Who loves homemade pesto sauce?
If you’re planning to make some yourself, then you’ve probably seen pine nuts in virtually every pesto recipe, and for a great reason.
It’s got a buttery texture and distinctly nutty flavor that makes it great not only for making pesto sauce but in baked goods, cookies, salads, meats, and pasta!
We’ve got you covered with the best pine nut substitutes you can use for your pesto and other recipes.
Whether you need a pine nut substitute to accommodate nut allergies or a lack of availability in your store, read on to find out what you can use.
What’s Pine Nut?
Pine nuts come from the edible seeds of pine trees. These nuts are part of many cuisines like Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, New Mexican, and more! (*)
- Fun fact: Pine nuts are known as pignoli, pinon, or pignoli. Furthermore, there are about 20 species of pine nuts existing! It’s most popular in the Italian cuisine for its unique flavor.
While you can usually get pine nuts from your supermarket’s nut section, they can be hard to come by at specific periods. Sometimes they are sold out, or you can’t find them in the supermarket.
Or, some of you may be allergic to nuts or find them too expensive.
Pine nuts are more expensive than other nuts as it takes a longer time to grow them. Furthermore, pine nuts have a more complex harvesting process.
You can purchase pine nuts online, but if you need them for your sweet or savory dishes now, then here are the ingredients you can substitute pine nuts with.
1. Cashew Nuts
Whole cashew nuts or cashew nut pieces are the best substitutes for pine nuts because of their mild flavor and creaminess once blended. They have a soft texture than other seeds and nuts and a mildly sweet taste. (*)
We recommend using unsalted cashews to control your salt level in recipes.
Salted nuts tend to be more overpowering, taking away natural flavors. To further amplify the nuttiness of these creamy nuts, we recommend roasting them on the stovetop or oven lightly for a few minutes, adding some lemon zest!
We also consider almonds as the best substitute for pine nuts, whether in cooked, baked, or raw dishes.
It would be best to toast almonds for salads baked items lightly or to use them as a garnish to add a nutty textural component.
If you plan to use these for pesto, we suggest soaking almonds overnight to remove the skin. That way, it has a similar color to pine nuts.
Pistachios are incredibly versatile and will pair excellently with sweet and savory recipes.
You can use these to replace pine nuts in pesto, as it has the green color to blend well with the olive oil, parsley, and basil mixture.
It’s also the best substitute for pine nuts! Use this alternative to pine nuts for making pesto alla Genovese or other dishes.
Italians used to use walnuts as a substitute for pine nuts in pesto.
Do roast walnuts before using them as a pine nut alternative because the skin has a bitter flavor.
Once you roast and cool your nuts, remove the skin and use it as an alternative to pine nuts in pesto, Italian dishes, salads, and other baked goods.
5. Pecan Nuts
You can use this as a pine nut substitute for pesto, but we recommend using cashews and almonds whenever possible.
Unsalted peanuts are the cheapest substitute for pine nuts. Because of that, it’s the best substitute for pine nuts if you’re on a strict budget.
Peanuts have a strong flavor though this changes after roasting them. However, be wary when using peanuts, as they may change your dish’s flavor profile. While we love its nutty crunch in baked goods and stir-fries, whole nuts aren’t suitable for pesto.
7. Macadamia Nuts
We admire macadamia nuts for their creamy, buttery flavor and texture.
They have a stronger flavor compared to pine nuts, but you can still use them for pesto as they pair amazingly with mint and parsley.
You can also add macadamia nuts to baked goods and desserts for a subtle sweetness.
8. Edamame Beans
If you’re allergic to pine nuts, you can always use edamame beans.
You can cook green soybeans as a vegetable or roast them for a yummy snack.
When you roast and dry these beans, you can expect a slightly nutty taste and mild flavor.
They won’t taste like pine nuts, but they also don’t overwhelm your dish’s flavor with its subtle flavor
9. Sunflower Seeds
We don’t recommend sunflower seeds for pesto as they can turn your sauce gray. But you can use sunflower seeds as salad toppings, bread, baked goods, or vegetable recipes.
10. Sesame Seeds
We recommend roasting sesame seeds to achieve a nutty taste.
You can use it in baking or if your savory recipe calls for pine nuts.
However, sesame seeds have a different flavor than pine nuts.
They are only a good pine nut substitute for the textural component than for the flavor profile, meaning they won’t do well in pesto.
11. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are another excellent substitute for pine nuts if you’re allergic.
They can bring a nutty flavor to pesto, especially when toasted.
Besides that, you can use pumpkin seeds to add texture to sweet and savory recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is pine nut syndrome?
Eating pine nuts is fine, but you can experience a taste disturbance for a few days if you eat too many raw ones. This is known as pine nut syndrome or pine mouth.
If you have this syndrome, you’ll experience an extremely bitter taste, which would last for days at a time. Some people even report a metallic taste!
Unfortunately, there aren’t any known remedies, and you just have to let it pass on its own.
2. What are the health benefits of pine nuts?
Pine nuts offer many benefits!
These nuts have a lot of good fats, magnesium, and vitamin E so that they can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research shows that when you eat a serving of pine nuts 3-5 times a week, it can significantly lower the risk of heart disease. (*)
- Fun fact: Pine nuts have existed since the Paleolithic period, used as a valuable source of nutrition with their high fat and protein content.
3. What can you substitute pine nuts for in pesto?
Fortunately, pine nuts aren’t absolutely mandatory for pesto. That said, you can’t simply leave it out of a recipe, and you need to use one of the substitutes for pine nuts mentioned above.
Without nuts in pesto, you don’t get the nutty flavor and crunchy texture this sauce is known for.
The best pine nut substitutes for pesto sauce are cashews, pistachios, walnuts, and pecan nuts. However, prepare for a different flavor!
To get the most accurate pine nut taste, we recommend using cashews.
- Fun fact: You don’t only use pine nuts for pesto! You can use it in salads, baklava, add it in bread dough, or for Italian desserts.
Wrapping It Up
Pine nuts are sometimes challenging to find regularly, but some alternatives will still give you a delicious dish.
Try experimenting and being flexible in the kitchen because you never know what fantastic recipe you can whip up!
We hope you found the best pine nut substitute based on our list above.
Don’t wait any longer, and start cooking your next delicious recipe!