Search This Blog

Saturday, July 17, 2010

An Inexpensive Substitute for Pine Nuts

For decades we thoughtlessly tossed handfuls of fried pine nuts into salads and pestos, without giving a thought to price. True, a one-pound bag cost about $12 at Costco, but that bag lasted a long time.

That carefree attitude evaporated this year, when pine nuts disappeared from Costco's shelves for months, then reappeared with a shocking $30-a-bag price tag. Apparently, the usual suspects—supply and demand—are to blame. Crummy harvests combined with high summer demand sent prices skyrocketing.

Though we swallowed hard and bought a bag of Costco's $30 pine nuts, we now dole them out more carefully. We'll still use them in basil-based pestos, but the days of devil-may-care salad garnishing are over for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, there's a cheap substitute: roasted, salted sunflower seeds. The seeds work well in salads, just as crunchy and savory as their hideously expensive pine-based brethren. And a one-pound bag costs less than $3 at Trader Joe's.


  1. Great point! I love sunflower seeds and they have that great nuttiness.

  2. Thanks, a great substitute!

  3. We harvest pine nuts out West and it takes 48 cones +/- to make 1 lb of inshell pine nuts x 2.5 to make 1 lb of shell free pine nuts. So, about 120 pine cones and that is for Nevada pine nuts. New Mexico pine nuts are at least another 40% more cones. So, about 3,000 little seeds. I know they are very costly, but maybe it helps to understand the scope of the work. AND we are still fighting the State of Nevada and Fed agencies with massive deforestation projects out west.
    Penny Frazier

    1. Interesting about the economics of pine nuts but the bottom line is that they are still super expensive and when you are on a budget it's good to have a low cost substitute

  4. Thank you so much! I appreciate the work that goes into harvesting pine seeds, BUT fixed income gives me an appreciation of EVERY dollar that goes out of my wallet. Sunflower seeds it is!