Acorns are an abundant wild food source around the world, and a single tree can produce more than 2,000 pounds of nuts. Rich in calories and micronutrients, eating acorns was once a part of life for humans everywhere that oaks grow.
While these days acorn recipes are mostly associated with Native Americans, they were a part of the traditional food supply in Greece, Italy, Spain, North Africa and throughout Asia. Oaks continue to produce abundant nutrition for humankind, even if we’ve largely forgotten how to harvest and prepare this free food source.
This year, my family made it our mission to collect and process as many acorns as possible. We’d just learned that there are tribes in California that obtained 50% of their yearly calories from acorns, and with such an abundant free food source around, why not use it?
I’d planned on developing recipes for all our favorite foods using acorn flour, but when I started researching acorn recipes I learned that I was trying to rediscover the wheel. Humans have been eating acorns since the stone age, and just about every culture has traditional recipes for acorns.
The earliest evidence of humans eating acorns comes from an archeological site near the dead sea dated to around 750,000 BC. Similar sites exist in North America, Africa, Spain, Italy, Central Europe, Japan, and the Middle East. (Source)
Acorn oil is still produced in the middle east, and an Arabian acorn-based drink was what eventually became modern hot cocoa. Acorn-based foods are produced commercially in Korea, for a savory tofu-like acorn gel and acorn udon noodles.
In Spain, they still produce a popular acorn liqueur, and modern Spanish restaurants are experiencing what some writers call a “renaissance of the acorn“ where it’s making its way into fancy restaurants and haute cuisine.
The Romans were eating acorns at the peak of their civilization, and native American tribes in the western US still process acorns using traditional methods.
Eating acorns is a part of our history as a species, reaching to all parts of the globe. While we may have forgotten this part of our culinary history, the acorns are still out there waiting for harvest…
Basics of Eating Acorns
Acorns are technically a nut, but more varieties are starchy and low in both oil and protein. They also contain tannins, which are not only unpalatable, they’re also anti-nutrients and they bind up minerals within your body. The tannins must be leached from the acorns prior to consumption.
That means they’re most commonly ground into flour, which increases their surface area for faster tanning leaching and leaves a starchy, flour-like food that can be used for baking.
Types of Acorns
There are hundreds of species of oak trees around the world, and each will have a different nutritional profile. Some are higher in oil, tannins or micronutrients than others. While a few species are recorded, there’s been surprisingly little research into the nutrition inside acorns because they’re not a common food crop in the modern world.
Oak trees, for the most part, come in two groups. White oaks and Red/Black oaks. There are a number of differences between the two groups, but the main one if you’re interested in eating acorns is that white oak acorns germinate in the fall, while red oak acorns overwinter and germinate in the spring.
That means that you’ll need to collect and process white acorn varieties earlier in the season, while red acorn varieties can be collected all winter. The easiest way to tell the groups apart is by their leaves, and white oaks tend to have rounded leaf tips, while red oak varieties have pointed lobes.
There’s a common misconception that white acorns are “sweet” acorns and contain fewer tannins. That’s not correct, and every acorn species will have slightly different tannin levels, white oak or otherwise. Some of the highest tannin levels found in any acorn are found in white oaks, so that’s not exactly a hard and fast rule.
There’s also some evidence that white acorns may have compounds present that make effective leaching more difficult, and even those varieties lower in tannins may actually take longer to properly leach.
In general, the best acorns for eating are the largest acorns that you have readily available, ones that you can collect quickly and efficiently.
There are two main methods for leaching acorns: hot and cold water. Both methods start by drying the acorns, which makes them easier to crack and extends their storage life in the shell until they can be processed further. Then the acorns are cracked/shelled, and any spoiled or bug-eaten nuts are discarded.
After cracking and sorting, the two leaching methods proceed as follows:
Cold Water Leaching
In the cold water leaching method, acorns are ground into a fine flour to increase the surface area. They’re then placed into a container and covered with water.
Every 6 to 12 hours decant the acorn mixture by pouring off the water from the top of the container and replacing it with fresh. Give the mixture a stir, and allow it to continue to sit.
The leaching time will depend on the tannin levels in any given batch of acorns but often takes somewhere between 5 and 10 days. After a few days, taste a bit of the acorn flour. If it has any residual tannic flavor that gives you a dry sensation in your mouth, continue the cold leaching process.
Once the tannins are removed, the flour is then either used immediately in recipes or dried for long-term storage.
The main benefit of cold water leaching is that the starches within the acorns remain raw, and they will still bind together in baked goods. While acorns don’t have gluten and will never bake into a fluffy loaf, coldwater leached acorns can be used to make flatbreads and other baked goods.
Hot water leaching, on the other hand, denatures these starches and the resulting flour will always crumble.
Hot Water Leaching
Hot water leaching is a faster method, but it’s more energy-intensive. The acorns are shelled, then either coarsely chopped (to increase surface area) or left whole. They’re then simmered in several changes of water until all the tannins are extracted.
This method is faster, but it still takes a long time. It takes somewhere between 5 and 10 hours to hot leach acorns, changing the water every 30 to 60 minutes. In my experience at least, one hour of simmering for hot leaching equals one day of cold leaching.
