In this article, we’ll be discussing 17 alternatives to walnuts in your salads.
With nut allergies becoming more and more common these days, it’s nice to know you don’t have to settle for the same old boring salad mix when you’re cooking at home.
We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to—all you have to do is keep reading!
Here we go.
17 Substitutes for Walnuts in Salads
They are often used in salad dressings and toppings.
However, when making salad dressings or topping a salad, walnuts can be expensive.
If you don’t want to spend too much money on a salad, there are other nuts that can be used instead. Almonds, pistachios, pecans, and cashews are all great alternatives to walnuts.
Still looking for more alternatives?
Then keep scrolling!
1. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great substitute for walnuts in salads.
They have the same crunchy texture and nutty flavor of walnuts, but come with a lower risk of allergic reactions, making them a great option for picky eaters.
Some common mistakes people make when substituting sunflower seeds for walnuts is forgetting to use roasted sunflower seeds instead of raw ones.
In most recipes you want to start with roasted sunflower seeds, as this will give it the right texture and make it comparable to walnuts.
Another mistake is using unsalted sunflower seeds.
These tend to taste bland and flavorless, so remember to buy sunflower seeds that have been salted.
Salted seeds will add some extra flavor to the dish that might otherwise be missing without the walnuts.
Finally, remember not to use too much salt when seasoning your salad, as the salted sunflower seeds will already give your salad some salty flavor.
Cashews have a very similar texture and crunch to walnuts, which gives your salad that nutty, meaty bite you’re looking for.
Cashews also pair well with many of the same ingredients that go well with walnuts: apples, cranberries, raisins, and cheese.
You can use cashews in any recipe that calls for crushed or chopped walnuts in salads.
The only difference you’ll notice is that cashews are a bit saltier than walnuts—but this is an advantage if you prefer your salads to have a bit more zing.
Cashews are also quite versatile when it comes to cooking and baking; they can be added to practically any dish or dessert.
But their versatility can make them easy to overuse: if you’re not careful, your baked goods could end up tasting too rich and pasty, so it’s important to add them in moderation.
While they don’t have the same crunch as walnuts, they have a similar earthy flavor, and can be toasted or chopped up to give your salad that little bit of extra texture.
This being said, do not toast your almonds until your salad is ready to be served!
If you toast them too early and then leave them out, they will become soft and mushy instead of crispy.
Another common mistake is toasting the almonds at too high a temperature.
You want them to get warm and crunchy, not burnt and bitter.
Like walnuts, pecans have a similar flavor and texture to them, and you can use them in both sweet and savory recipes.
In fact, it’s so similar that many people who say they don’t like walnuts will happily eat pecans without realizing the difference.
Now, pecans are delicious, but it’s important to use the right recipe with them.
If you’re using them as a substitute for walnuts in a sweet recipe, try using less sugar than the recipe calls for, or you may find your dish is too sweet.
When you can’t find walnuts, hazelnuts are a great substitute.
They have a similar flavor profile and crunch to walnuts, and in many salads, the taste difference is undetectable.
Common mistakes people make when using this substitute include:
- Not soaking your hazelnuts first. You should always soak your nuts first for about 10 minutes before you cook with them—this makes them easier to digest.
- Overcooking your nuts. A lot of people like to roast their nuts in the oven or on a stovetop for extra flavor, but it’s easy to accidentally overcook your hazelnuts if you’re not careful. Hazelnuts get dark quickly and so it’s best to keep an eye on them while they’re cooking!
In a pinch, you can use macadamias as a substitute for walnuts.
Since both are tree nuts, they’re of similar size and shape, and both have an outer shell that needs cracking open.
This means that there’s a fair amount of similarity between the two when it comes to preparing them for use in your salad.
The main difference is in the flavor. Walnuts have an earthy taste, with hints of bitterness and a slightly smoky flavor.
Macadamias have a buttery texture, with a milder flavor that some describe as “mildly sweet” or “mildly nutty”.
A common mistake people make when using macadamia nuts as a substitute is that they forget to toast them first.
When you toast macadamias, the flavor really comes alive and adds a whole new dimension to your salad.
That said, if you don’t have time to toast them, they’re still perfectly fine in a salad.
7. Brazil Nuts
When you think of a substitute, brazil nuts may not be the first thing that pops into your head.
But they actually make an excellent and nutrient-rich alternative.
Packed with fiber and healthy fats, brazil nuts can help you keep your blood sugar levels steady and avoid those afternoon energy crashes that leave you reaching for the nearest bag of chips.
But it’s understandable if you’re not sure how to use them in a salad.
Some people make the mistake of treating them like regular nuts—piling them on top of some lettuce.
This can leave you feeling overstuffed and bloated by lunchtime.
The only way to get around this is to chop up your brazil nuts into tiny pieces, so that each bite is filled with their satisfying crunch without dominating the flavor or texture of your salad.
Compared to walnuts, pistachios have a more mild flavor that blends well with the rest of the salad.
Pistachios also have a great crunchy texture and soft-green color that adds both flavor and visual appeal to your salad.
One mistake that people often make with pistachios is not removing their shells before adding them to the salad.
This adds an unpleasant texture to the overall dish, so you want to avoid it at all costs.
9. Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are super similar in taste and texture to walnuts, so they make a great stand-in if you need to avoid walnuts.
Second, they already have a buttery flavor, so you don’t need to add any extra oil or dressing to your salad (which is great because it makes your salad lighter).
Third, pine nuts are super versatile—you can use them in almost any recipe that calls for walnuts.
One common mistake people make with pine nuts is eating them directly after roasting them.
This is because roasting pine nuts can cause them to lose a lot of their moisture content, making them quite bitter-tasting.
It is recommended that pine nuts be left to cool down before they are added to salads or other dishes.
Chestnuts have a crunchy texture that makes them a great substitute for walnuts, and they pack an earthy, nutty flavor that won’t overpower the other ingredients in your salad.
Some people make the mistake of using raw chestnuts directly from their shells as a replacement for walnuts.
This is not recommended, because it will leave you with a salad full of hard chestnut shells and no chestnut nuts—which isn’t very tasty.
11. Pumpkin Seeds
If you’re missing walnuts in your salad, then look no further than pumpkin seeds!
These crunchy little guys pack a huge punch, and are a great source of protein.
Plus, they’ve got that same earthiness that walnuts have—you won’t be disappointed.
With that said, there are some common mistakes people make when using this substitute.
For example, many people forget to toast their pumpkin seeds before adding them to a salad.
While it’s not required, adding an extra step of toasting can really enhance the taste of these little morsels.
12. Flax seeds
If you’re allergic to walnuts or just don’t have any in your pantry, flax seeds are a great substitute.
Their nutty flavor is very similar to walnuts, and the crunchy texture of flax seeds is also a good match for the crunchiness of walnuts.
Flax seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, so they’re a healthy choice.
Some people make the mistake of adding flax seeds to their salad whole, but they don’t soften when they’re sitting out on the salads and can be hard to chew.
It’s better to grind them up before mixing them in with your salad!
Chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber, and they can also help you feel fuller for longer.
This means that a chickpea-based salad will keep you satisfied for hours after eating it.
That being said, there are some common mistakes people make when using chickpeas as a walnut substitute.
First, they often overcook them. If you cook the chickpeas too long, they lose their crunchy texture, which is one of the main appeals of using them as a replacement in salads.
Second, people sometimes forget to add flavor.
Chickpeas can be pretty bland on their own, so if you don’t add some seasoning or dressing to your salad, it might end up tasting pretty bland as well!
14. Dried Cranberries
Dried cranberries are an ideal substitute for walnuts because of their similar texture.
The fruity flavor and crunchy texture of dried cranberries make them a great option for salads.
However, there are a few mistakes to avoid.
Firstly, you will want to consider the sugar content of the dried cranberries.
Most brands of dried cranberries are sweetened, which is especially important to note when using them in savory salads.
Additionally, if you’re trying to replace walnuts in your recipes because you have a nut allergy or dietary restrictions that prevent you from consuming nuts, be sure to check the list of ingredients on your bag of dried cranberries.
Some brands may process their cranberries in facilities that also handle nuts, which could cause cross-contamination with the other ingredients in your salad.
15. Dried Cherries
Dried cherries add a bit of sweetness to the salad, as well as some tartness.
Despite the fact that they are dried, their texture is softer than walnuts and is more comfortable to eat with other ingredients in a salad.
Some people tend to avoid using dried cherries as a substitute for walnuts because they don’t want to lose out on the crunchy texture that walnuts provide.
However, this can be avoided by adding some pieces of fresh cherry or even fresh apple to your salad.
16. Hemp Seeds
Like walnuts, hemp seeds are loaded with protein and fiber, and they have a nice, creamy texture that works well in salads.
Because hemp seeds are smaller than walnuts, it’s easy to sprinkle them on your salad for a burst of flavor and nutrition.
They come in a few different varieties (shelled, unshelled, whole, or ground), so make sure to double-check that you’ve got the type you want before you put it in your cart.
However, be careful when you’re sprinkling your hemp seeds on your salad.
Because they’re small like poppy seeds, it’s easy to accidentally throw too many on there—and if you do, they can totally overpower everything else on the plate. Start small and add more as necessary!
17. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds add a slight crunch and nutty flavor to the dish, which is perfect if you’re not a huge fan of walnuts but still want to get that textural component into your dish.
When using chia seeds as a substitute, do be careful not to use too much as they can overpower the other flavors in the salad.
17 Substitutes for Walnuts in Salads
- Sunflower Seeds
- Brazil Nuts
- Pine Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Flax seeds
- Dried Cranberries
- Dried Cherries
- Hemp Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Pick your favorite substitute from this list to use in your salad.
- Prepare the rest of your ingredients.
- Be ready to munch in no time!