When we think pine nuts, one recipe automatically comes to mind; pesto! But pine nuts are also added to different other dishes as well. Their unique taste and alluring texture are welcome in many recipes and are a favorite among gourmet chefs all over. But pine nuts aren’t always readily available to those wishing to make such unique dishes at home. And even when we can get them, you may be confused about where to buy pine nuts.
So, should not having pine nuts stop you from making a recipe? Not at all! You can still prepare that desired dish with some helpful pine nut substitutes. Many of them, like cashews and pistachios, share similar properties with pine nuts. Others are non-nut options and are perfect for those who can’t consume pine nuts for health reasons.
But before we check out the suggestions, let’s learn a bit about pine nuts. What do they do in recipes? And why would you need a substitute?
What are Pine Nuts?
As the name implies, pine nuts are nuts derived from certain species of pine trees. These trees were originally grown in the Mediterranean areas, but today, any region with a similar climate can cultivate the pine nut trees. Pine trees tend to come in two separate sexes, and the female trees produce cones after the male spores fertilize them. Upon maturity, these cones are harvested, cracked open, and the nuts are picked out for consumption.
Pine nuts come in two popular varieties: Italian and Chinese, which supply a significant dose of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they’re also said to contain plant sterols, which help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. And they give a sweet, nutty taste, plus creamy texture to recipes.
Pine Nuts Nutrition Facts
Pine Nuts in Recipes
Pine nuts are renowned for having a sweet, buttery, creamy flavor. But this taste profile doesn’t restrict their use. Pine nuts are a great addition to numerous types of foods, as their flavor adapts impressively to balance with that of other ingredients.
This reason is why pine nuts are heavily used in both sweet and savory dishes. They can be added to boiled, fried, roasted, or even baked recipes. Pine nuts also work inside dish recipes, appetizers, desserts, and snacks. You’ll find them as toppings for beef, lamb, chicken fish, and even pork recipes of different kinds. And pine nuts are a common ingredient in Italian and Mediterranean recipes, one of which is the popularly known pasta sauce, pesto.
Pine nuts are delicious as they’re versatile, which is why you’ll also find them in dishes such as;
- Pesto grilled corn
- Foriana sauce
- Khosaf al-Rumman
- Sausage patties
- Hors d’oeuvres
- Dungeness crab
- Egg, vegetable, and grain salads
- Radish yogurt
- Salsa verde
- Rice stuffing
- Fried brown rice
- Vegetable dishes
- Cheese balls
- Ragu Alla Napoletana
- Roast chicken
- Syrup pastries
- Roast pork tenderloin
- Sweet dips
Pine Nut Substitutes
So, you know how great pine nuts are and have seen how extensively it works in recipes. So, you probably wonder why you even need a substitute for this delicious ingredient. Well, even the best food items may require a replacement sometimes. And pine nuts aren’t an exception.
Take, for instance, the fact that it’s even a nut, and you’ll find a drawback. While you may enjoy its creamy texture, some may be allergic to pine nuts and can’t have them at all. There’s also the condition called Pine Nut Syndrome or Pine Mouth, which affects most people. When they eat pine nuts, a disturbance is experienced whereby they taste a bitter metallic flavor in their mouth for days or weeks.
Even if all these don’t affect you, the cost of pine nuts still might. Pine nuts are among the rarest available and for a good reason. The trees are scarce, and the pine cones are few. Couple that issue with harvesting and exportation costs, and you have a pricey ingredient on your hands. At around 60 to 120 US dollars per pound, pine nuts can dig a big hole in your pocket. And such prices are even prone to go higher!
But don’t have to feel discouraged by these hiccups. Even without pine nuts, you can still prepare recipes that call for it. All you need is to swap it with any of these affordable substitutes;
Almonds will offer a nutty and sweet flavor that easily replaces pine nuts in most recipes. And since almonds are readily available, you won’t have to worry about spending a fortune for them. Almonds also contain vitamin E, magnesium, and proteins. Plus, the texture is also similar to pine nuts, so you may barely notice the difference.
Almonds are excellent pine nut substitutes in pesto, grain salads, vegetable salads, and pasta recipes. But they have a more subtle flavor than pine nuts, so sliver the nuts and lightly toast them in a pan. This process ensures you release more of its flavor and bring it closer to pine nuts.
Peanuts are perhaps the cheapest nut alternative when you’re looking to replace pine nuts in a recipe. They’re rich in nuttiness, creamy, and contain lots of oil that pack the flavor. And so long as you’re not allergic to them, you can add them to your various recipes that call for pine nuts. Peanuts work best when they’re roasted in honey. The unflavored options can also work, but what you choose depends on the type of recipe. For instance, sweet dishes and desserts would accept honey-roasted peanuts as a pine nut substitute. In comparison, salads and pesto would do best with unflavored peanuts.
If you’re allergic to nuts, consider sunflower seeds as a pine nut replacement. They’re crunchy, tasty, and also quite affordable. Plus, sunflower seeds impart an even richer burst of flavor when roasted before use. They’re great for salads, sauces, stews, meat, and fish recipes. Before using, note that sunflower seeds have a grayish color and add this to your dish. So, unless you’re only swapping pine nuts for flavor, you may not want sunflower seeds in recipes like pesto.
Another cheap nut option you can pick in place of pine nuts is cashew nuts. These ingredients are a regular feature in many recipes and even breakfast cereals. Cashew nuts have a creamy texture that’s complemented by their subtle sweetness. This blend of flavor and texture makes them perfect for replacing pine nuts in almost all recipes.
Cashew nuts should be roughly chopped and roasted before using as pine nut substitutes. This necessity is because cashew nuts are larger-sized, and the roasting will release more flavor. Toast them in a pan for about four to five minutes or until they’re light brown. Once done, you can use them in everything from tacos to fillings, toppings, sauces, soups, and even pesto.
If you’re making pesto, you’ll find that most pine nut substitutes may not give you the best result. And you can feel bothered, especially if you love your pesto detailed and to the letter. Well, in such cases, your best option to replace pine nuts is pistachios. They’re sweet, affordable, and enhance the green hue of pesto sauce.
Of course, no substitute is perfect, and pistachio is no different. Though it’s a fantastic color substitute, pistachio is sweeter than pine nuts. But this isn’t so bad, as you may even prefer it that way. But if you wish for the sweetness to be more nuanced, add some chopped parsley to your pesto.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I substitute pumpkin seeds for pine nuts in pesto?
Yes, you can. Using pumpkin seeds to replace pine nuts will make your pesto suitable for those with nut allergies. And though your pesto may not come out as green, you’ll still have a good dose of proteins, minerals, and nuttiness in the mix.
What nuts are good for pesto?
Apart from cashew nuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios, other nut varieties can also work in pesto. Some examples are walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and pecan nuts.
What are the benefits of pine nuts?
Pine nuts are a fantastic source of calories since they’re rich in proteins and minerals. They also contain vitamin E, which is excellent for skin and hair. And pine nuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
You don’t have to break the bank because a recipe calls for pine nuts. Any of these handy substitutes will do well as pine nut replacements in your dishes. Plus, they’ll not only add that burst of flavor you seek but also the desired crunchiness and richness for which such recipes are renowned.