How much does a 5 gallon bucket of black walnuts weigh?

Quick Answer

A 5 gallon bucket of black walnuts typically weighs between 35-45 pounds. The exact weight depends on the size and moisture content of the nuts.

Calculating the Weight of Black Walnuts

Black walnuts are a popular type of nut grown and harvested primarily in the central and eastern regions of the United States. When picked, the walnuts are usually very moist, and will need to be dried and cured before they can be shelled and eaten. During this drying process, a significant amount of moisture is removed from the nuts, which directly impacts their overall weight and density.

There are a few factors that determine the weight of a 5 gallon bucket of black walnuts:

Size of the Nuts

Black walnuts can vary in size, with some cultivars producing smaller nuts than others. The larger the walnuts, the more they will typically weigh by volume. Very large black walnuts may weigh 50% or more than smaller varieties.

Moisture Content

Freshly harvested black walnuts will contain a high percentage of moisture – sometimes up to 50% of their total weight. As the nuts dry and cure, the moisture content decreases dramatically. By the time they are ready for shelling and eating, properly cured black walnuts may only have a moisture content of 8-10%. Less moisture means less weight overall.

Shell Thickness

The shell of the black walnut is very hard and accounts for a significant portion of the nut’s total weight. Thicker shells will increase the weight, while thinner shells will result in a lighter nut for the same amount of edible kernel. Older trees tend to produce black walnuts with thicker shells.

Harvesting Time

Black walnuts are typically harvested by hand after the nuts have fallen from the trees. If harvested too early, the moisture content will be very high and increase the weight. Later harvesting when the nuts have had a chance to partially dry on the ground will result in a lighter 5 gallon bucket.

Curing Process

After harvesting, black walnuts need to be cured and dried to allow the moisture content to decrease over several weeks or months. Insufficient curing may result in heavier nuts. Well-cured nuts that have been protected from re-absorbing moisture will be lighter in weight.

Typical Weight Range

Taking into account all of these variables, a 5 gallon bucket of unshelled black walnuts will generally weigh within the following ranges:

  • Very moist, freshly harvested: 50-60 lbs
  • Partially cured: 45-55 lbs
  • Well cured: 35-45 lbs

For the purposes of estimation, assuming an average size nut with average moisture and curing, a full 5 gallon bucket will weigh about 40 pounds.

Individual black walnut shells account for approximately 50-60% of the total nut weight. This means that a 40 pound bucket of unshelled nuts would yield roughly 16-20 pounds of shelled black walnut kernels. However, this shelled weight is a rough estimate and could vary.

Measuring Black Walnut Weight Accurately

While the above estimates provide a good ballpark for the weight of a 5 gallon bucket of in-shell black walnuts, the best way to know the exact weight is to simply weigh them.

Here are some tips for getting an accurate weight measurement:

  • Use a scale large enough to accommodate the full 5 gallon container.
  • For heavy buckets, look for a scale with a 50 pound or higher capacity.
  • For best accuracy, use a digital scale rather than a traditional balance scale.
  • Weigh the empty 5 gallon bucket first, then zero out the scale.
  • Fill the bucket to the top with unshelled black walnuts.
  • Weigh the full bucket of nuts and record the weight.
  • For shelled nuts, weigh them separately from the bucket.

This will provide you with a precise weight rather than an estimated range. Keep in mind that moisture loss during curing and storage may cause the weight to decrease over time.

Typical Weight per Cup or Handful

In some cases, you may want to know the weight of a smaller quantity of black walnuts, rather than a full 5 gallon bucket. Here are some estimates for smaller volumes:

Volume Estimated Weight
1 cup unshelled 7-8 oz
1 cup shelled 4-5 oz
1 handful unshelled 3-4 oz
1 handful shelled 1.5-2.5 oz

These numbers are based on average sized nuts. Again, actual weight can vary based on the factors discussed earlier. For the most accuracy, individually weighing smaller quantities is recommended.

Weight Conversions

When quantifying black walnut weight, you may need to convert between some common units of measurement:

  • 1 pound (lb) = 16 ounces (oz)
  • 1 kilogram (kg) = 2.2 pounds
  • 1 gallon (liquid) = approximately 8 pounds

So for example, a 5 gallon bucket of black walnuts weighing 40 pounds would be:

  • 640 ounces
  • 18 kilograms

Use these conversions as needed when calculating or quantifying black walnut weight.

Factors That Impact Black Walnut Weight and Density

Now that we’ve covered some general weight estimates, let’s take a more in-depth look at the specific factors that can impact the weight of black walnuts in their shells.

Moisture Content

The moisture content of black walnuts can vary greatly depending on when they are harvested and how they are cured afterward.

When the nuts initially fall from the trees, they typically contain around 50% moisture on average. This moisture accounts for a lot of extra weight.

As the walnuts go through the curing process over 4-6 weeks, a significant portion of the moisture evaporates from the nut kernels.

Properly cured nuts will end up with only around 8-10% moisture content on average.

Here is an overview of how moisture content impacts weight:

  • Freshly picked: 50% moisture – Heaviest weight
  • Partially cured: 25% moisture – Moderate weight
  • Fully cured: 8-10% moisture – Lightest weight

Moisture can be regained if stored nuts are exposed to humidity, slightly increasing their weight.

Shell Thickness

The shell accounts for 50-60% of the total weight of an unshelled black walnut.

Some varieties of black walnut trees produce thicker shells than others. Older trees also tend to yield nuts with thicker shell walls.

Thicker shells mean that for the same size nut, the overall weight will be higher with a greater percentage contributed by the shell.