Once all the tannin has been removed, hot-leached acorns are not good for flour or baking. They do, however, have a number of other uses.
They can be ground in vegetarian burgers, made into traditional soups/stews, pureed into an acorn spread, dried into a crunchy nut snack or roasted for acorn coffee.
Other Leaching Methods
Beyond hot and cold water leaching, there are other effective methods that have been used historically. Chemical leaching using wood ash or clay to bind the tannins, as well as various roasting methods. There’s even a modern microwave method.
For simplicity though, hot and cold water leaching are the most common (and efficient) methods if you’re planning on eating acorns.
Native American Acorn Recipes
Most people think of native Americans when they think about eating acorns, so that’s where I’ll start. Keep in mind, stone age men have eating acorns in Asia, Europe, and Africa long before the first human set foot in what is now America.
Keep in mind that many recipes called “Indian acorn ______” may not, in fact, be of indigenous origin. Just about anything made with acorns these days often become associated with native Americans, for better or worse.
Ironically, since acorns are so often associated with Native Americans, it’s quite hard to find a historically authentic native American acorn recipe. Most have been “modified for modern cooks” using European ingredients like butter and white flour.
I would love to add more to this list, and if you have a traditional indigenous recipe please leave it (or a link) in the comments.
Acorn Griddle Cakes ~ The site “Native American Roots” says that this recipe “has been modified for modern cooks from the traditional foods of the Northern California tribes: Hupa, Karok, Miwok, Pomo, and Yurok.” It includes 2 parts acorns and 1 part white flour, as well as baking soda and butter. For a more authentic version, omit the white flour, use a bit of wood ash in place of baking soda, and hickory oil in place of butter.
Apache Acorn Cakes ~ Made with half acorn flour and half cornmeal.
Manataka Acorn Bread ~ A modernized recipe, this recipe includes half acorn flour and half wheat flour.
Fermented Acorn Cheese (ch’int’aan-noo’ool’) ~ I’ve come across several references to a traditional native American dish called ch’int’aan-noo’ool’ which equates to a fermented acorn “cheese” like substance.
Lacto-fermentation generally works to both preserve and increase the nutritional content of food, so it makes sense that they would choose to culture a staple food crop. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much beyond the name and that it was part of the staple diet of tribes from the Western US.
I did, however, find someone making a modern version of fermented acorn cheese…
Tuolumne Acorn Stew ~ The book World Food: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence from Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Globalization contains a recipe for acorn stew from a California native group:
“Dry and peel back oak or tanoak acorns. Rinse the nutmeat repeatedly with spring water, draining through a filter until all bitterness is leached out. Allow the nutmeat to dry and grind it with a mortar and pestle. Simmer 2 pounds of venison or venison jerky with marrow bones in 1 quart of water until the meat separates. Remove the meat and chop fine. To the broth, stir in 1 cup ground acorn meal. Return the chopped venison to the broth. Simmer and stir until the mixture thickens and turns creamy white, flecked with yellow. Flavor with chopped nasturtium petals, peppers, or wild celery, garlic or onions. Season with pepper and sea salt.”
Tuolumne Nupa (Acorn) Soup/Porridge ~ Another recipe for Tuolumne acorn soup, this time from a site called Native American Tech. This one is more of an acorn porridge, but it has detailed first-hand information from Tuolumne tribe members that still process acorns in the traditional manner.
For more information on the current use of acorns by Native Americans, this study on the Modern use of acorns by indigenous Americans describes how old traditions are modified to meet the needs of a modern world.
Italian Acorn Recipes
In the heart of the Mediterranean, Italy is surrounded on all sides by paleolithic archeological sites with evidence for humans eating acorns. Pliny wrote of eating acorns in his Natural History, written just after the time of Christ:
“It is a well-known fact that acorns at this very day constitute the wealth of many nations, and that, too, even amid these times of peace. Sometimes, also, when there is a scarcity of corn they are dried and ground, the meal being employed for making a kind of bread. Even to this very day, in the provinces of Spain, we find the acorn introduced at table in the second course: it is thought to be sweeter when roasted in the ashes. By the law of the Twelve Tables, there is a provision made that it shall be lawful for a man to gather his acorns when they have fallen upon the land of another.” (Natural History, Book 16, Chapter 6)
I spent three months in Italy on a language study in college, and though I ate plenty of pizza and drank plenty of wine, I knew nothing about eating acorns back then. Still, I was able to search “cucinare ricette di ghiande” and find plenty of Italian acorn recipes.
Sardinian Acorn Bread (Su Pan’ispeli) ~ Really more of a polenta than a bread, Sardinian acorn bread is still made today for festivals, and it’s thought to have some historical ceremonial/religious significance for pre-Christian peoples that now has largely been lost. According to a site that covers the legends and traditions of Sardinia,
“Su Pan’ispeli was named by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD, describing it as an acorn bread mixed with clay that the Sardinians ate.
The acorn bread was used for most of the year and was prepared by choosing the necessary amount of well-ripened acorns, which were peeled and placed to cook in a kind of lye, obtained by filtering the cooking water through a layer of special clay, rich in iron, and ash from some aromatic herbs. The ash was used to remove the sour and bitter tannins of the acorns, and the clay gave the gluten necessary to bind the dough.
