How to Prepare and Cook Acorns

A step-by-step guide to preparing and cooking with acorns

Acorns in Hands
Pixabay

Acorns are extremely nutritious and readily available to most, making them a healthy and convenient addition to many recipes. Here’s how to prepare and cook acorns!

Where and When to Find Acorns

Acorns come from oak trees and can be found across North America. They are typically “harvested” between September and November, when they fall from the trees and become easily accessible to deer, squirrels, and resourceful humans.

When gathering acorns, look for brown, fully mature acorns that still have their caps, as those without are more susceptible to infestation by worms and other critters. Green acorns are not yet mature and shouldn’t be used.

Acorns

How to Prepare Acorns

  1. Start by giving your acorns a quick rinse in cool water. Place them in a pot or bowl and fill it with water, then remove and dispose of any floating acorns, as they have likely gone bad.
  2. Place the acorns in a colander and run them under the tap for a minute or two to dislodge any loose dirt or hitchhiking bugs. 
  3. Set the colander aside to let the acorns air-dry, or simply dry them by hand with a dish towel. 
  4. Remove the shells and caps from your acorns with a nutcracker (or a hammer, if necessary). Do not eat the raw acorns yet.
  5. Remove tannins from the raw acorns using the method below.

How to Remove Tannins from Acorns (Leaching)

Warning: All acorns contain bitter and irritating organic substances called tannins, which must be leached out before the nuts can be eaten. Tannins can cause nausea and constipation when consumed, but don’t worry—with a little patience and preparation, tannins are easily removed.

  1. Start two pots of water boiling. Drop the raw, shell-less acorns into one pot and boil until the water is the color of strong tea.
  2. Strain the nuts through a colander and drop the strained nuts into the second pot of boiling water. Discard the dark water from the first pot, then refill it and bring the water to a boil again.
  3. Repeat the process without interruption (do not let the acorns cool) until the water boils clear. This may take an hour or more, depending on the variety of acorn.
  4. Alternatively, you can soak the raw acorns in cold water to leach the tannins out. Change the water when it turns a darker color. This process may take several days, depending on how long it takes for all the tannins to leach out of the acorn meat.

How to Grind Acorns for Cooking

  1. Spread tannin-free acorns to dry on cookie sheets in a warm place. When partially dry, coarse grind a few acorns at a time in a blender.
  2. Spread the ground acorns to dry on cookie sheets, then grind again in a blender.
  3. Repeat until you are left with a flour- or cornmeal-like substance.

Acorn Pancakes Recipe

Once you have prepared your acorns, try them in this recipe adapted from Sharon Hendricks. Source: Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension

Ingredients: 

  • One egg
  • 1 tsp. salad oil
  • 1 tsp. honey or sugar
  • ½ cup leached and ground acorns
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup whole wheat or white flour
  • 2 tsp. double action baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup milk

Instructions:

Break egg into bowl and add all ingredients, beating to create a batter. If batter is too thick, thin with additional milk. Pour batter onto hot, greased griddle and cook slowly until brown. Flip to brown opposite side. Serve with butter and syrup or jam—and enjoy!

Have you ever made your own acorn flour? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

Reader Comments

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Acorns as a food source

I've processed acorns and made some really delicious bread with the flour. The taste is sweet, similar to a chestnut, and it is VERY filling. When processing acorns, patience is NOT optional if you want to eventually see,(and taste), the fruits of your labor. When it is all said and done you will find that was worth it. Also, the "Tannin Water" CAN be saved and used to tan leather, although it takes much longer to Oak-tan leather than to Brain-tan it. The "Tannin Water" can also be used for various medicinal needs as well. During the Winter, some early Native-American tribes would use acorns as a source of protien to supplement their diets when wild game was scarce, or exclusively when meat was non-existent. Of these tribes, many were able to meet their nutritional needs and make it through a hard winter with the help of acorns.

Acorns for human consumption

Acorns from the White Oak group of oaks are lower in tannins than those of the Red Oak group. Look for rounded- lobed leaves as opposed to spike-lobed leaves.

Acorn Pancakes

Over 40 years ago, my parents were collecting, grinding and de-tannin-ing acorns for flour. My mom would make muffins and pancakes that were nutty and delicious. Since my parents' passing, I have been meaning to collect acorns and prepare them. This article re-energized me to do so, now.

THANK YOU!!!

Tannin question

Cann the tannins extracted from the Acorns be used to tan leather?

Acorns Are Safe When Cooked

Acorns contain a lot of tannin which can cause severe stomach upset. According to Kansas State University, acorns do become safe to eat when they are roasted; the tannin content is reduced considerably by heating. (source: Reference.com)

Acorns

Well, the neighbors are gathering acorns for deer bait, and I was watching the squirls and other animals dance around the hords of large acorns. I thought, what is all the rage aboout? So I cracked and peeled a few while harvesting my own winter stash. I found the drier, larger acorns to have a bit of a sweet taste, but still some tannin. I gathered one bucket of shelled acorns to try these recipes, especialy the Acorn Candy and Flour. Thanks for the correction, I will try the no boil method.

These directions are incorrect

While it's great that The Old Farmers Almanac is promoting acorn consumption, the directions get it completely wrong.

Once you crack and remove the skins from the acorns you should puree them (assuming they're not dried yet--resoak if you dried them earlier or risk destroying your food processor).

Then you should cold leach the acorns: soaking the ground acorns in a large container, changing the water regularly over several days until the acorn flour is no longer bitter to taste (the water will never get clear but it will be very light in color at that point). Boiling the acorns cooks them, making them unsuitable as flour (though fine for adding to soups). Boiling also reduces their nutritional value and uses a lot of energy. If you do boil--you'll still need to grind first, and you'll need to boil multiple times to fully leach the tannins (so you'll need at least two pots of water boiling simultaneously).

Once leached, drain the flour and put it in the fridge and cook with it over the next week or two. You can cook muffins, pancakes, breads, etc. just remember to mix acorn flour with wheat flour for foods you want to rise: for example if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, use 1.5 cups of wheat and 0.5 cups of acorn flour--with that proportion you won't need to make any other changes to the recipe). At higher proportions you'll need to increase baking powder. Enjoy your acorns! And remember: if you find any acorn weevils, those are edible too!

Once the acorns have been

Once the acorns have been leached and roasted, allow them to air dry thoroughly. Then grind them and mix with honey, hickory nuts, a pinch of salt and spoon them by teaspoon onto a nonstick baking sheet and bake on low until set. Makes a great all natural candy.

The key is to rinse, rinse

The key is to rinse, rinse and rinse. Getting all that tannin out is the most important step.

Everett De Morier
543skills.com

We are going to try this

We are going to try this recipe over the weekend. Looks like we'll need to gather quite a few acorns for 7 people!