Find the most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat hazelnuts and tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.

how to serve and eat hazelnuts

What hazelnut etiquette is

Hazelnut etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve, use, and eat hazelnuts. Such rules help avoid behaviors that may disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve hazelnuts to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat hazelnuts at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts.

What you should know about hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are tree nuts from the eponymous tree.

Hazelnuts have a smooth non-edible woody shell, brown in color. The kernel is edible raw or roasted, sweet in flavor, cream in color, and firm in texture. A thin, dark brown, edible, and slightly bitter skin covers the kernel.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat hazelnuts

1) How to store hazelnuts

You can store hazelnuts in the pantry, out of the fridge. Keep them in a sealed container or plastic bag, away from direct light and sources of heat. When properly stored, hazelnuts can last up to 3 months.

In the fridge, hazelnuts can last between 3 and 12 months. Store them in a sealed container or plastic bag.

In the freezer, hazelnuts can last for over 12 months.

2) How to clean hazelnuts

You do not need to clean hazelnuts. Before serving them, you can crack them with a nutcracker and remove the shell.

Before using or serving them, check that the kernels haven’t turned rancid. Discard them if you notice mold, a softer texture, or a foul odor.

3) How to prepare & cook with hazelnuts

You can serve hazelnuts whole or use them as an ingredient.

Before using hazelnuts as an ingredient or for seasoning, you should open the shell with a nutcracker and remove the peel. Hazelnuts can be an ingredient in savory dishes and desserts. You can add them to salads, fruit salads, and fish dishes. They are a popular ingredient for pies, cakes, ice cream, confectionery, and biscotti.

Tree nuts are among the most common allergens. Thus, some guests may avoid hazelnuts in their diets. Before hosting a meal and using hazelnuts as an ingredient, it is important to ask your guests whether they have some dietary restrictions.

4) How to serve & present hazelnuts

You can serve whole hazelnuts as a snack or at the end of a meal, as an accompaniment to cheese and dessert. Hazelnuts are appropriate for after-dinner drinks, and formal and informal meals.

Serve whole hazelnuts at room temperature. You can serve them whole in their shells, shelled and peeled, or crushed. Serve hazelnuts in a ceramic or glass bowl, or on a plate. Present them with a serving tablespoon or teaspoon.

When serving whole hazelnuts in their shells, provide your guests with a nutcracker and a small plate or bowl to discard the shells.

5) Foods & beverages to pair hazelnuts with

Hazelnuts pair well with many aromas. You can pair them with chocolate, coffee, caramel, and citrus.

You can use them in fish dishes, such as swordfish, or to accompany cheese, such as Manchego, Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, and Camembert.

Hazelnuts go well with many fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, figs, and bananas. Their aroma pairs with most berries too, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Hazelnuts pair well with several wines. Pair them with red wines, such as Pinot Noir, Malbec, or Shiraz. They go well with crisp white wine, such as unoaked Chardonnay. Hazelnuts can accompany dessert wines too, such as Moscato, Brachetto, and sweet Lambrusco.

6) How to eat hazelnuts

Whole hazelnuts are usually served in a bowl with a serving spoon. Use the spoon to put a few hazelnuts on your dish or hand. If a serving spoon is not available, take a few hazelnuts with your fingers.

The hard shell is not edible, while the peel on the kernel is. When hazelnuts are served whole in their shell, remove the shell with a nutcracker. You can either eat or discard the skin around the kernel.

Discard the shells in a spare bowl or plate. If a spare bowl or plate is not available, place the shells on a side of your dish or in an ashtray. Avoid discarding them directly on the table.

Eat one hazelnut at a time. Do not put more than one kernel in your mouth at the same time.

Hazelnut etiquette: the worst mistakes

Avoid the worst hazelnut etiquette mistakes. 

  • 7/10. Eating more than one hazelnut at a time.
  • 7/10. Discarding the shells on the table.

Additional information for properly serving hazelnuts

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

Hazelnuts contain about 628 calories per 100 grams (3.5 oz). One kernel contains about 9 calories.

How to buy the best hazelnuts

A crucial factor in hazelnut etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.


Hazelnuts are harvested in mid-autumn, around November.

Choose the best

The major producers of hazelnuts are Turkey, Italy, and the United States. The quality largely depends on the single producers.

Some countries have smaller high-quality production of hazelnuts. Italy has many DOP or IGP (national food quality certifications) hazelnuts, which are renowned for their flavor and quality. The most famous are:

  • Nocciola del Piemonte IGP (Piedmont).
  • Nocciola di Giffoni IGP (Campania).
  • Nocciola Romana DOP (Latium).

Alternatives to hazelnuts

The most common substitutes for hazelnuts are other tree nuts. Such as pistachios, almonds, pecan, or macadamia.