What Are Pine Nuts?

The world of nuts is just plain nuts. You’ve got things like peanuts sneaking in there and they aren’t even nuts (they’re legumes, of course). It’s enough to drive someone nuts! Then there’s those expensive yet delicious pine nuts. What is a pine nut? Where do pine nuts come from? What do pine nuts taste like? Let’s get nuts and talk pine nuts. 

What are pine nuts?

Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. Wait, where do pine nuts come from? They’re seeds? You know those pine cones that fall off of pine trees and you used to pick up and throw at your friends during recess? Pine nuts are extracted from those pine cones. So yeah, you were wasting food back then. But you can’t just pick up any pine cone and get the pine nuts you find in the stores. There are only certain breeds of pine tree on which the pine nuts grow large enough to make them worth eating. 

You may have heard of pine nuts called their Spanish or Italian names, piñón, pinoli, or pignol. Pine nuts are popular in recipes all over the world, especially around the Mediterranean. They’re often used as an ingredient in pesto. Pine nuts are also pretty healthy. They’re full of protein, iron, magnesium, and healthy fats. 

Are pine nuts tree nuts?

Tree nuts are nuts that grow on trees, like Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. While pine nuts do come from pine trees, they aren’t actually nuts. Pine nuts are seeds. However when it comes to allergies, it’s not so simple. Allergies can be all over the place and don’t always pay attention to definitions. So, while pine nuts are not exactly tree nuts, someone with a tree nut allergy may still be allergic to pine nuts. 

What do pine nuts taste like?

Pine nuts have a rich, buttery, unctuous flavor with the slightest touch of bitterness. They taste great on their own but they are just neutral enough that they’re perfect for many recipes. 

Can you eat pine nuts raw?

Pine nuts can be eaten raw if you’re so inclined. They can also be quickly toasted to bring out more of that nutty flavor. 

Why are pine nuts so expensive?

Have you ever seen one of those food influencers make pesto? You think to yourself, “I could do that!” so you go to Trader Joe’s to get all the ingredients, then you see the price of the pine nuts and you have a heart attack and die and no one comes to your funeral. So, why are pine nuts so expensive? There are several reasons, including short supply, but the biggest reason is they’re hard to get. The pine cones have to reach a certain maturity and then, most of the time, the pine nuts have to be harvested by hand. It’s pretty labor intensive, so the price is high. 

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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