Walnut Alternatives: 6 Similar Types of Wood

Walnut Alternatives: X Similar Types of Wood

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Walnut is a loved wood across all facets of woodworking, from furniture to veneer to carving and turning. Sometimes, however, your first choice of wood isn’t attainable, whether it’s supply, cost, or application, knowing which woods you can substitute is valuable knowledge.

What can you use when walnut isn’t a realistic option? Keep reading to find out.

What Makes for a Good Walnut Substitute?

To address what makes for a good walnut substitute, we will need to point out the features of this wood that make it such an appealing choice in the first place.


Walnut is loved for its deep, rich brown color that, unlike most other woods, slightly lightens over time. Its straight grain is sometimes interlocked or wavy, creating interesting and unique grain patterns on the surface. It has a medium texture that feels moderately smooth to the touch, with a soft natural luster.

A substitute for walnut does not need to mimic the color of walnut–that is achievable with stain–but the grain pattern. If the luster can be matched, that is also a plus.


To be a true substitute for walnut, the piece has to have similar workability for the desired application. Walnut is used in furniture, flooring, cabinets, veneers, as well as carvings and gunstocks. It is a great wood for turning, used in bowls, plates, cups, etc., and holds suitable detail in carving.

A good general substitute is one that has a straight grain and medium to fine texture. It needs to be hard enough so clean lines can be cut into the wood, and carvings come out with crisp edges.


On the Janka hardness scale, black walnut, the most commonly available domestic species of walnut, rates at 1,010 lbf. This means that it takes 1,010 pounds of force to embed a steel ball 0.444” in diameter halfway into the wood.

This makes walnut a strong and durable wood that can withstand frequent wear and tear. Substitutions should be comparatively durable, holding up to bumps and scratches with daily use.


Walnut is pricey. In 2023, a 12” wide by 1” thick piece of wood costs between $40 – $49 a linear foot. A 2” by 8” by 8” black walnut bowl blank costs approximately $20 per piece.

Any suitable substitute for this wood should be competitively priced. Typically, budget is the primary reason for seeking a wood substitute, so it would not be prudent to choose a replacement that is more expensive than the original material.

6 Walnut Alternatives

Here are six wood alternatives to use instead of walnut in a pinch. See below for their pros and cons and which applications are best for each.


Sometimes called white walnut, butternut is closely related to the ever-popular black walnut. It has light tan heartwood with distinct grain patterns that are similar to darker walnut. It has a straight grain with a medium to coarse texture. It is easy to work with, carves well with careful sanding, and will stain to a darker color well.

Butternut is a soft variety, at just 490 lbf on the Janka scale. It is not recommended for flooring or high-traffic furniture. Though not the least expensive substitute, it is still a cost-effective replacement for walnut.

Butternut is best for carvings, veneer, and interior trim. It can also be used in repairs and replacements that will not be subject to dings and scratches.

White Oak

While not a perfect substitute, white oak is a good choice when durability is necessary. At 1,350 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, it is an extremely hard and durable wood. It has a straight grain and works well for cabinetry, furniture, and flooring. It can be used in any application that needs to bear high traffic, and it can be stained to match walnut’s coloration.

The texture of white oak is coarse and uneven, and the grain pattern is not a suitable match for walnut, as it cannot mimic the waves and whorls that are present in the wood. The cost is moderate and it is widely available.

White oak is the best substitute when fabricating a durable piece of furniture or cabinetry that can mimic the color of walnut, but where an exact grain match isn’t necessary.

Read a detailed comparison of walnut and oak


The similarity in grain patterns is what makes poplar such a good choice for a walnut substitute. This wood has a straight grain with a medium texture, and its light color can be stained darker to match walnut. It is very affordable and is easily available in the US.

Poplar is a particularly soft hardwood, ranking at 540 lbf. This makes for a limited range of applications in place of walnut. Because of its softness, it will not hold up to high-traffic flooring or everyday furniture. Carving and turning also isn’t an option because of the wood’s tendency to leave fuzzy edges during shaping and sanding.

Substituting poplar for walnut is good for repair and replacement projects where the grain pattern needs to be similar, but the project won’t be in danger of everyday damage and scuffs.


An import from Australia and the Pacific islands, acacia is a beautiful hardwood with a rich medium to dark brown coloration. It has an appealing, unique grain, often showing curls and ringed patterns. It is incredibly dense and hardy, ranging from 1,100 to 3,100 lbf. The most common varieties of acacia in the United States are Hawaiian Koa and Australian blackwood.

Acacia’s grain can be highly irregular, but it can also show straight and wavy grain very similar to walnut. It is also more expensive than domestic hardwood varieties, being a less cost-effective substitute than some other items discussed in this article.

Overall, this wood is a great general substitute for walnut. In terms of pattern, durability, and versatility, it is a great match.


A European import, alder has beautiful patterning from the irregular grain. It has a fine, even texture, which finishes well. Alder is a great substitute when being used for turning purposes, though it is most similar to black cherry.

Though it can be used for veneer, the irregular grain can result in patterns that are too wild to compare to walnut. It is also softer, at 650 lbf. Another imported substitute, the cost of alder is moderate, but still more expensive than walnut.

This wood is a good substitute to use for a veneer or decorative luxury piece.


Also called redgum, this domestic species is a whitish to light pink wood that is also sometimes called sapgum. It has a fine, uniform texture, with an interlocked grain. It has a beautiful natural luster and has earned the nickname “satin walnut”. Sweetgum is durable, at 850 lbf.

It is a good choice for durable veneer and furniture, as well as turned objects. While planing, it can result in tear-out and fuzzy edges due to the interlocked grain, similar to walnut. Sweetgum is similar in price to walnut as well. Though it can be stained darker to match walnut’s color, the grain stands out and will not match existing pieces.

Sweetgum is best used for wood-turning substitutes or for light-duty luxury furniture.

What Type of Wood Is the Most Similar to Walnut?

Of all the substitutes mentioned in this article, acacia is the most consistently similar wood to walnut. As discussed above, below is a comparison of the two kinds of wood side by side in terms of appearance, workability, durability, and cost.


Acacia is a slightly lighter wood than walnut, but it can be stained darker, and also tends to naturally darken over time. The similarity in appearance lies in the grain and texture. Its uniform, fine to medium texture most closely matches that of the medium texture of walnut. The grain is also straight to slightly interlocked, which can match walnut’s sometimes wavy grain.


Speaking specifically to Australian blackwood, acacia works remarkably similarly to walnut. It is easy to work with and can be used in all applications where walnut can be found: cabinetry, furniture, veneer, turned objects, and specialty items.


Acacia is even more durable than walnut. The commonly used Australian blackwood comes in at 1,160 lbf, which means it will outlast daily abuse in everyday objects. It can easily stand up to bumps, scrapes, and impacts.


Acacia can be comparable in cost to walnut but is often harder to find and more expensive. This can be a drawback, but may not always be prohibitive, depending on where you live and what is available to you at the time.

For example, in 2023, Koa wood-turning blanks can be found online priced between $45 – $70 for blanks approx. 12” by 4 – 6” by 2 – 4”. The sizes available can be highly irregular and have a high turnover rate, very much like walnut.


Whether you are looking for a cost-effective substitute like poplar, or as similar as you can find in Koa, there are several substitutes available for walnut on the market. We have reviewed six available alternatives, the pros and cons for each, and in which applications they would be most suitable as a walnut replacement.