How to pickle walnuts

Walnuts are packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but it can be a challenge to harvest them before your local wildlife does. Sanjida O’Connell offers a solution.

Pickled walnuts. © Sanjida O'Connell

Squirrels have a sixth sense, and I have never managed to eat a wild, ripe walnut before our rodent friends have stripped the tree bare.

One way to get round this is to pick the walnuts while they are still green with milky kernels, which is around mid- to late-June, and rather than eating them as they are, pickle them instead.

Green walnuts. © Sanjida O'Connell
Green walnuts. © Sanjida O’Connell


Per 1kg of walnuts

  • Walnuts 1 kg
  • Good vinegar 0.5 litre
  • Brown sugar 250 g
  • Cloves 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon 1 tsp
  • Grated fresh ginger 1 tbsp


  • Step 1

    Prick each walnut a couple of times with a fork. Wear rubber gloves to do this, because though the sap is clear, it will stain everything dark brown. Cover the walnuts with very salty water. Rinse after a week, then leave them in a fresh salty solution for another week. Finally, lay the walnuts out on a tray to dry for a couple of days.

    Pricking walnuts with a fork. © Sanjida O'Connell
    Pricking walnuts with a fork. © Sanjida O’Connell
  • Step 2

    Make a light syrup from the vinegar, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon and grated fresh ginger.

    Add the (now jet-black) walnuts when the syrup reaches boiling point and simmer for 15 minutes. Spoon the walnuts into jars, cover with the syrup and seal.

    Ingredients for the syrup. © Sanjida O'Connell
    Ingredients for the syrup. © Sanjida O’Connell
  • Step 3

    Pickled walnuts go well with cheese, nut roast or mashed potatoes. You could also add them to a pilaff with brown rice, raisins and pine nuts flavoured with fresh ginger, garlic, saffron and coriander leaves. My favourite way to use them, though, is to make a chutney with walnuts, plums and brandy.

    Pickled walnuts. © Sanjida O'Connell
    Pickled walnuts. © Sanjida O’Connell