specialty stores or online.
1. Dried cranberries
Dried cranberries are a great substitute for walnuts in carrot cake!
Whereas walnuts add a crunchy texture, tartness, and roastiness to the finished cake, dried cranberries add a chewy texture, sourness, and fruity flavor.
Common mistakes people make with this substitute:
- Using too many cranberries: The cake will end up too sweet and tart. Play around with how much you use to find an amount that works for you.
- Using fresh cranberries instead of dried ones: Fresh cranberries have a less intense flavor than dried ones, so you’ll need to use more if you go this route.
2. Cashews (if you like the sweetness)
Cashews are great if you’re looking to add a little dose of sweetness to balance out the tang of your carrots and pineapple, but they won’t give you that crunchy texture that walnuts do.
Just be sure not to add any more sugar than you already were planning to!
Almonds are crunchy, slightly sweet, and have a similar taste profile to walnuts, which makes them a perfect choice for this application.
Some common mistakes people make with almonds in carrot cake include:
- Using too many almonds, which can overwhelm the taste of the cake.
- Chopping the almonds too finely, which can cause them to lose their texture and flavor when they bake.
- Not using raw almonds, which will cause the substitute to have a different flavor than walnuts.
Pecans are a fantastic substitute for walnuts in carrot cake.
They have a similar level of crunchiness, and the flavor is a close match to walnuts.
The most important thing to keep in mind when substituting pecans is that you need to use less than you would if you were using walnuts.
Pecans are naturally sweeter than walnuts, so using the same amount will make your carrot cake too sweet.
Also, make sure that you chop the pecans into fairly small pieces.
While pecans are a good substitute for walnuts, they don’t have exactly the same texture as walnuts; so it’s important to use smaller pieces to get an overall texture profile that matches up with what you’d get from using walnuts instead of pecans.
5. Pine nuts
Pine nuts are a relatively easy substitute.
They have a similar nutty taste that complements the spices used in the cake.
The only thing to watch out for is the texture—pine nuts are much softer than walnuts, so they can get mushy if you don’t add them at the correct time during preparation.
The best time to add pine nuts is when you’re folding in your grated carrots, since the batter will help keep them intact.
Pistachios have a lot of the same properties as walnuts, and they’re just as delicious.
They’ll give your carrot cake that nutty crunch it needs, minus the taste of walnuts (which some people don’t like).
A common mistake people make when choosing pistachios for their carrot cake is to accidentally add too much because of their smaller size.
To avoid this, measure carefully or use a scale to ensure you’re adding the right amount.
You can also chop the pistachios up into smaller pieces if you want a finer texture in your cake.
These sweet little bursts of flavor are an easy swap-out for walnuts.
And if you don’t mind raisins being slightly chewy, you can add them straight into the batter without rehydrating them first!
Just make sure you measure out the right amount to keep your cake balanced and delicious.
Dates are another great substitute.
Used whole, dates can have a similar texture to walnuts, and their sweetness brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots and other ingredients.
When using dates in place of walnuts, you need to make sure you take their seeds out first.
If you don’t, the seeds will be too hard and ruin the texture of your cake.
And if you’re using dried dates without soaking them first, make sure to cut them into pieces smaller than the walnuts would have been!
9. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds make another great substitute for this cake.
They are a good source of nutrients, which makes them a perfect option for tons of recipes.
A common mistake people make when using sunflower seeds as a substitute is not toasting them first.
Toasting the seeds helps bring out their “nutty” flavour, which is important because they’re replacing walnuts, after all!
Another common error is adding too much or too little.
It’s best to add sunflower seeds in increments until you find your desired level of crunchiness and nuttiness; this will vary person-to-person and even batch-to-batch.
10. Macadamia Nuts
Carrot cake with macadamia nuts? Yes, we’re serious.
Macadamia nuts are a suitable substitute for walnuts because they have a distinct nutty flavor and creamy texture which makes them similar to walnuts.
Plus, their texture allows them to soften the carrot cake’s crumb in the same way that walnuts do.
A common mistake people make is to overdo it on these nuts.
You want to add just enough macadamia nuts so that you get a pleasant hit of nutty flavor in every bite, but not so much that it takes away from the other flavors in this cake (namely the carrots, raisins, etc).
The standard ratio is about 1 cup of nuts for every 3 cups of flour used in your recipe.
10 Best Substitutes for Walnuts in Carrot Cake
- Pick any of the alternatives from this list to use in your cake.
- Prepare the rest of your cake.
- Be ready to munch in no time!