Pine nuts, also called pignoli, are used in recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts. These buttery flavored nuts are harvested from the female cones that grow on certain species of pine trees. The US used to be a significant source of pine nuts but today they’re primarily grown in China, Russia and Italy. Pricey, a pound can cost between $60 and $120 with the meatier, and some say tastier, Italian pine nuts commanding the top price.
Interestingly, pine nuts don’t agree with everyone. Known as Pine Nut Syndrome, people can experience taste disorders after consuming pine nuts. It is believed that the metallic and bitter taste can last anywhere from just a couple of days to several weeks. Thankfully, this effect isn’t permanent.
Whether you have pine nut syndrome or the pine nuts’ price tag is too high, we’ve rounded up some alternatives. For the most part, any nut would make a good substitute for pine nuts thanks to their texture and fat content. We’ll point out the subtle flavor differences so you can make the best choice.
Best Substitutes For Pine Nuts
- Best Substitutes For Pine Nuts
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Almonds’ milder taste is not as buttery as pine nuts but they’re the go-to substitute for recipes that call for pureed pine nuts or as a topping that adds crunch. Toast the almonds first for a flavor boost.
Although they have a slightly bitter taste, roasting them and removing their skin can reduce that. Walnuts will work best if your recipe calls for chopped or crushed pine nuts.
A good texture match, pistachios are sweeter than pine nuts, something that can be balanced with the addition of parsley. Pistachios will also add a little color to your dish thanks to their green skin.
Pecans have a sweet, slightly bitter taste. They’re especially suitable for replacing pine nuts in baked goods since the bitterness will be tamped down from prolonged cooking and you’ll still get the crunch.
Although not as common as walnuts or pistachios, hazelnuts have a woody, sweet flavor. Because of their solid, rounder shape, they can be sliced (carefully!). Use them for salad or dessert toppings and in baked goods.
Raw peanuts are very similar in taste and texture to pine nuts. Even their size is a pretty close match, so these are an excellent substitute if you’re not allergic. You can also use roasted, salted or sweetened peanuts though each will alter the flavor.
Macadamias are a fattier nut with a buttery, sweet flavor – and almost as high a price tag as pine nuts. A good choice for pesto, adding parsley and mint will temper the taste. They’ll work in desserts and candies as well.
Sweet, buttery and cost-effective if you buy pieces, cashews are a common substitute for pine nuts. Since the taste is quite different, use cashews when their sweetness doesn’t detract from a dish’s savoriness.
Sunflower seeds will add the crunch you want but if you’re crushing them for pesto, you’ll end up with a yucky grey paste. Skip the purees and use these as garnishes or in any recipe that calls for whole pine nuts.
For their size, mild tasting sesame seeds have enough fat to create creamy pesto – but you’ll need a lot of them! They’re best toasted to replace pine nuts for some added crunch.
Pumpkin seeds’ mild flavor and meatiness are close to pine nuts. You’ll need to find shelled pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) to substitute for pine nuts. Raw is best if you’re making pesto but toasted pumpkin seeds are a better choice for crunch.
We have many more wonderful food substitutes that will come in handy in your cooking ventures. We also regularly discuss vegan-friendly ingredients and food options to help you maintain your vegan diet.