Here is a comparison of how shell thickness impacts total nut weight:

Shell Thickness Total Nut Weight
Thin shell Lower weight
Average shell Moderate weight
Thick shell Higher weight

So thick-shelled varieties or older trees may increase the per nut weight compared to thin-shelled nuts.

Nut Size

Just as with any nut or fruit, black walnuts come in a range of sizes.

Some cultivars consistently produce small nuts, while others yield very large nuts. Nut size is also impacted by tree health and growing conditions.

Larger nuts will obviously weigh more than smaller nuts on an individual basis.

When measured by volume in a container like a 5 gallon bucket, larger nuts will have a greater overall weight.

Here is a rough comparison of how nut size correlates to weight:

Nut Size Typical Individual Nut Weight
Small 9-11 grams
Medium 11-15 grams
Large 15-20 grams
Extra Large 20+ grams

As this shows, large nuts may weigh nearly twice as much as small nuts from another variety. Multiply this by hundreds of nuts in a bucket, and the size difference really adds up in total weight.

Tree Age

The age of the black walnut tree also impacts the weight of the nuts produced.

As trees get older, they tend to produce larger nuts with thicker shells, which weighs more.

Young black walnut trees typically yield smaller, lighter nuts and reach peak production around 15-20 years old.

Really old trees (over 75 years) often have lower quality nuts and reduced yields. Their nuts may be lightweight for the size due to hollow centers.

For best nut weight and quality, the ideal harvesting age for black walnuts is from mature trees approximately 30-60 years old.

Harvesting Time

When black walnuts are harvested makes a difference in their moisture content, which affects weight.

Nuts picked immediately after falling from the tree in autumn will have very high moisture, increasing their weight.

Leaving the nuts on the ground for several weeks allows some water loss before collection.

Late season harvesting after frost will yield lighter nuts than early picking right after initial drop.

Ideally, timing the harvest for after the first hard frost can optimize moisture levels for lighter weight.

Here is a comparison of harvest time effects on weight:

Harvest Time Moisture Level Weight
Early (September) High Heavy
Mid (October) Moderate Moderate
Late (November) Low Light

So a late harvest typically yields lighter nuts than picking them immediately after drop.

Curing Process

After harvest, black walnuts need to go through an important curing phase for proper drying.

Curing involves cleaning off outer husks, then allowing nuts to air dry for 4-6 weeks in cool, dark storage.

Proper curing will reduce moisture content from around 50% down to 8-10% when done.

Inadequate curing means nuts retain too much moisture. Over-drying can make shells brittle.

The curing process has a major impact on final nut weight:

  • Poor curing = nuts stay heavy
  • Good curing = moderate weight
  • Excellent curing = lightest weight

Follow proper curing guidelines for optimally dry, lightweight black walnuts for storage and use.

Weight Differences Between Varieties

There are a number of different black walnut varieties, and some have characteristic differences in nut size and shell thickness that affect overall weight:

Variety Typical Nut Weight Shell Thickness
Sparrow Light Thin
Thomas Heavy Thick
Schessler Medium Average
Emma K Medium-light Thin-average

As you can see, a variety like Thomas will produce heavier nuts than Sparrow when measured by volume due to thicker shells and larger size.

Knowing the variety (and tree age) can provide clues about the potential weight of unshelled nuts.

Uses for Black Walnuts by Weight

Understanding how much black walnuts weigh in their shells or as shelled kernels allows you to better use them in recipes, crafts, and other applications.

Here are some examples:


Measuring out the correct weight of shelled black walnut pieces is important when baking to ensure you add the proper quantity called for in a recipe. Too few or too many walnuts can ruin the results.


Candy recipes like pralines and fudge rely on precise amounts of shelled nut pieces for both taste and texture. Weighing the nuts provides ideal accuracy.

Snack Portions

Controlling serving sizes of black walnuts as a healthy snack is easier when you know weights for different portions. This allows better calorie and nutrition tracking.


For crafts like wreaths and centerpieces that incorporate black walnuts, knowing the shell weight for different volumes allows better planning and material purchasing.

Retail Sales

Selling black walnuts at farmers markets or farm stands is simpler when vendors know the average weight per bag or container. This allows accurate pricing and weight labeling.

So whether for eating, baking, or crafting, the weight of your black walnuts is an important factor to control.

Storing Black Walnuts

To maintain optimum quality and flavor, cured black walnuts should be properly stored in a cool, dark place.

The shells help protect the inner kernels and keep them from reabsorbing moisture. Storage with the shells on prolongs freshness.

Here are some black walnut storage tips:

  • Keep nuts in a dry area with low humidity.
  • For unshelled nuts, use mesh bags that allow airflow.
  • Avoid plastic bags or containers that trap moisture.
  • Store nuts in a basement, pantry, or freezer for longest life.
  • Refrigeration can extend life of shelled walnut meats.
  • Consume nuts within 1 year for best flavor and quality.

Proper storage keeps nuts from gaining weight by reabsorbing moisture from the environment.


Estimating the weight of a 5 gallon bucket of black walnuts depends on several key factors like moisture content, shell thickness, nut size, tree age, harvest timing, curing, and variety.

While general guidelines suggest an average bucket weighs 35-45 pounds, the only way to know precisely is to weigh the nuts after harvesting and curing.

For small volumes, individual nuts or cups will range between 1-8 ounces depending on whether they are shelled or unshelled.

Knowing the typical weight ranges helps for uses in recipes, crafts, retail sales, and more. Proper post-harvest storage keeps nuts from gaining excess moisture weight.

When working with black walnuts, consider their expected weight and density to determine how much you really have on hand. This allows you to better utilize this unique, nutritious specialty crop.

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