Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Bread (Nut Bread) Recipe


I’m a black walnut aficionado The bold, rich taste of black walnuts is lovely in candies and baked goods. And, as a bonus black walnuts are quite nutritious. They are a good source of vitamin E and iron, and have lots of protein. They  also contain “good” polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that can help reduce “bad” cholesterol.

Black walnuts are seldom sold in stores, so each autumn I scope out black walnut trees on nearby public property, and then forage the walnuts. I then hull the walnuts (and walk around for at least a week afterwards with walnut-stained hands), and then spread the hulled nuts out on newspapers to dry for several months.

A couple days ago my husband and I began to crack the walnuts, and then to pick the nut meats out, which is a challenge in itself. I swear that black walnuts are the most difficult nuts (except for maybe hickory nuts) to crack.

Now that I had the shelled nuts, I was ready to begin baking with them. I selected a hundred-year-old nut bread recipe. Any type of nuts could be used in the recipe–but black walnuts would have commonly been used in the early 1900s.

The Black Walnut Bread was easy to make, and it was a taste treat with the embedded, robust, savory pieces of black walnut. This recipe is a keeper.

Here is the original hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1915)
Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1915)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Black Walnut Bread (Nut Bread)

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup black walnuts, chopped (or other type of nut)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two loaf pans.  Put the flour, sugar, baking powder,  and salt into a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Add egg and milk, and stir just enough to blend the ingredients. Add the black walnuts, and gently stir to spread the nuts throughout the batter. Pour into the greased pans. Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean.

I couldn’t figure out why the old recipe said that after the batter was poured into the loaf pans that they should “stand aside to raise twenty minutes” before baking. Since this recipe called for baking powder (and not yeast), it didn’t seem like it needed to rise prior to baking so I ignored that step.

39 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Bread (Nut Bread) Recipe

  1. Now you have me curious.. I wonder if it would have changed the texture of the bread at all if you would have set it aside?… I love black walnuts,and yes they are hard to crack. I have pecans which I think are the easiest of nuts to crack….wonder how it would make this recipe taste.

    1. I’ve wondered the same thing. In hindsight, I should have tried doing it both ways, but unfortunately I didn’t. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a nut bread made with pecans, but I think that it would be delicious.

  2. Unfortunately I’ve never tasted black walnuts, but I can imagine how good the bread is.

    I’m guessing the fact there’s no acidity in the batter (that helps activate baking powder), is the reason for the recommendation to let it stand before baking. We are now more used to the double acting baking powder, but I doubt they had it back then.

    1. Thank you for explaining the food chemistry behind the recommendation to let it stand before baking. It now makes sense to me. I can vaguely remember my mother mentioning single acting baking powder years ago, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen it in a store.

    1. I have a lot of fun foraging for black walnuts. The whole process of gathering, hulling, and cracking the nuts makes them seem extra-special when I use them.

    1. It’s too bad that black walnuts aren’t more readily available. I suppose that it isn’t commercially viable for companies to sell black walnuts because they are so difficult to crack.

    1. We have pick-your-own berry farms around here, and my father used to go to a pick-your-own cherry orchard–but I’m not aware of any pick-your-own nut farms around here.

  3. I just happen to have a stash of black walnuts. My aunt loves them, so I was going to make her some cookies, but I may try this bread, too. I found a place in Georgia that sells already-shelled black walnuts, and considering the work that goes into shelling them, it’s worth the price. Of course, the other problem is that we don’t have black walnut trees down here. There might be some farther north in Texas.

    Is this a fairly moist bread? Do you think it would travel well? I’d send it priority mail, so it would be in transit three days at the outside.

    1. You’re lucky to have found a place where you can buy shelled black walnuts. The bread is fairly moist and has a slightly dense texture (in a good way). We ate all the bread within a day or so after I made it, so I’m not sure what it would be like after three days, but it probably would be okay. I don’t think that it would crumble.

  4. I am taking time off from my one job over Christmas and New Years – I think I am going to try some of your recipes I have been wanting to try and will add this to my list. I watched a movie based in 1918 and the lady brought black walnut bread as a gift when she visited. Looked on tv so I thought I would look for the recipe and lo and behold here you are with the recipe. I tell ya – great minds do think a like!! 🙂 Christmas blessings!

  5. Did I notice a discrepancy in the amount of black walnuts from the original to the modern day recipe? The original calls for 1 cup, the modern recipe 1/2 cup. Have you made it both ways? Do you recommend one amount over the other?

    1. Good catch – I made a typo in the modern recipe. It should be 1 cup black walnuts. Thanks for letting me know. I corrected it in the post. That said, the amount of nuts that are used in this recipe is very flexible, and more or fewer can be used depending upon tastes or availability of nuts. (Sometimes when I make black walnut recipes, I’m a little short on walnut (They are hard to shell!) and use a few less than called for in the recipe and it always seems like the recipes still turn out fine.)

  6. It came out quite dense for me. Was that because I did not let it set? I used Buttermilk and also added a cup of raisins. Turned out very tasty just a little firm. Don

    1. Maybe. . . I’m not really sure why it came out dense. But thank you so much for taking a moment to share your experience with the recipe. These old recipes are always so vague and open to so much interpretation, and other readers considering making a recipe always find it really helpful to read about the experiences of others.

  7. I got some chopped black walnuts this past week end. So I did a search using Bing and you where the 2nd recipe that came up for black walnut bread. That is a good sign that you are getting traffic to your sit for this recipe. Back then you had 2 types of baking powder, single acting and double acting. The author was using single acting baking powder because it would create carbon dioxide gas to lift the dough before it was baked. We use double acting baking powder that creates gas when mixed and also while it was baking today. Most likely she just substituted baking powder for yeast.

  8. I have three black walnut trees in my yard. They usually have a good crop every 2 years. In 2017 we had over 17,000 walnuts. We husk, dry and crack them. This year is really dry so not sure how well they will develop. My Food Lion and Sams club usually have black walnuts from a company named Hammonds (I think that’s correct).

    They are expensive and prices vary with the season. The flavor varies with the curing time also, as opposed to commercial drying. They freeze well and will last several years. When I was growing up blk walnuts were used in fudge, fruit cake, cookies, ice cream toppings. They are awesome in Watergate salad and banana bread also.

    1. Wow, I’m impressed that your family cracked over 17,000 black walnuts. My husband and I crack a few hundred each year, and it’s a lot of work (though worth the effort). Like, you I really enjoy black walnuts.

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