Many recipes call for pine nuts, but since they tend to be hard to find and relatively expensive, knowing a few substitutes for pine nuts is a time and money saver.
This article describes the twelve top alternatives to pine nuts, whether you prefer a nutty or nut-free option.
Pine nuts are buttery due to their high oil contents, and they have a soft, nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness. These nuts are popular in Italian cuisine, and they are incredibly versatile since they go well with many foods: pestos and other sauces, hummus and other dips, salads, soups, butter, granola, braised chicken, fish, brittle, vegetables, bread, pizza, pasta, rice, coffee, cookies, cakes, biscotti, cheesecakes, pies, crackers, snack bars, brownies, and other desserts. A pine nut substitute should mimic at least part of these qualities.
There are two types of replacements for pine nuts: nutty and nut-free. The difference between the two is that nut-free substitutes are suitable for people suffering from nut allergies. The best nutty substitutes for pine nuts are cashew nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts. Meanwhile, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, apricot seeds, and edamame beans are the best nut-free substitutes for pine nuts. Check out detailed information about each ingredient:
1. Cashew nuts
Cashew nuts are the next best thing to pine nuts since the two share key qualities. Firstly, cashew nuts have a similar texture and color to pine nuts. Secondly, cashew nuts add the same subtle sweetness to recipes as pine nuts.
Use cashew nuts to replace pine nuts in pasta, salads, chicken, vegetables, cheesecake, cookies, and brittle.
To enhance the mild flavor of cashew nuts, chop and toast them before use. The size of the chopped cashew nuts depends on the meal you are preparing. For example, when making pasta or salads, chop the cashew nuts into half-inch sizes.
When using cashew nuts in place of pine nuts, apply the 3:2 ratio. For example, use 1 ½ tablespoons of cashew nuts instead of 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
Almonds are a decent substitute for pine nuts, thanks to their buttery texture and sweet taste.
It is possible to use either raw or toasted almonds to replace pine nuts, although there are some differences between the two. For example, raw almonds are not as flavorful as pine nuts, so the toasting process enhances their taste. However, toasted almonds are not as healthy as raw almonds because toasting reduces the nutrient contents and causes the formation of acrylamide at high temperatures (over 265°F or 130°C). Acrylamide is a probable human carcinogen.
To use raw almonds instead of pine nuts, soak them overnight and peel the skin off. Soaking softens the almonds, brings their texture closer to pine nuts, and makes them more buttery and easier to digest.
Use almonds to make pesto or a crunchy topping for salads and pasta dishes, brittle, butter, crackers, cookies, granola, dips, cakes, quiche, salads, snack bars, ice cream, and brownies.
When using almonds in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of almonds for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
Hazelnuts are an excellent substitute for pine nuts since they have a sweet taste. Compared to pine nuts, hazelnuts pack a stronger punch.
Hazelnuts are quite common in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. Use hazelnuts to replace pine nuts in cheesecake, pasta, brittle, cakes, brownies, cookies, biscotti, quiche, tarts, soups, pesto, stuffing, and butter.
It is possible to use hazelnuts raw or toast them to bring out their nutty aroma.
When using hazelnuts in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of hazelnuts for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
Walnuts are a good alternative to pine nuts, although they are more bitter. The bitterness is owed to the brown skin, which contains tannin, a naturally bitter compound. Additionally, walnuts have tangy and sharp notes that aren’t found in pine nuts.
Due to the differences in flavors, it’s best to use walnuts in dishes where pine nuts are not the main ingredient. For example, use walnuts to replace pine nuts in desserts, pasta, and salads.
It is possible to consume walnuts raw or toasted. In raw form, soak the walnuts overnight and peel off the skin to create a taste and texture closer to that of pine nuts.
When using walnuts in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of walnuts for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
Pecans are a great substitute for pine nuts, thanks to their buttery consistency and sweet taste.
Use pecans to replace pine nuts in cookies, cakes, ice creams, brittle, tarts, bread, snack bars, granola, pies, brownies, and cheesecake. Pecans have a richer oil content than other nuts, so adjust the amount of olive oil required by the recipes.
It is possible to use pecans raw or toasted. Toasting brings out the flavor of pecans, which works well in many recipes that call for pine nuts. For example, to make creamy ice cream topping, roast pecans in honey and then grind them.
When using pecans in place of pine nuts, apply the 3:4 ratio. For example, use ¾ tablespoon of pecans for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
Peanuts are a good substitute for pine nuts, thanks to their smooth, buttery flavor.