Both of these ingredients contributed to making the pan’ispeli more tasty and digestible. When the acorns, due to the effect of cooking, reached the consistency of the polenta, assuming almost the color of chocolate, they lay on tables to firm, to then be cut into slices or breads. Dried in the sun or in the oven, the pan’ispeli was then consumed as any kind of bread, with the usual companion, cheese, lard, etc.”
Italian Acorn Cake (Torta di Ghiande) ~ I’ve seen several sites that reference a torta di ghiande made from hot processed acorns. It’s seasoned with cinnamon and lemon zest, and some recipes have a handful of other nuts like hazelnuts tossed in as well. Most recipes are gluten-free, using only acorn flour, while some have a few tablespoons of white flour thrown in as a binder to add a bit of gluten.
Acorn Pasta ~ Not traditional, at least as far as I know, but I tried my hand at making acorn pasta using a recipe for almond flour pasta. I had to use considerably more starch to get it to bind, but it was quite tasty.
Spanish Acorn Recipes
Pliny mentioned that while Romans ate acorns when necessary, they were more commonly on the tables of the Spanish. They’re still eaten in Spain with some regularity and becoming more popular in upscale restaurants.
Even when not directly eaten, acorns are important to traditional Spanish cuisine in other ways. Iberian ham is made from pigs fattened on acorns, and it simply cannot be produced outside of these oak forests in spain…and science now knows why:
“Pigs to be used for Iberian ham production which is specific to Spain have been fed on oak acorns. It is known that the antioxidant compounds found in the acorn structure used for the pig fodder are transferred to the meat structure, thus preventing the product from being oxidized during the prolonged maturation period.”
Licor de Bellota (Acorn Liqueur) ~ Exactly as it sounds, this acorn liqueur is still made today. Flavored with acorns, it has a unique nutty/bitter flavor profile. I’ve also read that you can make something similar by taking acorn leaching liquid and concentrating it down to just a few ounces…then adding a single drop to a glass of liqueur.
Acorns cooked with Orange and Cinnamon ~ A Spanish website discusses a recipe for acorns infused with orange and cinnamon flavor. Start with hot leached whole acorns or acorn halves, and then simmer them with a bit of orange peel, honey, and cinnamon.
Spanish Acorn Cake ~ I found a recipe for a sweet/savory spanish acorn cake that includes honey, chocolate, Iberian ham and lard along with the acorn flour. At least according to this recipe, acorns are sometimes available in Spanish health food stores?
Spanish Acorns and Rice ~ I found a recipe for Spanish acorns and rice in video form. It’s in Spanish, but you can turn on captions in English on youtube:
German Acorn Recipes
I haven’t found any ancient german acorn recipes, but I did find german ersatzkaffee, which is an acorn coffee that was prepared in Germany during WWII. The Germans weren’t the only ones to make coffee from acorns, and I’ve found references to Eastern European and North Americans making acorn coffee during times of hardship (or when supply lines were cut off). And of course, acorn beer…
Acorn Coffee (Eratzkaffee) ~ Start by hot leaching the acorns in several changes of water until all the tannin flavor is removed. Then roast the acorns until dried and dark, either in a hot cast iron pan or in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.
The acorns should be completely dry, crisp and browned. Grind the toasted acorns in a coffee grinder, and prepare a coffee with 2 tablespoons of powder per cup.
I actually found that making acorn coffee in a french press only resulted in an acorn tea-like substance. For something with the body of coffee, the acorn coffee needs to be simmered in water for about 10 minutes and then allowed to infuse for another 10 minutes before straining.
We’re big coffee nerds, and we roast our own coffee at home. To me, the acorn coffee tasted a bit “green” like actual coffee beans that were slightly under roasted. My husband said he’d readily drink it if coffee weren’t available, as for myself, I’m pretty fond of pine needle tea and I’d go with that given that neither one has caffeine anyway.
Acorn Beer ~ I came across a paper where the author did historical research documenting the use of acorns in brewing, and then went on to make a “German Acorn Beer“. He documents their use in 16th century Germany to make Gruit, a type of beer made with herbs and plants before hops became prevalent.
“As far as nuts go, acorns enjoy an unusual composition. Acorns are largely made up of starches and fiber whereas most other types of nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.) are largely made up of proteins and oils/fats. Because of this structure, acorns have a unique property among nuts – they can actually be malted.
The acorn itself is very similar in content to barley. It is 72 to 80 percent starch, 8 to 12 percent protein, and has a low oil content. One of its major drawbacks is that, like the potato, it contains high concentrations of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. Therefore, the beers made with acorns will not be of the lighter variety. In test mashes the color comes out to be a brown shade along the line of a Vienna or Oktoberfest-style beer.”
Viking Acorn Recipes
I’ve found several sources claiming that Vikings ate acorns as part of their diet, and there are references to them in the sagas as well. Historical evidence shows that northern Scandinavians routinely incorporated birch bark flour and pine bark bread into their diets, so acorns really aren’t that much of a stretch.
