Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines and they can be part of various recipes.
You can use pine nuts plain or roasted as well as in pesto. I like to use pine nuts as a topping to several dishes from hummus to other spreads and even in salads.
However, what to do when you are out of pine nuts or you don’t like their flavor and your recipe calls for them?
Keep reading this guide to see what is the best substitute for pine nuts in your recipe.
Substitutes for Pine Nut
Choose the best alternative to pine nuts from the options below. Make sure to take into account certain allergies you might have or those who will enjoy your meals might have. Nuts are known for creating such reactions.
Cashews tend to be the best substitute for pine nuts as they taste similar and they have a comparable texture in different recipes.
You can eat cashew nuts plain or roasted as well as salted or unsalted. They taste great in pesto as well as other sauces and they serve as a delicious topping to salads.
If you want to toast cashews you will not need to keep them on the stove for more than 5 minutes. As soon as they get brown in color get them off and serve them as you prefer. You will notice that toasted cashew resembles pine nuts the best.
Another alternative to pine nuts is almonds. You might find almonds easier than cashews and they don’t require chopping either as they are roughly the same size as pine nuts.
The flavor of almonds can be a bit different than pine nuts but it is just as tasty nevertheless. You will find them a great snack as well. So, if you like their flavor you might notice that almonds are a must-have in your kitchen.
If you toast them, they don’t need more than 3 minutes in the frying pan as they could get burned rather fast. You will love to use almonds not just in pesto but also in salads and on pasta.
Pistachios are a bit pricier than other pine nut substitutes. However, they will charm you with their taste. Some think pistachios taste even better than pine nuts in many recipes, not to mention that you can always eat them plain as well.
It is recommended to get peeled pistachios as they can be hard to get the wood shield off that they come with. Keep in mind that pistachios will not taste the same as pine nuts but they will taste very good in many dishes.
You can use pistachios in salads, pesto, on top of pasta, or plain, so get creative with these nuts in the kitchen and you will not regret it.
Peanuts can replace almost any type of nuts. They are a cheap and available option in almost all supermarkets. You can use them instead of pine nuts and you might even like them better.
Their buttery flavor will enrich the taste of any type of food you add them to. You can use peanuts raw or roasted as both versions are available on the market.
Peanuts are not the best pine nut substitute for pesto due to their strong flavor but you can use them in stir-fries as well as cookies and salads.
Walnuts can substitute pine nuts in almost any type of recipe and they are not expensive either. You can use them in pesto, salads, pasta, and several types of cookies. Walnuts will, however, taste best roasted as their peel can be rather sour if you eat them raw.
In Italy, walnuts are often used instead of pine nuts even if their flavor is not identical. It is also very important to chop the walnuts into smaller pieces before you use them in your recipes.
6. Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are some of the tastiest nuts all over the world and they will make for a great addition to any of your recipes. They might not be easy to find in all supermarkets but if you do get your hands on them, they are worth a try instead of pine nuts.
If you are making pesto, these nuts will go great with parsley and mint and you will love the final result. Thanks to their buttery, sweet flavor, Macadamia nuts can taste delicious in any dish from cooked ones to cold ones and in ice cream and cookies equally.
7. Pecan nuts
Pecan nuts can replace pine nuts, so don’t hesitate to use them if you have them in your kitchen. However, they are more oily than other nuts, including pine nuts.
Therefore, if you use them for pesto you might reduce the added olive oil in your recipe to half the suggested quantity. They are a great ingredient for cookies and ice cream, especially if you roast them in honey first.
However, pecan nuts can replace pine nuts in any recipe including baked ones, salads, and different sauces. Since they come in rather large sizes, it is essential to chop them before using them in your recipes.
If you don’t have pine nuts, you can also use hazelnuts successfully. They are very common in Italian and Mediterranean dishes and they have a sweet yet earthly taste.
The best way to use hazelnuts is in salads as they will enrich the flavor of your entire dish. But you can use them in pesto as well as different cookies.
