(Black) Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

Black Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

I love the bold, earthy taste of black walnuts – but seldom see them in stores, so I often forage for them. One of my favorite autumn activities is gathering black walnuts, hulling them (oh, what mess!), and then on a cold winter day cracking them to get the nut meats out. I now have a jar of black walnuts in my refrigerator so was excited to see a recipe for Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes that called for black walnuts in a hundred-year-old cookbook.

The recipe was delightful. It called for sugar instead of the usual brown sugar used in sweet potato recipes which allowed the robust taste of the black walnuts to shine.

Here’s the original recipe:

Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes Recipe
Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book (1923)

This recipe calls for a lot of sweet potatoes (12), so when I updated the recipe I reduced it to 4 sweet potatoes (2 pounds). After all the specificity about the number of sweet potatoes, the recipe was oddly unspecific about the amounts for the other ingredients. So when I updated, the recipe I also added amounts for the other ingredients. And, I changed the name from Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes to Black Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes to better describe the recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Black Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium sweet potatoes)

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup black walnuts, coarsely chopped

Wash sweet potatoes and then place in a Dutch oven or other large pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil using high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle. Remove skins from the sweet potatoes. They should slip off easily. Then cut the sweet potatoes in quarters and arrange in a shallow baking dish.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 375° F.  Dot the sweet potatoes pieces with small pieces of butter, then generously sprinkle with sugar. Top with the chopped black walnuts. Put in oven, and bake until the sweet potatoes are  hot, and the sugar is melted and bubbly.


23 thoughts on “(Black) Walnuts and Sweet Potatoes

      1. The black walnuts fruits are round Sheryl, but the butternuts are oval. When they are fruiting, they are quite easy to tell apart, when they are not, it is difficult.
        The last house where I lived (and just moved from) had a butternut tree in my neighbor’s yard that overhung my back garden. Here is a little story, recipe, and a link to the article I did on butternuts for our local newspaper: https://vintagekitchen.org/2018/09/20/sylvias-butternut-bread/

        1. Thanks for sharing. What a lovely story! And, the description of using a vise to crack them resonated. Similarly to you with the butternuts, I’d largely forgotten about black walnut until I started doing this blog. I then rediscovered them–and for several years we cracked them using a bench vise. We eventually purchased a heavy duty nut cracker which is a little easier, though still a lot of work.

  1. I’m not so fond of black walnuts, but I used to make black walnut cookies for my mother, who adored them. In fact, I would buy them in bulk from a family farm in Georgia, and keep them in the freezer for her. If she were still here, I’d make this for her.

    Our Bluebell ice cream company makes a wonderful black walnut ice cream that’s in the stores each winter for a couple of months.

    1. Black walnuts definitely have a stronger, more robust flavor, but they can be substituted for regular walnuts (which are sometimes called English walnuts in the U.S.).

  2. I love walnuts, not sure if I have had a black walnut. We do have a huge black walnut tree on our property, and have fallen nuts everywhere. I leave them for the squirrels. I love baked sweet potatoes, but I don’t use sugar or butter on mine. I find them sweet enough without adding. Hubby adds sugar, butter, and cinnamon to his. The combination of nuts and sweet potatoes was delicious in the sweet potato bread pudding with praline sauce at Thanksgiving!

    1. It’s a lot of work to hull and crack black walnuts (squirrels must have really strong jaws and teeth), but I do enjoy the nuts. The sweet potato bread pudding sounds lovely.

  3. I was going to comment that Mrs. W. Howells was clearly used to cooking for a crowed starting with 12 sweet potatoes when I registered the source of the recipe. I have that cookbook! It was my grandmothers. I can find black walnuts at the local Amish frequented grocery in their large bulk food area. What we call Walnuts were once more commonly called English walnuts. For those who haven’t had them, Black walnuts have a rather strong flavor with a tendency toward bitterness that I think would be a good balance to the sweet potato.

    1. Wow, it’s awesome that you have the cookbook that I got this recipe out of. It’s also nice that you can get black walnuts at a local Amish store. You are very fortunate.

  4. Sounds wonderful! Love black walnuts myself, we have plenty of walnut trees up on the mountain. The only part about black walnuts is that you have to be careful what you plant under them ,also the hulls stain the hands. The taste is worth it though.🙂

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