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ISO a good place to buy pine nuts

It's pesto-making time and I need pine nuts. I saw them at Giant yesterday but they were $9.99 for a 4-oz container. Unbelievable!

Is there a good place to buy them, preferably in southern Chester County? Thanks!

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  1. Alternative approach .. consider using walnuts. I personally actually prefer it with walnuts.

    1. Yea that is a bit crazy, pine nuts are expensive but not that expensive. In the city Nuts to You has them for less than $20/lb but you may need to buy at least half a pound.

      Have you looked at the Whole Foods bulk secton? I've found that regular supermarkets are often more expensive than WF for items like this (not to mention have less turnover and are not as fresh). Trader Joe's will have a good price too but again I think they only sell by the half or full pound. Freshness is suspect at TJ's though. A nut/seed specialty store like Nuts to You is usually the best for price and freshness.

      2 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        I get them in the bulk section at Whole Foods, I don't recall the price but they have one important advantage over regular grocery store pine nuts: they are from Spain, not China. The flavor is much better.

        ETA: +1 for cwdonald's suggestion, any fatty nut will work in pesto, try some different nuts. Pistachios are nice too.

        1. re: Buckethead

          Or you can leave out the nuts altogether. More of a French pistou that way, still delicious. I like almonds as a substitute if I want the texture that nuts add.

      2. I use walnuts instead but if you're a Costco member (or know someone who is) they have them for a good price. Don't remember how much, but remember taking notice that they had them and they were reasonable (for pine nuts).

        1. Another +1 on the walnuts. That's what I've used for the past several years, and no one really knows the difference. Try a batch to see you you like it. I put my $ in good olive oil and cheese.

          1. Looked at TJ's the other day, they were selling half-pound packets for $8. The source was listed as Russia and a couple Asian countries (forget which) but not China.

            4 Replies
            1. re: barryg

              I"ve generally had good luck w/ the TJ's pine nuts.

              1. re: Bob Loblaw

                Wegmans has pine nuts for 4.99 for 4 ozs. Not sure of source. Definitely not a bargain.

                1. re: Bob Loblaw

                  Just be aware that the TJ's have been confirmed to include the variety which causes "pine mouth" in some people. A few chowhounders experienced it first hand from TJ's pine nuts.


                2. re: barryg

                  $16/lb for Asian pine nuts at TJ's vs. $21/lb (I think) for Spanish at Wholefoods is an easy call for me. ($21/lb, coincidentally, is about double the going retail price in Spain. Seems like a big markup.)
                  They come from different trees and the Mediterranean nut is higher in fat and has a nuttier and less pine-tar-like flavor. Might not matter too much in pesto but for sweets or when not used in combination with other strong flavors it makes a big difference, I think.

                3. They are expensive. For me, it's worth the extra cost for Mediterranean pine nuts as you run the risk of getting "pine mouth" (an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth that can last 2-4 weeks and affects everything you taste; much information available online) from nuts from China or Russia.
                  I've had "pine mouth," and it's very unpleasant--esp. since I didn't know what it was at the time, if it would go away, or how long it would last--a CH's nightmare!
                  My advice is to be aggressive in determining the source of yopur pine nuts. At my local WF stores, pine nuts are sold in unmarked bulk bins, and noone seemed to know here they came from. I finally got a manager to check--and they were from China. (And still cost a fortune.)
                  I now buy them online ($17.99/half-pound for Med. nuts at NutsOnline), keep them in the freezer, and use them sparingly!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    Wow -- I've never heard of "pine mouth." I bought pine nuts at TJ's but haven't yet made pesto. I'll have to check to see where they're from.

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      Here is a short summary about a recent pine mouth study. It doesn't identify a cause, but it studied cases of pine mouth in Europe in the US. No where in the study does it link it with origin of the pine nuts. In short.... they are suggesting the risk is the same with European and non European sourced pine nuts. There was a hint of a genetic reason but no conclusive proof.


                      1. re: cwdonald

                        If you aren't sure of the source, I have heard that you can tell the difference by the shape. The Asian pine nuts are more triangular, the European ones are rounded.

                        1. re: Philly Ray

                          Ray .. that may be true.. but my point was actually there has not been any link between source of nut and pine mouth syndrome. There are plenty of other reasons to prefer one over the other, (taste, fat content, jingoism etc.) but avoiding pine mouth has yet to be proven.

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            I am no scientist. In fact, when I had "pine mouth," I had no idea what was going on. I only "realized" that that's what I had after the fact, by reading a lot about this strange it and realizing I'd eaten pine nuts (from China) just prior. I know that's bad science, and I know it's quite possible that something else caused it. And obviously lots of people have no problems eating Chinese pine nuts (as I never had). But I've read of so many people experiencing the same strange symptom and linking it to Chinese or Russian pine nuts that I make sure not to buy those anymore. The sensation was so damned unpleasant that I'll err on the side of caution!

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              There is actually a warning on the back of the Trader Joe's pine nut packet about this condition. FWIW they are sourced from Russia and Asian.

                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                I got it a few years ago from WF pine nuts. Chinese.

                                Not fun.

