How to Crack Black Walnut Shells


Black walnuts are eaten both raw or used in a variety of recipes, including cookies and cakes. If you have a black walnut tree in your yard or have access to one, you have probably discovered how difficult the nuts are to crack. Black walnuts are covered in a hull that releases an indelible black dye when handled, so care must be practiced when removing the hulls to avoid staining. Once the hulls are removed, you must then break through the tough shell to access the nutmeat inside.

Step 1

Place a handful of gravel in a 5-gallon bucket. Add three parts walnuts to one part water to the bucket. Stir the mixture vigorously to loosen the hulls.

Step 2

Remove the walnuts from the bucket. Wearing safety goggles and gloves, strike each nut with a hammer then peel off the hull.

Step 3

Fill the bucket with warm water. Soak the nuts in the water for two to three hours to soften the shells.

Step 4

Set a single nut into a table vise. Tighten the vise until the nut cracks open then pick out the nutmeat.

Step 5

Place nuts into a burlap sack and tie the sack closed for an alternate method. Pound the nuts with a mallet to shatter the shells. Pour out the contents of the sack and separate the nutmeats from the shell fragments. Repeat the process with any uncracked walnuts until all have been shelled.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always wear gloves when picking and handling unhulled walnuts, otherwise your hands will become stained. Safety goggles are necessary during all cracking procedures, as the nut shell may shatter and cause injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Gravel
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Table vise
  • Burlap sack
  • Mallet


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Harvesting Black Walnuts
  • University of Illinois Extension: Preparing Black Walnuts for Eating
Keywords: shelling black walnuts, breaking walnut shells, removing nut hulls

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.