Peeling Hazelnuts

…is a task that’s dreaded among bakers. Probably why we tend to save hazelnut desserts for really really special occasions. I myself remember my twin sister making a hezelnut torte when we were high schoolers. She peeled each individual toasted nut by hand. Ouch. Happily we’re older and wiser now, and much better at peeling nuts.

If there’s one trick to peeling hazelnuts it’s this: when they’re done toasting (on a sheet pan in a 275-degree oven for half an hour) roll them hot into the center of a kitchen towel…

….then them fold up in the towel and let the nuts steam for 10 minutes. This will get the skins quite a bit looser than simply leaving them out to cool on the pan.

Then unfold the towel so there’s just a single layer of fabric covering the hazelnuts and roll as you normally would. Back and forth, side to side, in circular motions, applying plenty of pressure to get as much of the skin off as you can.

Not all the skin will come off, but as Stuart Smalley says (or did before he decided to run for congress in Minnesota): that’s OK.

If you find you’re still having difficulty with some tough nuts, try separating the trouble makers out from the others and rolling them together (skin-on-skin friction helps). If in the end they won’t cooperate it’s OK to use them they are (that’s how people know your cake is homemade).

UPDATE: Reader Joe says:

If your really want completely clean hazelnuts, add 10% more nuts before roasting and keep the 10% most stubborn nuts as a family snack. This solution is a lot easier plus I score points with the family.

4 thoughts on “Peeling Hazelnuts”

  1. Joe, Included below is a piece on husking hazelnuts that I wrote for a cookbook. The baking soda method is much easier and produces really skinless nuts without the hassle and the mess. I also don’t think think it affects the flavor. This method is recommended by Julia Child originally comes from Julia Child, I believe. On, they recommend letting the hazelnuts cool for an hour before rubbing the skins off. I have not tried that trick, but the Julia blanch in baking soda method works like a charm. My note for the cookbook is included below:

    Husking hazelnuts can be frustrating. The traditional way to do it is to roast them in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes until the nuts themselves are golden brown (the skins will be considerably darker). Then, wrap them in a dish towel and let them steam for 10-15 minutes, then rub them with a towel until the skins fall off. Not all of the skin will come off, which is okay.

    The second way involves blanching them in boiling water.
    1. For ½ C of nuts, bring 1½ cups of water to a boil.
    2. Add 2 T of baking soda and the nuts and boil them for 3 minutes. The water will turn black from the nut skins. Rinse the nuts well under cold running water
    3. Use your fingers to remove the skins. The skins slip right off.
    4. Put the nuts on a kitchen towel, rubbing them dry
    5. Roast the nuts in a 350oF oven for 10 minutes. If you care about perfectly white hazelnuts, use this method, if you don’t just toast them and be happy that your kitchen smells like heaven and your dish towel is blackened from hazel nut dye.

    1. Very interesting, Bibi…I’ll try that. Might be worth updating the post!


      – Joe

  2. I’ve used this method to skin my hazelnuts for years. I wear gloves to skin them otherwise my hands turn a purple/brown color from the skins.
    In The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum she says that the baking soda and water method was taught to her by Carl Sontheimer the inventor of the food processor (page 429).
    Thank you for posting this easy way to make a delicious praline paste. Any idea how much the recipe makes? I need 8 ounces for my cookie recipe.

    1. My pleasure, KF! It makes a little over a pound of praline paste.


      – Joe

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