David Shields On Black Walnut Candy

David ShieldsOn Black Walnut Candy

Of all the nuts in the antioxidant rich Juglans family, the black walnut has the most distinctive flavor—sweet, with a licorice note, a mild bitterness, and a mellow resonance as the oils linger in the mouth.

The chemistry of the nut is complex, high in y-Tocopherols, and highest in poly-unsaturated fatty acids among nuts, with a rich array of Phenolics and Flavanoids. Food scientists have long been aware of the beneficial effects of black walnut on human health.

Because of the notorious difficulty of removing the nut meats from the shell, the commercial culinary exploitation of the nut has been modest compared to its relatives the hickory, and the walnut.

Currently the Hammons Company of Missouri is the major supplier of processed nut meats, but home foragers have kept alive a rich tradition of home baked black walnut confections and candies.


Because of its distinctive flavor, the black walnut was subject to extensive experimentation as a candy ingredient–an array of fudges, taffies, chews, and brittles came into being. One of the classic creations was a candy in which chopped meats were coated with molten maple sugar, water and butter.

A southern version of the candy used the following formula:

Three cups of white sugar; 1/c cup of vinegar; 1 tablespoon of dark molasses, 1 tablespoon of butter. This was cooked until the water test turned the hot mixture brittle. Take off fire, stir in 2 cups of black walnuts that have been pounded fine. Stir mixture until it thickens. Pour rapidly in a buttered dish and cut into squares. The Pullman News (December 1928), 270

This basic formula could be tarted up by adding almond or orange extract and by upping the molasses component from 1 to 3 tablespoons.

Among the stranger black walnut confections was Sauer Kraut Candy: which used equal parts black walnut meats and shredded coconut as the material for a brown sugar, goldens syrup, milk and butter matrix. It was cut into long strips. I’ve never tasted this or seen this made.

Black walnut brittle was the simplest candy to make. You poured a salted simply syrup onto chopped nuts onto a cold candy slab and set it set.

There was a moment in the early 20th century when taffy chews were made with black walnuts, but the near equal mix of sugar, corn syrup, an molasses in the candy body made this rather noxiously sweet.

Coating black walnuts in chocolate was the path of late 20th century confectionery and is probably the most common form of black walnut candy now commercially available. I think the darker the chocolate, the more interesting the experience.

And as black walnut brittle

%d bloggers like this: