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Here are three different ways how to toast pine nuts, a precious ingredient with a hefty price tag, so they’re perfect every time and ready to enjoy in your most special recipes.
What are pine nuts and where do they come from?
Pine nuts, also known as piñon or pignoli, are the buttery, nutty, absolutely delicious little seeds of—yes—pine trees. Inside the pinecones, there are hard seeds, and inside those…the pine nuts.
Only about 20 different species of pine trees make pine nuts that are large enough to eat, however, and many of those species grow in the Unites States, Italy, China, and Russia.
Why are pine nuts so expensive?
It’s crazy to see the price of pine nuts these days. Part of the inflated cost of pine nuts is due to poor growing conditions, due to weather. Pine nut crops have been notoriously affected, which always drives up the price.
Another reason pine nuts are so high is that they’re incredibly difficult to harvest. Each and every nut is taken out of its hard inner casing by hand, an incredibly labor intensive process that there’s no way of getting around.
Pine nut allergy:
Even though pine nuts are revered in culinary circles, some people stay away from them, due to a phenomenon known as “pine nut mouth.” It causes some people to get a metallic taste in their mouth after eating them; sometimes this can last a few days.
Although scary, especially when you don’t know what’s causing it, pine nut syndrome is believed to originate from the seeds of specific species of pine trees in China. It’s harmless, but inconvenient.
True pine nut allergy is much less common. Pine nuts are technically a seed, but if you have an allergy to tree nuts, it’s best to talk to your doctor before trying them.
Pine nuts substitute:
Luckily, pine nuts can be replaced with another nut like walnuts or almonds, especially when ground into pesto.
How to toast pine nuts in the oven:
Using the oven to toast pine nuts make them evenly, beautifully golden.
- Turn the oven on to 350 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. A rimmed sheet is important, to keep all those precious seeds in the pan, not on the bottom of the oven. And parchment paper helps protect the seeds from burning.
- If you like, you can lightly toss the pine nuts in olive oil and salt, but it’s not necessary. Spread the pine nuts out on the baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly brown and fragrant. Gently toss the nuts halfway through baking.
- Watch the oven carefully and don’t step away, even for a moment—they can burn quickly. Remove them from the pan as soon as they’re done, so the heat of the baking sheet doesn’t continue to cook them.
Toasting pine nuts on the stove:
- Using a skillet and a stove to toast pine nuts is quick and easy, but the nuts get toasted in spots.
- You can lightly toss the pine nuts in oil and a little salt, if you like, but they have natural oils that will help the toasting process along.
- Add the pine nuts to a skillet and cook on the stove over medium heat, turning frequently. Toasting pine nuts in the pan only takes 2 to 5 minutes.
- Watch the nuts closely and immediately remove them from the pan onto a plate when they’re golden and toasted; a hot pan will continue to cook them.
Toasting pine nuts in the microwave:
- Microwaving pine nuts is a great method when you need to toast only a small amount of nuts.
- Using a fine mesh colander, rinse the pine nuts under cold water and toss with a little Kosher salt, if desired.
- Pour the nuts into a small paper bag (like a brown lunch sack), fold the top of the bag closed, and microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1 ½ minutes.
- Take the bag out of the microwave and allow to cool.
Pine nuts recipes:
- Try sprinkling toasted pine nuts over Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Parmesan.
- Toasting nuts for pesto, with lots of fresh leafy basil, a few handfuls of pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Toss toasted pine nuts with creamy pasta and a little bacon for a luxurious dinner.
- Sprinkle pine nuts over grain salads; Quinoa Tabbouleh might be just the thing.
- Make your own delicious Dukkah with pine nuts to top Grilled Swordfish.
How to Toast Pine Nuts
To toast pine nuts in the oven:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup.
- Toss pine nuts in oil and salt if desired. Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Toast until lightly browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove from oven and use as desired. Or, store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
To toast pine nuts on the stove:
- Toss pine nuts in oil and salt if desired. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat pine nuts until lightly browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 5 minutes.
- Remove from skillet and use as desired. Or, store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
How to toast pine nuts in the microwave:
- Using a fine mesh colander, rinse pine nuts under cold running water and toss with Kosher salt, if desired.
- Transfer nuts to a small brown paper bag, fold the top of bag shut, and microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1 ½ minutes.
- Remove bag from microwave and allow to cool.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
I usually have a curry with basmati rice whats the best method of adding pine nuts ? Thanks.
Hi Ian, sounds delicious! I have to add this to my list to try. I would fold in some toasted pine nuts into the cooked rice and top with curry. I would garnish with more toasted pine nuts as well. – Meggan
I read all your directions and followed the conventional oven directions. They turned out perfect.
Thanks Connie, so glad you enjoyed! – Meggan
I would like to hear from others who harvest the pine nuts from cones & a real effective approach to shelling these hard, difficult & “seamless” nut shells. The oven method has not worked nor the bag & rolling pin & strike force tends to destroy the nut inside. Many different tools – looking for a real method! I have pounds of pine nuts refrigerated & want to elicit some input so I can get these awesome nuts out of their very hard shells. I live in Northern California with a very productive pine tree down the road. Thanks for any suggestions.