Shardbread or Flatbread ~ A type of bread cooked on shards of pottery near the fire. It was made with coarse flour, whatever was on hand, along with whey and eggs if available. Several references mention the use of acorns in this bread to add more bulk.
Acorn Mead or Beer ~ Just as there’s historical evidence for acorns used in brewing in Central Europe, the Saga’s make mention of adding acorns to fermented beverages. In the Volsunga saga, one of the people must consume a brew made with “hurtful things” which is made from ingredients often consumed or added to brews that had been first adulterated or ruined. In this case, the acorns are burned black, and there’s an implication that unburnt acorns were generally used.
Korean Acorn Recipes
Believe it or not, Korean’s still eat acorns in quantity and have modern processing facilities to produce Acorn Starch for home cooking. The starch is not quite acorn flour, it’s like what corn starch is compared to cornmeal.
Acorn starch is used to make traditional Korean recipes, and it thickens into a beautiful gel when cooked.
They also make two different varieties of acorn noodles, which are eaten in hot and cold recipes in place of other udon-type noodles.
Acorn vermicelli noodles (dotori naengmyeon or 냉면 도토리) ~ These very thin noodles are made from a mixture of acorn starch, along with some combination of potato, rice or arrowroot starch and wheat flour. The resulting noodles are highly elastic and chewy.
Acorn Soba Noodles (dotori guksu or 도토리국수) ~ Made with a combination of acorn, buckwheat and cornmeal, these soba noodles are thicker than the vermicelli version.
Korean Acorn Jelly (Dotorimuk) ~ A gelly-like substance made from acorn starch, Dotorimuk is eaten a bit like tofu. The acorn jelly is made, then cut into chunks before being served with savory toppings like kimchi.
Japanese Acorn Recipes
Similar to the Korean preparations, the Japanese also have a traditional acorn noodle.
Japanese Acorn Noodles (donguri-men or どんぐり) ~ I’ve found very few references to this acorn noodle variation. At least according to cooks info, these are only 1/10th acorn flour with the rest as other ingredients. The Korean versions are 1/3 acorn.
North African & Middle Eastern Acorn Recipes
The earliest recorded evidence of eating acorns in Africa comes from Morocco. An archeological site dating back to 15,000 BC documents that acorns were a staple crop harvested for a substantial portion of their calories.
I’ve found numerous sites claiming that acorn oil is commercially available in Algeria and Morocco even today, but I’ve yet to find anything that verifies these claims.
It is possible to extract oil from acorns, at least certain varieties with higher oil concentrations. My favorite foraging author actually sells small bottles of acorn oil in an online shop. I asked how they produce it, and they have some gigantic commercial oil press for the job, which they also use to press wild foraged hickory oil.
It is possible to press your own acorn oil with a small home oil press, as shown here:
Rachout des Arabes (Acorn Hot Chocolate)~ Beyond acorn oil, there’s also “racahout des arabes” which is an Arabian acorn drink that was later modified to become what we know now as hot chocolate…That’s right… hot chocolate was originally a hot acorn drink!
It was only by careful marketing that importers were able to convince people to substitute this new mysterious cocoa powder from the new world for their old standby healthy tonic drink made from powdered acorns.
The site Magical Childhood discusses the history of Rachout, and cites a book from 1862 that describes how Rachout powder is made:
“ … In Turkey acorns are buried for some time in the earth by which the bitterness is destroyed They are then dried and toasted. Their powder with sugar and aromatics constitutes the palamoud of the Turks and racahout of the Arabs an alimentary substance readily digestible and very much esteemed.”
For centuries, rachout powder was considered a health tonic, and it was fed to infants, elderly and sick people as a thickened drink, sometimes including slippery elm bark, which was believed to have similar health-promoting properties.
Rachout Cream (Acorn Cream Trifle)~ Basically a type of ice cream or ice cream trifle cake, made from prepared Rachout acorn powder. This recipe comes from The Epicurian, a cookbook from 1893:
“Put six egg-yolks into a basin with two heaping tablespoonfuls of racahout and ten ounces of sugar; beat well with a whip, adding one quart of boiling milk; cook this cream until it almost boils, without allowing it to do so, then strain, cool and freeze, mixing in half as much whipped cream. Pack two molds in ice; having covers to fasten on the outside; one cylindrical, five and a half inches in diameter and six inches high, and the other dome-shaped, four and a half inches in diameter at its base. Pour some maraschino over macaroons; place them in layers in the cylindrical mold, then racahout cream to cover, on this the fruits and more of the cream and then macaroons, continuing until the mold is entirely full, finishing with the cream; fit on the cover, freeze for one hour, then unmold it into the above wafer timbale; lay this timbale on a folded napkin, put on to it first the wafer ring and then the dome cover and serve.”
Russian Acorn Recipes
By searching in Russian, I found a site containing a number of unique acorn recipes. I’m not sure any of them are “traditional” uses, but most are unique and I haven’t seen them in the acorn recipes from other cultures. All come from a single Russian site.
Acorn Milk Soup ~ Acorn flour is cooked with milk and sugar to make a porridge that sounds a lot like cream of wheat.
Galushki Acorn ~ A dumpling dough is made by mixing acorn flour with sour cream and onion, and then that dough is deep-fried.
