Walnuts are one of the most incredibly, undervalued foods on a plant-based diet. They’re a phenomenal brain food, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, and antioxidants, and are beneficial for warding off inflammation. But these fabulous nuts are much more beneficial than just for trail mix and oatmeal toppings; walnuts are also an excellent meat replacement in variety of dishes. They can be used supplement your diet if you’re avoiding soy and gluten, which are typical ingredients in meat replacement products like setian and tofu. And while they don’t have that much protein, walnuts’ healthy fats are especially filling, so they can help keep you full for longer periods of time than fruits and veggies can.

All nuts and seeds can help provide healthy fats, protein, and a satisfying texture in meatless dishes. And of course, they’re a fantastic food to consume when you need something to satisfy your cravings in between meals, or you just need that perfect oatmeal or smoothie topping! But they’re also culinary masterpieces! Just like cashews make foods creamy, walnuts make things meaty, rich, and nutty. If you’ve stuck with cashews and almonds until now, it’s time to give walnuts a spin or two this season.

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Though they’re great to keep around all year, walnuts are waiting patiently to transform your holiday dishes in more ways than you imagined. Check out all these yummy ways we love to use walnuts in our holiday recipes:

1. As a Meaty Filling

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Source: Raw Vegan Enchiladas With Chunky Salsa Cheesy Sauce and Spicy Nut

Okay, if you’re tired of the sweets and ready for something more hearty, we’ve got you covered. Walnuts are a perfect replacement for meat crumbles in dishes if you’re not into the whole store bought vegan ‘meat’ crumbles trend, or you’re avoiding soy and wheat-based alternatives. Walnuts even have the same crumbly texture as crumbled meat (but without the animal) and are very filling so you’ll never feel lacking for more. Use walnut crumbles as an easy taco filling as one of the most popular ways, in a vegan lasagna, or try it out in a veggie burger like Black Bean, Corn, and Walnut Vegan Butter. Some yummy ideas for the holidays are: Raw Vegan Enchiladas With Chunky Salsa Cheesy Sauce and Spicy Nut Meat or Gluten-Free Vegan Lasagna and Yummy Vegan Lasagna.

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2. As a Crust

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Source: How To Make a Gluten-Free, No Bake, Low Sugar Mini Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Walnuts and other nuts can be used to make simple, quick, and quite tasty pie crusts. Since walnuts have a rich, almost buttery texture to them, they’re perfect for using in your recipes where you need that buttery taste and flaky texture- like crusts! To make a crust with walnuts: process some a cup of walnuts and a cup of dried fruit in your food processor until you get a dough like texture. Spread that out into a pie crust or in a square baking pan and you’ve got a healthy, two ingredient crust in minutes. Or, another alternative is to warm some coconut butter or coconut oil (about 2 tablespoons) and blend in a food processor with 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/2 cup ground flax seeds. It makes a delicious yummy crust that you can also easily spread into a pie crust pan or a square baking pan. Try out one of these crusts in any of our delicious pie recipes. How about A Pumpkin Pie Recipe Everyone Will Love, a Gluten-Free No Bake, Low Sugar Vegan Pumpkin Pie, or Sweet Potato Maple Mousse Pie?

3. As a Buttery Filling

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Source: Autumnal Apple Pie-lettes.

Though walnuts aren’t creamy like cashews, you can still use them to make a tasty filling for pie, cake, or even a dessert crisp. To use them as a filling, you’ll need to process them into a buttery consistency, like walnut butter you would buy at the store. You can then use this as a filling in chocolate desserts like truffles, or you can use it in any replacement to peanut butter, almond butter, or another butter in any vegan dessert recipe. Also try blending the walnut butter with some fruit (fresh or dried) to use in any of your dessert crisps. This will make them hearty, filling, and incredibly nutritious! Try using walnut butter as a filling in: Vegan BrowniesClean Eating Pumpkin Chocolate Truffles, use it in replacement to almond butter in Almond Butter and Chia Jam Bars, or in your filling for Autumnal Apple Pie-lettes.

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4. In Easy, Quick Raw Treats

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Source: Raw Walnut Coffee Cake With a Brownie Base

Not in the mood to make a full-fledged pie or cake ? We don’t blame you since things are so busy this time of year! Thankfully, you make a raw dessert in minutes that’s honestly just as good and a true people pleaser if you’re preparing your dessert for a tough (even non-vegan) crowd. To use walnuts in easy, quick raw treats, you basically just process them in a food processor with other ingredients like dried nuts and seeds, and dried or even fresh fruit. Walnuts can be used in replacement to other nuts like cashews and almonds if you’re looking for a richer, buttery, and sweeter flavor. Some tasty recipes to use them in are: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough BitesClean and Colorful Cacao Walnut Truffles,  No Bake Smores Bars,  or Raw Walnut Coffee Cake With a Brownie Base.

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5. As a Spread, Topping, or Other Garnish

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Source: Raw Chocolate Chia Pudding

Lastly, if your vegan holiday recipe is perfect just as it is (because we certainly don’t want to insult your best seasonal dishes), consider using walnuts as a lovely topping or to even add a nice tasty touch to your spreads. Walnuts make a great garnish for pies, puddings, parfaits and sundaes, cakes, or can be pureed into a spread with some cinnamon, ginger, a little healthy sweetener, and spread onto vegan crackers and vegan cookies.  Walnuts can also just be added to spreads like hummus or dips to make them more filling and add a nice, nutty flavor. Here are 15 Double Dip Worthy Vegan Dip recipes to try using walnuts in, 10 Ways to Make Awesome Vegan Dips and Spreads, make a spread to go with Vegan Crackers, or use them in Vegan Carrot Walnut Bread, Walnut Bread with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic, or as a garnish on Raw Chocolate Chia Pudding.

See what walnuts can do for you? Give them a spin this season and let us know what you think!

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Looking for more ways to use different ingredients in your kitchen? Downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out for more seasonal recipes! 

Lead image source: Raw Cacao and Walnut Truffles