Are Acorns Edible? 8 Acorn Recipes to Try

Raise your hand if you had no idea that you can eat acorns. Is your hand up? If it is, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Acorns might seem like exotic food, but they were once routinely harvested and used by Native American tribes across North and South America. Concerning nutrition, they couldn’t have chosen better.

Acorn Nutrition

Acorns are a great source of fiber, lower in fat than most other nuts, and have low sugar content. Filled with vitamin B6, folate riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin, they also contain iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper manganese, zinc, and 18 amino acids.

Since they’re more carbohydrate than protein, they function more like a grain than a nut.

What do acorns taste like?

When properly prepared, acorns have a sweet, nutty flavor, similar to a cross between a hazelnut and sunflower seed.

While cooking with acorns could not be easier, there are quite a few time-consuming steps to take between foraging and the dinner table. Let’s take a closer look.

How to Pick Acorns Sustainably

Before you snag a basket and head out for a lazy afternoon of acorn picking, we need to talk about sustainability and foraging locally.

Oak ecosystems are declining around the world. According to a paper by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and published by Fauna & Flora International, at least 78 wild oaks are in danger of extinction. While there hasn’t been a singular reason for the decline, a combination of factors, like changes to land use, livestock grazing, increased consumption by increasing wild animal populations and climate change are entangled as the main contributory elements.

Does this mean you shouldn’t forage for acorns? No, but with conditions.

Gathering nuts shouldn’t create a problem for the trees or wildlife that depends on them, says Peter Smallwood, a professor of biology at the University of Richmond who spent time studying oak trees. The key to sustainable foraging is to respect the place where you are foraging and the other animals who live there. Only harvest nuts in abundance and never take more than you can use at one time. In other words, keep the practice small. And make sure to gather nuts from only non-endangered species of oaks.

Since all acorns are edible—they only vary by size and tannin content—finding them is pretty simple. Just look for them on the ground under oak trees and canopies. Avoid acorns that look green, blackened, or have mildew on them. Instead, look for brown nuts with the shell and cap still intact. As you are gathering, scrutinize the nuts for tiny surface holes. If you find any, discard them. That means weevils got to (eat) them first.

Are Acorns Edible? 8 Acorn Recipes to Try

The Process of Processing Acorns

If you’ve ever tried to eat a raw acorn, and spat it out just as quickly, that’s probably because of tannins. Acorns have high levels of the stuff. Tannic acid is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that tastes awful and is toxic to humans or animals if consumed in high quantities.

Luckily, tannic acid is water soluble. Being water soluble means you can be remove easily from acorns. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s time-consuming to do so.

There are a few ways to remove the tannins, but before you begin, you need to make a decision: hot or cold.

The cold water method is ideal for baking because it preserves the starchiness of the acorn meal. Think pancakes, muffins, quick bread, and such. On the other hand, hot water leaching removes the starch and enhances nutty flavor making it a good choice for savory foods. If you plan to use the acorns like nuts, boiling is the way to go.

Unless of course, you have an oil press lying around. If you do, you can use it to press acorns into a beautiful golden oil that has a nutty, buttery flavor. Otherwise, choose the tannin removal method below that best suits your recipe:

Boiling Water Method

Begin by separating the caps from nuts still in their shell. Submerge them in a large pot of clean water and bring it to a rolling boil. Boil them for ten minutes. Drain the water, and repeat the entire process for another ten minutes. Do this over and over until the water runs clear. Happily, this makes removing the shell (the next step) easier.

Note: Some acorn enthusiasts advise against using cold water after the first round of boiling, saying that doing so can result in a bitter acorn. Instead, add boiling water to the pot to start the next round of simmering.

Cold Water Method

Begin by removing the caps and shells of the acorns. Next, chop or grind your acorns into small pieces. Avoid using a food processor for this step because it turns the nuts into a paste rather than a grind. The end result should be a coarse meal.

Next, line colander cheesecloth and add the acorn meal. Put the colander over a large bowl and place it in a sink filled with cold water. Soak the acorn meal, changing the water every so often, until the water is clear. A quicker option is to simply rinse the acorn meal until the water runs clean. Keep in mind it could take many, many times of draining and rinsing to remove all of the tannins. You’ll be able to tell right away if you removed all of the tannins with a simple taste test when you think they’re ready. Keep rinsing until they are no longer bitter.

Now you’re ready to cook with your acorns.

How to Dry Your Acorns

If you don’t plan to use them immediately, you’ll need to dry your acorns. Spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and dry them in a low-temperature oven, frequently stirring to expose any wetness to the air. This step can also be done by setting the cookie sheet in direct sunlight or in a dehydrator. Same would go for the meats, if you kept them whole.

Now that you’ve painstakingly prepared your acorns, you might be asking yourself what to do with them. Acorns have so many delicious possibilities!

Acorn Recipes

Blanched acorns are a great substitute in recipes that call for chickpeas, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or macadamia nuts. Roasted and chopped acorns are perfect for sprinkling in salads or used in rice dishes. Throw them in a high-speed blender or food processor to make a creamy acorn butter, delicious on sandwiches everywhere. You can add acorns to soups and stews for more taste and depth of flavor. You can brine them, like olives. Acorn flour works well in baked goods like bread, muffins, crackers, cakes and cookies.

Are you ready to get cooking? Here are some acorn recipes to get you started:

Let’s talk acorns. Have you cooked with them before? Tell me the story or share your favorite acorn recipe in the comments!

Related at Care2:

Photos: Thinkstock

55 comments

Martin H
Martin H2 months ago

my pet squirrel has some recipes to share!

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Elizabeth M
Past Member 2 months ago

cool thanks!

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Connie O
Connie O2 months ago

Interesting article.

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Connie O
Connie O2 months ago

Spam flagged.

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Shirley S
Shirley S2 months ago

News to me.

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Sonia M

I alredy knew acorns are edible.Interesting post,thanks for sharing

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Diane E
Diane E2 months ago

Acorns are dangerous to horses, but pigs love them. In Britain they used to be roasted to make an alternative "coffee" years ago.

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