Cheesy Acorn Cakes ~ A bit like polenta, the translation actually calls these “acorn butter cakes.” The acorn flour is heated with sour cream and cheese, then cooked on the stovetop before being then poured into a pan to solidify.
The “cake” is then cut, and the pieces are browned in oil. Basically the same process as making fried polenta, but with acorn instead.
Acorn Pudding with Apples ~ Basically acorns cooked with apples and cheese into a sweet/savory pudding.
Acne Dumplings ~ I found a reference to eating acorns as a traditional remedy for acne, and this site, in particular, has a recipe for “acne dumplings” which are basically simple acorn flour dumplings simmered in saltwater.
Modern Acorn Recipes
While the nerd in me loves the history behind eating acorns, there’s no reason to just eat this free woodland food source in traditional ways. Our modern kitchens have so many amenities, and incorporating the unique flavor of acorns into our modern diets is a fun way to both connect with the past and have fun in the present.
As foraging becomes more common, I’m finding more and more acorn recipes shared across the internet. The creativity of some of these recipes is astounding and way too good not to share!
Acorn Wine ~ Modern winemaking recipes often include some type of synthetic tannin, and a single tiny piece of an acorn would be perfect as a substitute. Beyond that, acorns are full of starch and flavor that can be fermented into wine if properly leached and processed ahead of time. We’ve already discussed historical recipes for acorn beer and acorn mead, why not acorn wine?
Acorn Bitters or Aperitif ~ A modern British company is producing an acorn aperitif called Æcorn, which is used in fancy bars for mixed drinks. I imagine it’d be easy enough to make something similar at home.
I already make dandelion and burdock bitters, as well as a herbal infused gin. I think this one’s next on my mixology list.
Acorn Milk ~ Not all that different than other nut milks, like almond milk or cashew milk.
Acorn Shrub ~ A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup used for flavoring drinks. It’s usually sugar, vinegar and some kind of fruit infused then strained.
They were popular historically, and they’re making a comeback to flavor sodas and cocktails. I found someone locally that actually makes acorn shrubs for sale, along with a number of other acorn-based products.
Acorn Crepes ~ While acorns lack gluten, that doesn’t really matter for crepes. Crepes contain a good bit of egg, which helps bind the batter. They’re just using flour for a bit of starch in the batter, and acorn flour can be substituted for white flour 1:1 in crepe recipes with delicious results.
Acorn Pancakes ~ Thicker American-style pancakes can be made by substituting about half the flour for acorn flour.
Sourdough Acorn Pancakes ~ This recipe is mostly sourdough, but a bit of acorn flour adds flavor and nutrition.
Acorn Flatbreads ~ An acorn variation on a traditional Italian flatbread.
Acorn Tortillas ~ With gluten-free recipes on the rise, I’ve come across several recipes for almond flour tortillas using either psyllium or chia as a binder, and then almond flour. I imagined they’d work with acorn, but then I came across this post which proved it…
Acorn Muffins ~ Not quite a cake or a bread, Hank Shaw says he spent a long time perfecting this acorn muffin recipe. It looks good…
Persimmon Bread (with Acorn Flour) ~ Persimmons ripen in the very late fall, which is the perfect time to use them with acorn flour.
Acorn Skillet Bread ~ A cross between cornbread and acorn bread, this recipe is cooked in a cast-iron skillet.
Acorn Spreads, Dips, Condiments and Pickles
Acorn Nut Butter ~ Given that acorns are botanically a nut, I tried a few different methods for making acorn nut butter. I used hot leached and cold leached variations, both with very different results.
Acorn Hummus ~ In truth, since acorns are much heavier in starch than protein and oil, an acorn hummus makes more sense. Start with hot processed acorns, which are a lot like cooked beans anyway, and proceed on to use them in place of chickpeas in a hummus recipe. Or you can follow this acorn hummus recipe that uses cold-processed acorn flour, along with chickpeas.
Acorn Pickles ~ Exactly as they sound, pickled acorns are hot-leached acorns that are then pickled with vinegar and spices. You can pickle almost anything and acorns are no exception. Someone local sells maple-flavored pickled acorns, which probably turns some heads at the market. (Crosby Forage and Farm is sadly out of business as of 2023.)
Acorn Vinegar ~ Just like pickles, vinegar itself can be infused with flavors. According to a local maker of acorn vinegar, “It has a nutty flavor and is treat for vinaigrettes or used in your favorite recipe. It can also be boiled down as a glaze for meats.” (Crosby Forage and Farm is sadly out of business as of 2023.)
Acorn Miso ~ As a starchy, bean-like substance, acorns also make good miso. A few chefs in Arizona are working on making a localvore Arizona Miso from wild-harvested acorns.
Pascal Baudar provides a detailed recipe for acorn miso as well:
Acorn Main Dishes
Venison Stew w/ Wild Mushrooms (Acorn Thickened) ~ Acorn starch is a great soup thickener, and it seems right at home with venison and wild mushrooms.
Wood Duck and Acorn Dumplings ~ Some food of the forest right there. Wood ducks are tree ducks that roost and nest in trees…often oak trees.
Acorn Croquettes ~ Somewhere between a crab cake and a falafel, croquettes are a unique way to enjoy acorns.
