What Does Hazelnut Taste Like?

Hazelnut is often listed as an ingredient in many of your favorite baked goods and holiday foods, but what flavor is it actually responsible for? Although many people eat foods including hazelnuts, few have eaten plain hazelnuts and know exactly what they taste like.

Hazelnuts have a smooth, nutty flavor that pairs well with everything from pasta dishes to your favorite cookies. It has a smooth texture that makes it a great nut butter when ground up.

To truly appreciate hazelnuts and the place they have in cooking, you must first understand where hazelnuts come from and how the flavors are used in cooking today.

What is Hazelnut? 

For such a popular flavor that is used to flavor some of the most popular holiday foods all around the world, everything from pumpkin pie to eggnog, few people know what hazelnut is or where it comes from. To fully appreciate hazelnut or any food for that matter, it’s important to understand where the food came from as well as its history. 

Where and How Do Hazelnuts Grow?

Hazelnuts grow on a tree known as the Corylus tree. Although the majority of hazelnuts and hazelnut products available on the market today are grown in Europe, hazelnut trees are native to the United States.

Hazelnut trees are found throughout the eastern half of the United States. You’ll start finding hazelnut trees in Louisiana and can find them all the way in Georgia as well. They are versatile crop that thrives in a variety of climates and are resistant to disease. Even better, the same trees will keep producing year after year making them an environmentally friendly crop as well.

Hazelnuts grow inside a fleshy husk on their tree for about eight months. After eight months, the husk will wither away, and out will emerge a mature hazelnut that can then be prepared for consumption. 

How is Hazelnut Processed?

After hazelnuts are harvested they are usually dehusked, dried, then cooked in some way. Technically, raw hazelnuts are safe to eat and some people prefer to eat them that way. However, they will have a sweeter, richer taste when roasted.

After roasting they will be packaged and sent off. Some will be sold in their whole forms whereas others will be further processed to create products like hazelnut extract that is used to flavor many popular holiday foods.

What Does Hazelnut Taste Like?

In its natural form, hazelnut is prized for its sweet, nutty flavor and buttery texture. When you initially bite into a hazelnut it is crunchy but as you chew it the hazelnut morphs into a smooth buttery texture.

The flavor is nutty with just the right amount of sweetness to make it an absolutely delicious snack or flavoring for a meal. This hint of sweetness is another reason that hazelnut flavoring is so popular in desserts. Speaking of desserts, some people even say that hazelnut has a slight chocolate flavor.

While the rest of the nut is sweet, the skin is quite bitter and has a very strong flavor. This is why part of the processing process involves removing the skins. If you are eating raw hazelnuts it is recommended that you peel the layer of skin off before eating it to avoid as much of the bitter flavor as possible.

Do Hazelnuts Have A Chocolate Flavor?

A common comparison that you will hear is between hazelnuts and chocolate. This is in part because hazelnut flavoring is often paired with chocolate. The flavors play off of one another very well and make for a decadent treat. The two foods can also have a similar, nutty, and slightly earthy aroma which may be another reason that the comparison is made so frequently.

However, the actual flavors of the two foods are quite different when you compare them side by side. Hazelnuts have a distinct nutty flavor that is only slightly sweet. Chocolate, on the other hand, has that distinct chocolate flavor that is virtually impossible to replicate and describe. 

Chocolate also tends to be bitter and has no natural sweetness. To enjoy chocolate, most people have to add some form of a sweetener, most often in the form of sugar melted down into the chocolate.

What Flavors Go Well with Hazelnuts?

One of the best things about hazelnuts is that they pair very well with a variety of other flavors. The two most popular and well-known flavors that hazelnuts are combined with are coffee and chocolate. 

The sweetness and nuttiness from the hazelnuts can help to balance out the acidity that is characteristic of both coffee and chocolate. Nowadays, you can even find coffee creamers that combine all of these flavors in a hazelnut mocha coffee creamer. 

Outside of coffee and chocolate, hazelnuts also pair very well with a variety of fruits. This is especially true in baked goods such as apple pie and pumpkin pie where the addition of hazelnuts or hazelnut flavoring can add depth of flavor to a normally light and sweet dish.

Some people also incorporate hazelnut into normally savory stews or meat dishes to add natural sweetness and depth of flavor that you can’t get through your more typical seasonings.


One of the most popular foods to combine with hazelnut, especially during the holidays, is eggnog. Eggnog is a popular holiday beverage that is mainly consumed in the United States and England.

Normally, eggnog is made with a variety of spices including clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. These create a rich, nutty flavor that enhances the creaminess of this beloved drink. However, a popular addition to this delicious beverage is ground hazelnuts.