You don’t always have to toast hazelnuts, although they are considered to be tastier if they are toasted. But it is important to slice them into appropriate pieces to fit your dish.
9. Sunflower seeds
Among the non-nut alternatives to pine nuts, we have to mention sunflower seeds. These seeds will give your salads the crunchy texture you enjoy and they will add a very intense flavor to any dish you use them in.
Sunflower seeds will not go great in pesto though because they are grey in color, so they will alter the way the sauce appears. But you can add them on top of pasta and other baked dishes as well. You can use sunflower plain or toast them and salt them for a richer flavor. These seeds make for a healthy and tasty snack on their own too.
10. Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are a great alternative to pine nuts in desserts, sauces, or salads. They have a strong earthly flavor and they don’t need any type of cooking.
However, some chefs prefer to toast them for a few minutes because they get to have an even richer flavor. We don’t recommend adding them to your pesto recipe however because they will change its taste significantly and you will end up with a different dish altogether.
11. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds, raw or roasted, salted or unsalted, will be a great pine nuts replacement any time and in any form you like them.
They are some of the best seeds to add in salads of all kinds and they taste great in desserts as well. Plus, you can find them in all supermarkets at fairly affordable prices. They are perfect for people who have nut allergies and they are rich in minerals and protein.
12. Edamame beans
Edamame beans are green soybeans that can be served roasted as a side dish or a snack. And they can replace pine nuts successfully too.
They have a nutty and sweet taste that goes great with a variety of dishes. However, their flavor is different than pine nuts so don’t expect them to taste the same as they will not.
You can use edamame in salads or baked dishes. However, they might not be so delicious in sauces and they don’t suit sweet recipes as well as other alternatives.
13. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are highly nutritious. They have a nutty taste that most people love. You can use them instead of pine nuts with no preparation. If you just want the flavor of them but not the crunchy texture, you can always use hemp powder.
Both the seeds and powder come from them, are high in protein and natural fats so you will get plenty of health benefits from them as well. Hemp seeds are not recommended for pesto but they can taste great in different pasta recipes as well as certain salads.
14. Nut mix
If you go to your closest supermarket, chances are that you will find all types of nut mixes. And some of them might even have pine nuts so you get to enjoy the nuts you want in this way. Even if you find mixes that don’t come with pine nuts, you can use them on your cookies, salads, and even in your ice cream.
These mixes come already prepared and ready to eat so you will not have to cook them in any way. However, it is not recommended to use a nut mix for pesto. Otherwise, you will end up with too many flavors.
15. Apricot seeds
Apricot seeds are less common but very tasty and appreciated by many people all over the world. They look similar to almonds but they are definitely not the same. These seeds have a sweet taste and you will not have to roast them as they taste better raw.
You can use them in any type of recipe except pesto because their flavor will give you a too-sweet taste at the end. Apricot seeds tend to taste best in desserts and ice cream as well as in fresh salads thanks to their earthly, sweet flavor.
What can you use instead of pine nuts in pesto?
If you are planning to make pesto but you discover that you are missing the pine nuts, there is no need to panic. You can use cashews, walnuts, pistachios, or pecan nuts in your pesto.
However, if you replace pine nuts with any of these alternatives, be prepared for a different flavor pesto. If you want to keep the same taste as much as possible, using cashew nuts is your best option as they are similar to pine nuts in terms of flavor.
Are pine nuts essential for pesto?
Pine nuts are not mandatory for pesto. However, if you don’t use this ingredient you will have to replace it with one of the substitutes recommended in this guide.
If you don’t use any nuts in your pesto, you will not get the crunchy texture such a dish should have and you will miss the nutty flavor as well.
Pine nuts might be hard to find on a regular basis. However, the substitutes in this guide should help you enjoy your favorite recipes even without them.
Be flexible in the kitchen and open to trying new flavors as you will likely end up enjoying the result. If you are not afraid to experiment with ingredients, you will amaze yourself and your guests with some delicious dishes.