Acorn Soup ~ Made with just acorns, aromatic vegetables, and dried mushrooms, the acorns are really the star of the show in this dish.
Acorn Tacos ~ Hot leached acorns have a texture that’s a lot like pinto beans, and using them as a taco filling will trick your friends.
Acorn Spätzle ~ An acorn version of a traditional German dish, spätzle is a type of pasta made from a very loose dough that’s cut/poured into boiling water to form noodles. The technique is a bit tricky, but spätzle is amazing…I can only imagine that acorns improve the flavor.
Acorn Wild Rice Patties ~ Made with mostly wild foraged ingredients, this looks like the perfect wild camping food.
Squirrel Pie (With Acorn Crust) ~ If you’re going to make a squirrel pie, acorn crust seems only fitting. Squirrel is delicious by the way. Don’t believe me? Here are more than 40 squirrel recipes to change your mind.
Refried Acorns ~ Hot-leached acorns actually reminded me of pinto beans in texture, and their taste is pretty neutral. Once the acorns are hot leached and dried, try mashing them with seasoning into refried acorns.
Acorn Mousse ~ Hot processed acorns could be blended into whipped egg whites and whipped cream, along with a bit of maple syrup, for a light acorn mousse.
Acorn Pudding ~ An old-style pudding made by simmering acorn flour with milk, maple, butter and spices.
Acorn Maple Shortbread ~ Nothing like a simple shortbread to make the choice of flour really shine.
Butternut Cookies (with Acorn Flour) ~ Butternuts are one of the special wild treats we have here in the northeast. A bit like walnuts, but without the tannin flavor, so more like pine nuts. Make wild cookies with butternuts and acorn flour for a real treat.
Acorn Brownies ~ Brownies are naturally heavy on eggs and low on gluten, so subbing in acorn flour isn’t that much of a stretch.
Acorn Cake ~ A simple acorn cake, this recipe is designed for either acorns or chestnuts.
Acorn Spice Cupcakes (Gluten-Free) ~ A mixture of acorn flour and gluten-free flour blend, these cupcakes are warmed with a bit of spice as well.
Acorn Maple Bundt Cake with Candied Acorns and Acorn Pudding ~The wondersmith is one of my favorite writers, and her name pretty much says it all. She makes wonder, and this spectacular acorn cake is just that. Described as a “Woodland Acorn Cake for an Elfin Queen,” this stunning cake is probably the most elaborate way to eat acorns that I’ve yet seen.
Acorn Tiramisu ~ Second only to the acorn cake above, this acorn tiramisu is served in a fancy Russian restaurant. Every part of the dish contains acorns, and it’s mostly gluten-free with the exception of small acorn cookies used to decorate the dish which have a small amount of white flour.
Acorn Ice Cream ~ I was originally planning on making acorn ice cream using hot processed acorns and substituting them for the chestnuts in this roasted chestnut ice cream. I realized though, that hot processed acorns don’t have nearly as much flavor as roasted acorns.
Instead, I used a recipe for coffee ice cream but infused the cream with roasted acorn coffee. I filtered the acorn grounds out for a better texture, but that’s not strictly necessary. It was amazing, like chocolate and coffee, but not quite either.
More Edible Acorn Resouces
Acorns in Archeology ~ A really complete list of archeological finds around the world where acorns have been discovered as part of the food supply. It also talks about why acorns are not found all that often compared to other foods, even though they were likely eaten in great abundance.
Oakmeal Acorn Products ~ The only place I’ve found where you can order acorn flour. Oakmeal is a small woman-owned company in Greece that produces acorn flour and acorn baked goods, with shipping available worldwide.
It Will Live Forever: Traditional Yosemite Indian Acorn Preparation ~ A book containing detailed descriptions of traditional acorn processing techniques.
Eating Acorns – Field Guide – Cookbook – Inspiration ~ A book written by the owner of Oakmeal, the only commercial acorn flour provider in the world. It has over 70 acorn recipes using whole acorns and acorn flour.
Acorns and Eat ‘Em: A Vegetarian Cookbook ~ While many acorn recipes are already vegetarian, this book is explicitly written from a vegetarian point of view.
Acorn Foraging: Everything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step Instructions ~ Written by the author or the site A Magical Childhood, this book contains 50+ acorn recipes that have all been thoroughly tested. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free and allergen-free in focus.
More Foraging Lists
Looking for more foraging guides? Keep on reading…
- Winter Foraging ~ 50+ Wild Foods in the Snow
- Spring Foraging ~ 20+ Early Spring Greens
- Edible Berries & Fruits ~ 50+ Edible Wild Fruits
Ashley, First I want to say that you have become my go to reference for all things homesteading & I want to thank you for your well written & knowledgeable posts. I don’t know how you have the time to be so thorough!
I thought you might enjoy a story about my first exposure to acorn gathering I had as an ESL Early Childhood teacher of a Korean student; on Thanksgiving his non-English speaking grandmother visited our school and on the playground squatted & began collecting acorns in her shoes then emptying them into a plastic bag she found blowing around. The other children were curious & began to help her without any words exchanged, & she left with several bags of acorns. Later I was invited to eat the product which turned out to be the Korean Acorn Jelly you posted about! It was delicious & what a great learning experience we all had!