                              2. re: cwdonald

                                cwdonald, this article suggests otherwise and links the reports of pine mouth to very specific asian varietals:


                      2. although not in your geographic area --The Head Nut at the corner of Wynnewood and Haverford roads in Wynnewood/Havertown is a family-owned spice/nut/candy/coffee/tea wonderland. They have pine nuts (from Europe i think, they are round) for $7.99 a half pound. I have just used them and they are superb. my only problem with the Head Nut is that I inevitably buy sour patch kids, coffee, spices and dried fruit --when I came in for pine nuts. It's worth a field trip. (I think they also do on-line/mail orders) and they have another store in Swarthmore (i think)

                        1. Pinenuts are expensive to process. There is no getting around a high price. Expect to pay 13-20$ a pound depending on where you shop.

                          Pine carries a distinc flavor so blending them with other things is good. My personal favorite is to blend them with walnut and tamari roasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds salt the pesto for you and there is nothing left to do but integrate the oil and basil oh yeah!

                          1. Maybe Edwards Freeman in Norristown? I see they have them on their web site for $21.99 a pound, but doesn't say where they are from.

                            1. It's pesto making time here too! $7.99 for a 3 oz. container at Wegmans in Downingtown. I never knew they were that expensive either until last week.

                              1. You can always get pine nuts from a Korean grocer since some Korean recipes require the use of the nuts.

                                However, to get to the bottom of the issues (price, country of origin, taste...) I bought 4 different packages of pine nuts from stores I frequent:

                                Sample 1. Assi (Korean supermarket) - 6 oz for $12.99 (unit price: $0.81 per oz)
                                Sample 2. Whole Food - "365" brand 8 oz for $9.99 (unit price: $1.25 per oz)
                                Sample 3. Whole Food - "Turkish" variety 4 oz. for 7.99 (unit price: $1.87 per oz)
                                Sample 4. Trader Joe - 8 oz for $7.99 (unit price: $1.00 per oz)

                                Next came the visual exam and tasting test:

                                Sample 1 - good sized kernels, no nutritional info (re-packaged from bulk purchase?), product of USA, somewhat bitterish aftertaste
                                Sample 2 - kernels very similar to those from Sample 1, has nutritional info, product of China, processed and packed in Canada, clean nutty taste
                                Sample 3 - beautiful larger kernels, the only sample with no broken ones in the container, has nutritional info (less fat and it tastes like it), certified organic, product of Turkey, yielded to chewing and not nutty at all
                                Sample 4 - smaller kernels, has nutritional info, product of Korea, Russia and Vietnam, roasted in USA, clean nutty taste

                                Based on 3 random samplings (10 nuts per sampling) from each bag/package, here are my conclusions:
                                - Since it's for eating pleasure, I'd buy either Trader Joe "Dry Toasted Pignolias" or Whole Food "365" pine nuts
                                - The combination of nuts grown in Asia but processed in North America appears to be the best
                                - Nutritional info is for the birds. The numbers do not add up or am I wrong to expect the weight of a serving = weight of (fat + carbohydrates + protein)? Not a single one does.

                                7 Replies
                                  1. re: borntolovefood

                                    "The numbers do not add up or am I wrong to expect the weight of a serving = weight of (fat + carbohydrates + protein)? Not a single one does."

                                    You are indeed wrong to expect that. Amongst other things you're forgetting that moisture content (water) and fiber makes up a significant percentage of the weight of most foods.

                                    1. re: NuMystic

                                      You are right, NuMystic. I forgot the water portion. It's a pleasure to be corrected. Many thanks. Fiber is usually included as part of the carbohydrate content. According to an online source, water content in pine nuts amounts to about 5%.

                                      Two things to report on pine nuts:

                                      1) It makes great risotto, substituting rice. Had such a dish (risotto of pine nuts and mushroom) last night at Studio Kitchen (http://www.studiokitchen.com). The best risotto I have ever had, beating even the risotto cooked with tomato water previously served by Shola during another of his pop-up (and I thought that was great already).

                                      2) Evaluted another brand of pine nuts - Italian nuts sold by Pinoli (they have a nice page about pine nuts at http://www.pinoli.co.nz/about-pine-nuts). Beautiful kernels, pleasant mouth feel with no biiter after-taste, nuttiness ranks better than the Turkish variety tested above. Very expensive but available in small quantities (50 g = less than 2 ounces, photo below).

                                      1. re: borntolovefood

                                        That pine nut risotto sounds incredible. How large was the serving? Even with the cheaper asian varieties replacing rice with pine nuts is quite a feat of decadence.

                                        Speaking of which, the Pinoli brand nuts sound fantastic… and they'd better be at $55 a pound.

                                        1. re: NuMystic

                                          Hello, NuMystic.

                                          I have been mulling over your comment about "a feat of decadence". And I agree, it's pretty fancy.

                                          But comparing the cost of Whole Food or Trader Joe pine nuts with the cost of other ingredients used in Shola's food preparations, the use of pine nuts as "rice" was not out of line. When it comes to food sourcing, he only uses the very best in quality. The serving size was not big because typically he serves at least 6 courses per meal

                                          People do come from out of town jsut to eat at his dinners. It would be nice if perhaps one day you visit Philadelphia to experience what Shola can do?

                                          1. re: borntolovefood

                                            I was envisioning the heaping mounds of risotto common to many italian restaurants. The serving size being small as part of a 6 course meal certainly makes it far more understandable.

                                            Alas, The City of Brotherly Love is not one I get to or plan on visiting anytime in the near future, but if I do find myself down that way I'll certainly keep Shola in mind.