Homemade liquors, Local specialties, Recipes

Easy steps to your homemade Italian walnut liqueur (nocino)

Italian walnut liqueur

When it comes to Italian liqueurs, limoncello is for sure the most famous abroad. But most locals will tell you that a homemade nocino (i.e. Italian walnut liqueur) is the best way to end a traditional meal.

Typical of most of the Appennines, nocino is the hidden Italian gem among all the amari, something that almost every family has its own recipe for. Here I want to share with you the authentic, traditional recipe for homemade Italian walnut liqueur, as learned from friends in the mountains between Bologna and Modena.

What is nocino?

Walnut liqueur, or nocino, is a liqueur made from green walnuts. Green walnuts are, simply put, unripe walnuts, that are harvested mid-end of June. (Note: of course, this is in Italian climate and geographical position. E.g., I assume that my readers from Australia will have to harvest them at Christmas time).

Homemade nocino - green walnuts
Unripe walnut cut into four

In Italy, it is very common everywhere near the Apennine Mountains. The recipe I am sharing comes from the mountains near Modena.

History and folklore about walnut liqueur

My first contact with nocino comes from Zocca, a small village near Modena. Here, at Verucchia Sanctuary, a community of friars is busy with many activities, including the production of an amazing walnut liqueur. (Fun fact: they sell also grappa bottles with a viper inside…).

Every year my father used to buy some of their nocino and since then I have always considered this one of our best kept secrets.

Verucchia Sanctuary in Zocca
The Verucchia Sanctuary in Zocca (Modena)

Lots of folklore live around this liqueur. The most famous one is about the correct procedure to harvest the unripe walnuts.

The most expert lady should be the one to harvest the walnuts, during the night before San Giovanni (Saint John), celebrated June 24th. She will use only her hands to perform the task and leave the green walnuts in the open air until the morning when the preparation will start. The preparation will end at All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) and the nocino will be first served at Christmas.

How to serve nocino

Nocino is the perfect digestif after a heavy meal from Emilia Romagna, full of pork meat. Tagliatelle or lasagne al ragù, tigelle and crescentine, a nice tiramisù and then a shot of nocino… pure heaven.

Usually served plain, I prefer it at room temperature, to better taste all the flavors. Some like it from the fridge. I recommend avoiding ice.

How to make Italian walnut liqueur at home

Preparing your nocino at home is actually very easy. All you need is patience and the right recipe. You need to help yourself with the former, I am here to assist you with the latter! And, of course, a large glass jar, like this one:

To be sure you will find it when you need it, you can pin this recipe here:

Enjoy!

Italian walnut liqueur
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Learn how to make Italian walnut liqueur (nocino) at home!

I know no other way to end an Italian meal that is more satisfying than a good, homemade, nocino!
Prep Time1 hour
Resting time90 days
Total Time90 days 1 hour
Course: Amaro
Cuisine: Bolognese, Italian, Modenese, Mountaineer
Keyword: Amaro, digestive, Regional, Walnuts
Servings: 30 people
Calories: 100kcal
Author: Roberto
Cost: $ 0.5

Equipment

  • a large glass jar
  • a chopping board
  • oven paper or similar
  • a sharp knife
  • a funnel
  • a coffee filter or some thick cotton tissue

Ingredients

  • 35 green walnuts harvested on June 24th (Northern emisphere)
  • 1 liter pure grain alcohol
  • 750 gr sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon (optional)
  • 4-5 cloves (optional)

Instructions

  • On June 24th (in Italy), harvest the young walnuts. Clean them and cut each of them in 4 pieces. Be aware that green walnuts stinks are forever, so behave accordingly. I personally use some oven paper to cover the chopping board and wear old clothes.
    Homemade nocino - cut the green walnuts
  • Put all the cut walnuts in a large glass jar and cover them with the sugar. Seal the jar. Leave the jar in full sunlight for 2 days.
    Homemade nocino - sugar covered walnuts
  • After 2 days, open the jar: you will find that sugar has melted into a dark liquid.
    Homemade nocino - after the sun
  • Get the cinnamon stick and the cloves ready. This my quantity (optional) for 1 liter alcohol.
    Homemade nocino - cinnamon and cloves
  • Drop the spices and pour the alcohol into the jar. Leave the jar, sealed, near a window, for at least 2 months, ideally 3-4. I usually go for 90-95 days. It's important to shake it from time to time and that the jar receives some sunlight every day for a few hours.
  • After this long rest, it's time to filter your precious nocino! Using a funnel and a coffee filter (and some patience… yes, this liqueur is all about patience!) remove all the liquid from the jar.
  • Nocino will be better after at least one month in the bottles. Traditionally, the production started in June was tasted for Christmas! Personally, I find it already great after 2-3 weeks in the bottles. Enjoy!
    Italian walnut liqueur
  • PS at the end, only the walnuts, now completely black, will remain in the jar. Do you think that Italian tradition will throw them away? Not at all! But this is the end of this recipe.. and the beginning of a new one. Coming soon 😉
    Homemade nocino - walnuts leftover

Notes

– hard to say how many servings from this recipe, it heavily depends on how good you will be at stopping 😉 For sure, with this ingredients you will get between 1.5 and 2 liters of nocino
– consistently, the cost I can give you is for the whole preparation. Since I harvest the walnuts into the wild, alcohol is my only cost (about 15$ in Italy).