These hazelnuts will add a bit of extra sweetness and flavor to the eggnog. They can even be used to substitute the flavor of nutmeg in eggnog. 

For an extra fun kick, you can add hazelnut-flavored liquor to your eggnog. This will take the place of the more traditional rum and give the drink an extra holiday-reminiscent flavor.

Is Hazelnut Healthy to Eat?

Although hazelnuts are most frequently used as an ingredient in dessert foods, they are quite healthy. When eaten on their own without all the added sugar, they can provide you with several health benefits. 

This delicious food has a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for maintaining both heart and brain health. They also contain antioxidants which are known for helping to improve high blood pressure. 

Hazelnuts are a great source of healthy fat which is important for brain health and can help your body to properly regulate its energy levels. They are similar to almonds in this way and can be consumed similarly and you’ll reap similar health benefits.

However, as with any fatty, calorie-dense food, you should only be consuming hazelnuts in moderation. The serving size for roasted hazelnuts is one ounce. If you eat significantly more than this every day, you may be losing the health benefits and end up consuming too many fat-based calories for a balanced diet. 

Nutritional Benefits of Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts have several nutritional benefits that they can provide you with when consumed regularly. 

For one, hazelnuts contain large amounts of vitamin E. As a matter of fact, hazelnuts contain the most vitamin E of any food product of a similar size. So, if you’re looking to add more vitamin E to your diet, try out hazelnuts and you could be surprised by the results.

Vitamin E is known to be beneficial to the hair, skin, and nails and is often recommended to those that want to strengthen their hair and nails and prevent them from breaking so easily. It can also protect against inflammation, making your entire body feel healthier.

They also contain vitamin B6 which is known for improving immune function. In addition to vitamin B6, hazelnuts contain multiple important minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. Some of the minerals that hazelnuts contain include magnesium, potassium, and zinc. 

One more super important nutritional benefit of hazelnuts is their high fiber content. Only one serving of hazelnuts, around 21 nuts, can provide you with 2.7 grams of dietary fiber. In order to maintain a healthy gut it is important that you ingest the recommended amount of fiber every day.

However, most adults, especially in the United States, are deficient in fiber. By adding a handful of hazelnuts to one of your meals every day, you will be doing your part to avoid fiber deficiency and improve your health.

Culinary Uses of Hazelnuts

There are many different uses for hazelnuts in cooking as they can provide various dishes with an added nutty flavor that is difficult to achieve through other ingredients. Some of the most popular ways that hazelnuts are used in are desserts, Italian foods, nut butters, and flavoring.


You most likely first tasted hazelnuts when they were used in a dessert. Many desserts, especially traditional holiday desserts, used hazelnuts because they are an easy way to add an extra layer of crunch and nuttiness to any dish. 

Two of the most desserts that you’ll have with hazelnuts are cookies and cakes that have hazelnuts sprinkled on top. The hazelnuts in the cookies will be baked in whereas the hazelnuts in cakes will be sprinkled on after baking to help them retain their crunchy texture.

Italian Foods

Something that is less commonly known is that hazelnuts are often used in traditional Italian dishes. Although hazelnuts are most often associated with sweet dishes, this is not the only way that they are used.

Cooks will often add hazelnuts to dishes like pasta and ravioli to add a nutty flavor to the sauce or filling. This can help to make the dish more satisfying and heavier, especially if it is a vegetarian dish. 

A super common Italian food that most people know about is pesto. Chefs will often add hazelnuts into pesto, along with several other types of nuts, to help make it a rich, fatty sauce that is highly satisfying and can be enjoyed on everything from fresh bread to pasta.

Nut Butters

Hazelnut is also commonly used in mixed nut butters to provide an extra bit of sweetness without having to add sugar. Hazelnut butter can also make a great substitute for other nut-based butters that people are allergic to like almond butter or peanut butter.

It is also a key ingredient in the popular spread, Nutella. This spread is likely also a reason that so many people associate chocolate with hazelnut flavoring.


Hazelnut flavoring has taken the world by storm. While it was originally used to help flavor baked goods and sweets, it has now moved into the coffee and alcohol worlds.

Almost any coffee shop that you go to nowadays will have a hazelnut latte on the menu. In addition to this, many stores now sell hazelnut liquor which can be used to make festive, holiday drinks.


Hazelnut is an incredibly popular food and flavoring that can be found in many dishes all over the world. They have a nutty flavor that is slightly sweet and pair well with many other flavors. Two of the most popular pairing for hazelnut are chocolate and coffee.

Some of the most common dishes that hazelnuts are used in are desserts and Italian foods where they can add extra crunch and a depth of flavor that is difficult to find in other foods. Hazelnuts can also be a great substitute in recipes for people that are allergic to other nuts like almonds or peanuts.