Finally, I have a question regarding the giant (2″) Burr Oak we have here in Central Texas. I have heard that something about them makes them NOT a good acorn to consume. You mention ” the best acorns for eating are the largest acorns that you have readily available” so I wondered if you came across any mention of this variety in your research? Thanks again for the fantastic post!
Thank you Melinda for sharing that story, that’s amazing. From everything I’ve read, it sounded like the Korean process was somewhat industrial, but it’s refreshing to know that the knowledge to just gather acorns and make acorn jelly is still there. We pulled off a good bit of acorn starch more or less by accident as part of the decanting process for cold leaching, so it definitely can be done on a small scale.
To the best of my knowledge, every type of acorn is edible if properly leached. That said, I did a bit of research for you on Burr Oaks in particular. I found several sources by foragers I trust saying that Burr Oaks are some of the best acorns, with the best flavor and lowest tannins. That may be deceptive though, and here’s something specifically on Burr Oaks from Arthur Haines:
“Members of the white oak group (e.g., eastern white oak, burr oak, swamp white oak, mountain chestnut oak) have acorns that don’t taste that bitter (some species are even palatable raw). This leads people to believe they don’t need to be leached. Unfortunately, many white oak group acorns have nearly as much (some even have more!) tannins as members of the black oak group. For some reason, the tannins are concealed from our taste buds in the white oak group. Suffice to say, eating raw acorns amounts to eating anti-nutrition. The leaching process takes care of tannins (and phytic acid). For what it is worth, if you aren’t sprouting, soaking, or fermenting your grains, legumes, nuts, and seed-like fruits (e.g., amaranth, quinoa), your suffering the same loss of minerals with your store-purchased foods.”
I assume people told you they were inedible because they’re tricky like that. They taste like they could just be eaten, but they actually have tannins that should not be consumed without leaching.
Enjoy your Burr Oaks!
I want to copy and print every one of your blog posts! For, you know, the day there is no electricity. 🙂 Do you plan to publish a book, or books?
That’s so nice of you! I don’t (at this point) plan to publish a book, maybe years from now when my kids are older, but for now this is all I can manage. I do know there are many programs that will download the whole post into pdf form (simply install an ad blocker first so all the ads aren’t in the way taking up space). Just google how to download a web page as a pdf and you’ll get plenty of options for your specific computer configuration. Good luck, and so glad you’re enjoying the posts!
Thank you for this extensive review of a food source literally underfoot. I will look at the massive white oak in my driveway with even more appreciation and no longer just ignore the copious harvest of acorns that are crushed under car tires or underfoot each year. I feel like I just read a Ph.D dissertation on a topic lost to most modern humans.
I enjoyed reading this informative article until you had reached the information of Native Americans. I can understand how you would feel like acorn recipes didn’t originate from Tribes across America and I would agree. We cannot state where or how recipes came along yet we can definitely give credit where it’s due. There are many protected cultural sites in California that house Boulders with potholes on top of them; this is the effect of Pomo Tribes of California using these areas to grind acorns. This does in fact indicate that tribes were practicing this method long before settlers began their journey onto California soil. I do appreciate all the wonderful recipes and you giving credit to different styles or methods of prepping acorns. Look into Samuel A. Barrett, he did very extensive documentaries of Natives in California and some of his research covers California Tribes processes of acorn.
Have a great day and thank you again 🙂
I may have just not stated that very clearly. They were definitely processed in the Americas going back long before European contact, I just wish more information survived on traditional preparation methods before the inclusion of European ingredients. I will look into Samuel Barrett, thank you for that tip.
This is a great tutorial – thank you! I make acorn flour too – we love it added for a nutty flavour in pancakes. After shelling the acorns, I simply throw them in a blender with a lot of water and blitz them, change the water, and blend again – changing out the water three or four times until the tannins have been washed away. I don’t bother with the days-long leaching process for whole nuts because I have access to other nuts we prefer (like hazelnuts) that don’t need leaching.
May this find you and yours well and hale. Just stumbled onto your blog and WOW – it made my day!. Bravo, you have created a wonderful site and resources. I’ve only just begun to explore, but I already want to thank you for what and the way you share about acorns. Everyone I have met through acorns has been a blessing. Would love to say hi someday (spring is crazy busy – I know!) and compare notes. Meantime, thanks and blessings! Daniela
Hey Daniela! I came across the New England Acorn Cooperative when I was originally writing this article and I was so sad that I missed the get together at Dacres. Josh from Dacres is a friend of mine (or was, I haven’t seen him for 10 years now sadly) and I would have loved to make the trip down.
Just a heads up, it looks like your site is down right now, or was pirated since it’s redirecting to something not acorn related. Hopefully this reply reaches you though and I’d love to connect once all this global chaos is over.
Hi!, id like to congratulate you on your article, although extensive, I do find it quite strange that my name didn’t show up…, 8 years ago, after years of listening to people saying I was crazy thinking Acorn was actually good, I launched a recipe book exclusively dedicated to the subject, also I launched a Gin made of acorn…, created a tendency…, I’m quite a humble person, still…
Chef Pedro Mendes
I’m sorry, your name didn’t come up in my research otherwise it may have been included.
