English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts: What's The Difference?

So, you’ve always wanted to know what’s the difference between English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts. The short answer is the English walnut is mostly grown for food while the black walnut is grown for wood. However, there are many more differences between the two. It is important to understand that English walnuts come from the juglans regia tree while the black walnut is from the juglans nigra tree.

History of English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts

Juglans regia, the English walnut tree, did not originate in England, but rather hails from Persia (what is today known as Iran). The Code of Hammurabi even includes a mention of the walnut in the section regulating the cultivation of crops and legend has it that the English walnut was planted in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The Greeks ultimately gave us the walnut we are all familiar with today through selective breeding that was used to enlarge the nutmeat (the part of the nut that is eaten). However, since walnuts were brought to world markets by English merchants they became known as English walnuts. Learn more about the History of the Walnut in our extensive article on the subject.

Juglans nigra, the black walnut tree, is native to eastern North America and was extensively used by both Native Americans as well as European settlers for its high quality wood. It was introduced from North America into Europe in 1629. Today black walnut wood is used extensively in flooring, furniture, coffins, and even gun stocks.

English Walnut
Black Walnut

English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts:
The Flavor

The English walnut has a more appealing taste and is mostly used in cooking, baking, making ice-creams, and roasting because of the unique flavor. The black walnut, on the other hand, has a stronger, earthier flavor. Due to the vast consumer preference for English walnuts, it is almost impossible to find black walnuts in the local supermarket.

However, there are a few companies such as Hammons in the United States that produce and ship black walnuts directly to consumers. While English walnuts end up directly on consumers’ plates, black walnuts are used mostly for making flavorings and extracts by industrial buyers. Black walnuts also have slightly more fat and protein content than their English counterparts.

The Shells

English Walnuts vs. Black Walnuts

English Walnuts

The English walnut has a soft and thin shell that makes it easy to crack, while the black walnut has a tougher shell, one of the hardest of all the nuts.

After cracking, the nutmeat is easy to remove from the English walnut shell, while the nutmeat from the black walnut is much more difficult to remove after it has been cracked open.


Black Walnuts

Black walnut shells are so hard that they used as an abrasive material in sand blasting. They have been used to clean ships, smoke stacks, and jet engines.

The black walnut is one of the most difficult nuts to crack and will likely stain your hands if you are hand-cracking.

Learn to remove black walnut stain from your hands

English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts: The Wood

When comparing English walnut vs black walnut wood, the balance is tipped in favor of the black walnut. The juglans regia tree (English Walnut Tree) is smooth and soft with fewer ridges while the bark of the juglans nigra (Black Walnut Tree) is hard and grooved. The English walnut tree takes years before maturity, while the black walnut tree grows very fast. This is why black walnut trees are planted for timber.

Read The Definitive Guide to Growing Walnut Trees for more information on cultivating English walnuts as well as our article on the history of the juglans regia tree.

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