It is possible to consume peanuts raw or toasted. Use peanuts as an alternative to pine nuts in salads, stir-fries, and baked goods like cakes and cookies. To make pesto, it is better to use another pine nut alternative, such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews.
When using peanuts in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:2 ratio. For instance, use ½ tablespoon of peanuts for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
7. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are the best nut-free substitute for pine nuts, thanks to their versatility. Use pumpkin seeds raw, roasted, salted, or unsalted in any recipe that calls for pine nuts, including pesto. Raw pumpkin seeds have a very mild flavor and a pretty chewy texture. Roasting pumpkin seeds brings out their warm, nutty, savory flavor and crunchy texture.
When using pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts to make pesto, pay attention to the sauce’s consistency. Pumpkin seeds are naturally high in oil content, so reduce the amount of olive oil called by the pesto recipe.
When using pumpkin seeds in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of pumpkin seeds for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
8. Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are a great substitute for pine nuts, thanks to their mild, sweet, nutty flavor in raw form. You can bake or toast sesame seeds to enhance the almond-like aroma and make it stand out in dishes.
Grinding sesame seeds creates a beautiful paste that you can use as a flavor enhancer in desserts, salads, and sauces. Since the sesame seed paste is grainy, you shouldn’t use it in pesto since it can drastically alter the texture and flavor of the sauce.
When replacing pine nuts with sesame seeds, add 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds for every tablespoon of pine nuts.
9. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are an excellent no-nut alternative to pine nuts, thanks to their subtle nutty flavor.
Use sunflower seeds to replace pine nuts in salads and baked goods like bread. For making pesto, use hemp seeds or apricot seeds since the gray color of sunflower seeds changes the vibrant green of the sauce.
When using sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
10. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are a great nut-free alternative to pine nuts, thanks to their nutty taste. Compared to pine nuts, hemp seeds are not buttery but crunchy. Hemp powder is a good replacement for hemp seeds if the crispy texture ruins the recipe.
Use hemp seeds to replace pine nuts in salads, pasta, granola, baked goods, and pesto. It is not necessary to prepare the hemp seeds by toasting or baking.
When using hemp seeds in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
11. Apricot seeds
Apricot seeds are a decent nut-free alternative to pine nuts since they are sweet.
Use apricot seeds in many recipes that call for pine nuts, such as salads, pesto, and ice cream. The challenge of using apricot seeds is that they might be difficult to come by unless you save the seeds of the apricots you eat.
When using apricot seeds in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of apricot seeds for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
12. Edamame beans
Edamame beans are a decent substitute for pine nuts, thanks to their nutty, sweet taste.
Edamame beans are green soybeans that you can roast and serve as a snack or a side dish. Use Edamame beans as pine nut substitutes in baked goods and salads.
When using edamame beans in place of pine nuts, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of edamame beans for 1 tablespoon of pine nuts.
Find out more information about pine nuts:
What are pine nuts?
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine cones that only grow on certain pine tree varieties. These nuts are the key ingredient in the Italian classic basil pesto and pignoli cookies. Pine nuts are typically more expensive than other nut types, which is why some people look for alternatives to pine nuts.
What do pine nuts taste like?
Pine nuts have a soft, nutty flavor and creamy texture, like macadamia or cashew nuts. Blending pine nuts into sauce, dip, or pesto adds more of a smooth, clingy texture than nutty. You can enhance the flavor of pine nuts by toasting them. Some pine nuts get bitter when the natural oils in the nuts turn rancid, which usually happens due to improper storage conditions.
How do I store pine nuts?
You can store pine nuts by putting them in an airtight container and moving them to the fridge. Or you can place pine nuts in a heavy-duty freezer bag and transfer them to the freezer. This way, pine nuts can last for as long as six months.
What recipes call for pine nuts?
There are many sweet and savory recipes that require pine nuts because of their nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Examples include pesto sauce, salads, dips, desserts, and coffee.
Are pine nuts mandatory in pesto?
No. Although pine nuts are a classic ingredient in pesto, you can use alternatives with the same flavor and texture as pine nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews.
What is the best pine nuts substitute?
Cashew nuts are the best alternative to pine nuts, thanks to their subtly sweet flavor and soft texture.
Pine nuts are hard to come by regularly. You might, therefore, not always have them when you want to make a dish that calls for pine nuts. Or perhaps you need a nut-free alternative to pine nuts in your recipes.
Luckily, tons of nuts and seeds can work well as substitutes. Some, like cashew nuts, have a similar flavor and texture to pine nuts. Others like pecans require you to adjust other ingredients like olive oil.
What’s your favorite alternative to pine nuts? Share your thoughts in the comments below!