pine nut substitute

What Can I Substitute for Pine Nuts?

Pine nuts are synonymous with pesto sauce. With their buttery texture, these small tear-drop-shaped nuts are also popular in cookies, baked goods, pasta, meats, and salads.

The types of pine trees that yield edible pine nuts are select species. Due to climate change and the lengthy process of harvesting, these tan-color nuts, their quality, and availability have declined, making them pretty expensive ingredients. The good news is that there are many alternatives that can be used instead.

Whether you’re allergic to nuts or looking for a more cost-effective option, we’ve got a pine nut substitute perfect for your recipe listed below.

What to Consider When Choosing a Pine Nuts Substitute

The pine nut alternative you choose will depend on what you are using the pine nuts for. Some nut replacements have a different texture and flavor. Large nuts can always be chopped into smaller pieces to accommodate the size difference.

When replacing pine nuts in a pesto sauce, most mild-tasting nuts can be used due to the strong herbal flavors like basil and garlic that take over. 

What you do need to take into consideration is the texture and color of the nuts, which may change the appeal of the pesto sauce. Always use unsalted nuts unless otherwise specified in your recipe. 

Since you are probably going to blend or chop them, don’t worry to pay more for whole nuts.

Peanuts have a very distinct flavor, so it is best to match them only with dishes where they will blend in well with the other ingredients. Seeds can also be used as a pine nut alternative, especially for people suffering from nut allergies.

Best Nut Substitutes for Pine Nuts:

#1. Cashews

Cashew nuts are your best alternative option for pesto. They have a mild flavor and great creaminess when blended. They also have a softer texture than many other nuts and seeds. Buy them unsalted so that you can control the level of salt in the recipe. 

Salted nuts can be overpowering and take away from the natural flavors. If you want to amplify their nuttiness, you can roast them lightly on the stovetop or in the oven for a few minutes.

Best for: Pesto, pasta, stir fry, cookies, pastries, baked goods, salads, vegetable, and meat dishes.

#2. Almonds

Almonds make a good alternative in cooked, baked, and raw fresh dishes like salads. When used for pesto, it is recommended to soak the almonds overnight. This removes the skin, keeping the color similar to pine nuts. 

Almonds are best lightly toasted when added to salads, baked items, used as a garnish, or for a nutty textural component.

Best for: Pesto, pasta, stir fry, cookies, pastries, baked goods, salads, vegetable, and meat dishes.

#3. Pistachios

Pistachios are versatile and pair well with sweet and savory ingredients. Pistachios can be used as an alternative in pesto, with its green color blending well into the basil and olive oil mixture. Parsley also pairs well with pistachios in pesto.

Best for: Pesto, pasta, cookies, pastries, baked goods, salads, vegetable and meat dishes.

#4. Walnuts

Italians traditionally used walnuts as a pine nuts substitute in pesto. The skin brings a slightly bitter flavor, so it is best to roast the nuts first. 

Once the walnuts are cooled, remove the skin to reduce the bitter flavor. The nuts can be used with the skin in other dishes such as salads and baked goods.

Best for: Pesto, pasta, cookies, pastries, baked goods, salads, vegetable and meat dishes.

#5. Pecan Nuts

Pecan nuts have a unique flavor and slightly higher oil content than pine nuts. Roasted, and chopped into smaller pieces they are ideal for baking, candying with honey, and using as a topping on cakes and ice cream. 

Although they can be used for pesto, cashews or almonds are a better alternative.

Best for: Cakes, cookies, pastries, baked goods, salads, cheese platters, vegetable dishes, and toppings.

#6. Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts have a great earthy, nutty flavor that can be paired well in sweet and savory applications.

Best for: Brownies, cookies, desserts, cakes, salads, stuffing, vegetable dishes, and toppings.

#7. Peanuts

Peanuts are probably one of the cheapest nut alternatives you can opt for. They have a strong flavor that changes when roasted. These nuts need to be used with caution when replacing pine nuts as they can change the flavor profile of your dish entirely. They provide a nutty crunch in stir fry and baked goods but are not recommended for pesto.

Best for: Baked goods, cookies, stir fry, some salads, and vegetable dishes (especially with Asian flavor profiles).

#8. Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts have a creamy buttery texture. Although they have a slightly stronger flavor than pine nuts they can be used as a substitute in pesto. They pair well with parsley and mint in pesto sauce. They are also popularly added to desserts and baked items.

Best for: Brownies, cookies, desserts, and cakes.

Best Nut-Free Substitutes for Pine Nuts:

If you have a nut allergy, there are still a few great options for making pesto, cooking, and baking.

#9. Edamame Beans

Edamame beans are green soybeans that can be cooked as a vegetable or roasted as a snack. When roasted and dried, crunchy edamame beans have a mild flavor and slightly nutty undertone. They do not taste the same as pine nuts but won’t overwhelm the flavor of sauces or savory dishes.

Best for: Pesto, pasta, salad, purees, sauces, soups, stews, and vegetable dishes.

#10. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are not suitable for pesto since they turn the sauce gray which is somewhat unappealing. They are however great in many other sweet and savory applications.

Best for: Salads, bread, baked items, and vegetable dishes.

#11. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are best toasted to release their nutty flavor. They are best used sprinkled over sweet and savory dishes or used in baking. 

Since their flavor is quite different from that of pine nuts they serve mostly as a textural component as opposed to mimicking the flavor profile. This means they won’t do well as a substitute in pesto.

Best for: Baked items, cookies, pastries, meat dishes, vegetable dishes, and sprinkled in salads.

#12. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are often recommended as a pine nut replacement in pesto. They also bring an additional nutty flavor to the sauce. Toasted pumpkin seeds can bring great texture to dishes, both sweet and savory.

Best for: Pasta, pesto, cookies, as a snack, bread, salads, as a topping for soups, stews, and vegetable dishes.


FAQs

Why are pine nuts expensive?

Pine nuts are expensive due to the time it takes to grow and harvest the seeds. There are only a small number of pine tree species used for culinary purposes.

Can you be allergic to pine nuts?

You should always let guests know if you are using pine nuts in your dishes. Most people with allergies to common nuts are also allergic to pine nuts. Pine mouth is another type of allergy to pine nuts that can alter a person’s sense of taste for a couple of weeks after eating them.

Can you eat raw pine nuts?

Pine nuts are usually roasted. This brings out a richer flavor by warming the naturally occurring oils. As with other nuts, pine nuts can also be eaten raw if preferred.

Conclusion

Pine nuts are so versatile and can be added to almost any type of dish from sauces and salads to meat dishes and desserts. The array of pine nut substitutes available means that you don’t have to spend a fortune to make your favorite dish. 

Some alternatives may add an extra nuttiness or texture to your recipe. The best substitute for pine nuts will depend on the application. Most of all, it comes down to your personal preference.

pine nut replacement

*image by ChamilleWhite/depositphotos

Scroll to Top