Walnut oil is cold-pressed from walnuts, which grow on walnut trees. These trees have been around for millennia. Some sources claim that walnuts are the oldest tree-based food consumed by humans.
Historians believe that the Ancient Greeks were the first to cultivate the nut, but the Persians were the ones who perfected the large walnuts that we have today. In Ancient Persia, walnuts were consumed only by royalty. According to Greek mythology, Dionysus turned his lover Carya into a walnut tree after her death.
The Ancient Romans treasured walnuts too. People in the ancient world used walnuts as both food and medicine.
Walnuts were among the items traded along the famed Silk Road trade route. This is how and the larger Persian walnuts are thought to have reached Europe from the Middle East.
From the Mediterranean region, walnuts spread throughout Europe. They became popular in France and were cultivated there by the 14th century, and a staple by the 17th century. The French method for extracting walnut oil involves grinding the nuts to a paste, then heating them extract the oil and to deepen its flavors.
Walnut oil is most commonly associated with France, but it is produced in Australia, New Zealand, and California. Walnuts were brought to California by Franciscans in the 18th century, and today the California walnut is regarded as the best in the world. There are many oil producers there as well.
Walnut oil flavor profile
Walnut oil has a rich but delicate nutty flavor profile and scent.
Health benefits of walnut oil
From walnut oil, you will get an important set of nutrients that help your body overcome serious diseases. Those compounds include:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Walnuts and walnut oil are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. These are healthy fats that you can also find in flaxseed oil and fish oil.
- Vitamins: Walnut oil is a good source of vitamins E and K.
- Phytosterols: Phytosterols are compounds found in walnut oil that may lower cholesterol.
By adding walnut oil to your diet, you may be treating or preventing health problems like:
- Heart disease: Because of the omega-3 fatty acids, walnut oil may be beneficial in preventing heart disease. Phytosterols may lower cholesterol and thus provide additional help with preventing heart disease.
- Cancer: The antioxidants found in walnut oil are known to counteract free radicals that damage cells and cause cancer.
- Diabetes: The monounsaturated fats in walnut oil can improve the body’s insulin response and blood sugar control.
Walnut oil contains a lot of omega-6 fatty acids. While your body does need omega-6 just as it needs omega-3 fatty acids, it needs them in moderation. You need a good balance between the two fatty acids. Consuming too much omega-6 throws the balance off and can cause inflammation as well as the health problems associated with it.
Walnut oil has a low smoke point, which means that it starts burning at a low temperature, so you won’t be able to use it for deep-frying or stir-frying. You can use it in salad dressings, which is one of the most common ways that you will see it used. It is a popular addition to vinaigrettes. It is sometimes used as a finishing oil for various foods, including steaks, pasta, and steamed greens.