What can I do with the macerated walnuts?

Every time I have made nocino at home, at the end it was a pity to throw all the macerated walnuts away.

But last year, a dear friend of mine from Abruzzo gave me the pro tip I was looking for! He told me about nociato, or vino di nocino (i.e. nocino wine). In this post I share with you how to make a wonderful vermouth with exhausted walnuts.

I know you will love this nocino… and if you liked this post, leave a comment and help me supporting this project.

And if Italian liquors are a passion for you, why not impress your friends with something they will have never tasted? Because this rucolino is prepared only in Ischia, and nowhere else!

Disclosure

Some of the links above are affiliate linksThis means that, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase you will help this blog grow. I only promote affiliate programs that I believe in, and products I know about, with the aim to help you in your choices.

Buon appetito!

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16 Comments

  • Reply Joseph Zingales 12/17/2023 at 2:50 AM

    In Mid-America we do not have the climate to grow the walnuts that would even resemble those from ‘the Olde country”. I was hoping that the needed quantity could be ordered on-line — or some type of “grappa” derived from the walnut process could be ordered, something that would be a good substitute for the original green almonds.
    My brother-in-law make a delicious lemoncello. I would love to be able to reciprocate with a delicious nocino. Any advice?

  • Reply Andrew 04/10/2023 at 6:56 AM

    So glad I wasn’t the only one wondering about the proof of the alcohol. Down here in Australia the difference in seasons means that my green walnuts started ‘resting’ in early January. Almost time to filter and taste test!

    • Reply Roberto 04/25/2023 at 10:40 AM

      yes, almost time! I sipped my nocino with friends last night… what a great flavor! Let me know 🙂

  • Reply JANE 12/21/2022 at 3:00 PM

    We’ll be trying our first attempt at Nocino this Christmas. We made it with the native Canadian black walnuts instead of Persian or English walnuts – they don’t grow here in eastern Ontario. The liquor was not that pleasant to look at in the beginning, like greenish black swamp water but the smell after a couple of months was heavenly. Hope the taste is equal to the scent.

    • Reply Roberto 01/08/2023 at 3:04 PM

      hi Jane,
      when you say “our first attempt this Christmas” you mean that you harvested them in summer, correct? I have no idea if that kind of walnut will do well, but I am very interested to learn from the result of your test 🙂
      Thanks,
      Roberto

      • Reply JANE PAYNTER 01/30/2023 at 2:46 AM

        Hi Roberto,

        re: the Canadian version of nocino with black walnuts. Yes they were harvested the first of July when they were about the size of golf balls. We tried the liqueur at Christmas and it was pronounced a success by everyone, even my Italian brother-in-law, (yes, born and raised in Napoli). We’ll definitely make this again.

        • Reply Roberto 02/19/2023 at 4:52 PM

          hi Jane, very glad to know!! It’s definitely something we will be making every year 😉 Enjoy, Roberto

          • Tabi Alonso 01/01/2024 at 2:50 PM

            5 stars
            Roberto; success!!! I made it this past year and served it last night at the “Nochevieja” dinner
            I live in Mexico. And used walnuts, the Castilian ones.
            Also I added some lemon peel, star anise and whole allspice pepper.
            Beautiful!!
            Thank you!!!

          • Roberto 02/20/2024 at 5:38 PM

            Sooooo glad to hear Tabi!
            And sorry for my very late reply, unfortunately I lost your comment among the spam messages (hate them…).
            Ciao,
            Roberto

  • Reply Bindy 12/18/2022 at 8:17 PM

    Thank you for this excellent recipe. The sugar and the sun are the magic?. I am making in New Zealand and so I pick from our beautiful tree between the festivals of Christmas and New Year. I first read you need to leave it for a year, which I gave done previously.

    This year I have Jäegermeister from my nephew’s wife’s grandmother (!) to compare. She collects her herbs from the hills around their summer house. It is very different from the smooth Nocino.

    • Reply Roberto 12/19/2022 at 11:17 AM

      Hi, what a pleasure having you from NZ! 🙂 you are in the perfect time of the year, June 24th translated to December 24th more or less. And yes, sun and sugar make the magic, extracting the juice from walnuts and bringing all the possible flavor to your glass. You will be able to taste it in about 6 months… enjoy it!

  • Reply Stephen Spence 04/23/2022 at 7:15 PM

    5 stars
    My father in law who lived in the Marche made this – we still have bottles and bottles of it long after he died

    • Reply Roberto 05/03/2022 at 9:34 AM

      great legacy! When you will finish those, hope you will give this a try, one of the recipes I am proud of the most!
      Thanks for your comment, Roberto

  • Reply Doug 12/21/2021 at 11:28 PM

    I’m pretty sure that you don’t mean “pure grain alcohol” which would be 100% alcohol or 200 proof in your recipe. Without the addition of any water, your final product would be very close to 100% (200 proof) alcohol which for practical purposes is considered non-drinkable. I’m thinking that you probably really used a typical 80 proof (40%) alcohol vodka. Either that, or you actually used 200 proof alcohol (not available to be purchased in a store) and failed to mention any water or other liquids used to dilute it down to about 80 proof.

    • Reply Roberto 02/13/2022 at 3:22 PM

      The recipe is correct. Alcohol is 96% and the “water” is extracted from the green walnuts, with all the flavours. That’s what makes this recipe the real deal. Ciao!

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