I searched for your book ‘The Renaissance of the Acorn’, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Is it an online book or a ‘real’ book? And where can I read/buy it?
Like to hear from you…
I am surprised. You didn’t. Mention the three ways Apaches cook with acorn, the make acorn stew,acorn and. Dumplings (my favorite) and acorn and mashed meat usually served with donkey bread. They even have a cultural story about changing woman teaching how to forage and eat acorn other than that totally love this article. I grew up eating acorn and now. I have some new things to try..
Thanks, Charlotte! I was limited to the recipes I could find to include in my post, otherwise, I would have included them!
Thank you so much for writing this article and doing all the research.
I have been processing acorns for flour for about 7 years and mainly made varieties of breads and cakes ..
Highly the NYT clementine cake recipe replacing almond flour with acorn flour 100% .
Also I’ve used the starch to make dotorimuk ,
And a mixed acorn flour and semolina for a very good pasta. Based that recipe on a Greek company selling acorn products currently.
I’m so glad to learn about so many more recipies to try!!!
Also… In case you’re interested. I have tanned deer skin with acorn tannins and made beautiful durable leather.
Ide be happy to share the process and pics.
That sounds awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. I am glad that you enjoyed the post.
HOLUP, if I can make an acorn beer, I can distill it too… ever tried acorn vodka?
Nope, haven’t tried it…but seems reasonable =)
He:yung(hello), I am actually a Hupa tribal member and a descendant of the Yurok tribe as well. In our native language the word for Hupa people literally translates to “acorn eaters.” Gathering and processing acorns has always been prepared the same way our ancestors have been for decades and plays a very large part in our cultural ceremonies to this day. Interesting article, thanks for the information 🙂
You’re very welcome. I am so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing with us about your heritage.
Would you be able to tell me if I could store acorns before I start the process of making the flour? I Spent some time looking for this information but was not able to find the answer to my question.
You can take the acorns out of the cup and lay them out in a single layer to dry. They are ready when they sound like they have a bean inside. You want to keep them dry and store them in the shell until you’re ready to process them.
Did the acorn cake and it turned out fenomenal.
That’s great. Thanks for sharing. We’re so glad you liked it.
Is there a PDF file, containing acorn recipes, that I can save to my bugout flash drive?
You can easily save any webpage as a PDF document. Just click the three dots at the top of the page and hit print. When the print screen pulls up under “Destination” select “Save as PDF” and then hit the save button.
What a comprehensive list 😮 Some of the links aren’t there, e.g. for acne dumplings.
The acne dumplings are under the heading for Russian acorn recipes. All of the recipes in that section were found under the Russian site listed at the top of that section. Here is that link for you. https://rodobogie.org/content/recepty-blyud-iz-plodov-duba-zheludey
Phenomenal! Thank you so much for this truly comprehensive article.
You’re very welcome.
Thank you so much for all the information and recipes about acorns. This autumn is a really good year for acorns in The Netherlands, so I decided to go for a little walk today. I do have two oak trees in my forest garden, but I tend to forage acorns from different places, so the squirrels, badgers and deers have enough food left over.
I can’t wait to start making some of you recipes.
You’re so welcome. We’re glad you enjoyed the post.
Inspired by your mention of an acorn drink being the forerunner to Cocoa, and having some acorn flour to-hand, I set out to develop a warm and satisfying drink that would mimic the enjoyment factor of Cocoa. I’m having some pleasing results so far, I’m happy to report. Obviously it’s not ‘cocoa’, it’s a drink of its own. I call it ‘Oakoa’, or in Irish ‘Dairchócó’. 🙂
My first attempt was using cold-leached flour, but I found that it was hard to work the powder and xylitol (my preferred sweetener) into a paste, which is my usual first step in making a hot powder-based drink. The powder was too starchy and happily made bubbles of unwetted flour that floated in the final drink even after heating.
Reasoning that the starch might be the problem, I tried again with hot-leached acorn flour, and threw in some hazelnut flour for a little extra flavour, and the results were much better. In fact, the nut powders were naturally so sweet that I had to reduce the amount of xylitol I used.
The resulting drink, when made with barista-grade oat milk, is a bit thick, warming, satisfying, and sweet. Oddly, more filling than cocoa. There is a downside however: all the oat solids settle instantly to the bottom of the mug. The flavours are not imparted by a suspension of powder like a modern commercial cocoa powder, but from the dissolved fraction of the cocoa powder. The rest remains as a starchy crunchy bit at the end of the mug (which is not at all unpleasant). I wonder whether it’s just a matter of getting a fine enough grind, which is probably nearly unattainable at home. Maybe a home-ground cocoa bean powder would yield similar solid residue?
I’m going to learn a bit more about the original drink and see what I can learn. I haven’t tried roasting it yet but I imagine that, if you get the roast just right, you could bring out something really nice.
Thanks for all the resources! I’m enjoying the adventure of putting acorns to use, I think it’ll become part of how we celebrate Autumn in years to come.
This is great! Thank you so much for sharing.
This is amazing information. Thank you for sharing!
You’re very welcome.