How to Prepare and Cook Acorns

A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing and Cooking with Acorns

August 29, 2019
Acorns in Hands
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Acorns are extremely nutritious and readily available in nature, making them a healthy addition to many recipes. Here’s how to prepare and cook acorns!

Why acorns? They are incredibly nutritious with healthy levels of carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Surprisingly, they are also a good source of Vitamins A and C.

Plus, they have a wonderful rich, nutty taste. Also, why not? It’s fun to forage and try making something adventurous.

Many Native Americans have a long history of consuming acorns. Plus, acorns have been a staple around the world for many cultures from Asians to Europeans to Africans.

Most folks use acorns to make a nutrient-rich, nutty-flavored flour. You can also eat acorn as roasted nuts (they are a lot like chestnuts). See more ideas below.

Where and When to Find Acorns

Acorns come from oak trees and can be found across North America. Oak trees are easily identifiable; they’re the ones with all the acorns that have fallen down around them!

They are typically “harvested” between September and November, when they fall from the trees and become easily accessible to deer, squirrels, and resourceful humans.

How to Collect Acorns

When gathering acorns, look for brown, fully mature acorns that still have their caps, as those without caps are more susceptible to infestation by worms and other critters.

Green acorns are not yet mature and shouldn’t be used.

Acorns

How to Wash Acorns

  1. Give 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 meat of the acorns yet.

How to Leach Acorns

Acorns contain bitter-tasting tannins, so you must prepare, treat and cook the nuts before you eat them. It sounds like a pain but it’s really not that difficult.

  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. 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. 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.
  2. 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.

It’s very important that the acorns dry to avoid rotting. Spread tannin-free acorns to dry on cookie sheets in a warm place. If it is hot out, lay the cookie sheets in the sun. Or, you could put them in an oven set to “warm.” You can also put the acorns in a dehydrator set on low heat.

Eating Roasted Acorns

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the acorns into a single layer on an ungreased, rimmed cookie sheet. Cook the nuts for about 60 minutes or until they turn a chocolate brown color. Remove the acorns from the oven and let them cool. Salt to taste.

How to Grind Acorns for Flour

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

You can also freeze your fresh acorn meal. Store dried flour in jars in the fridge. 

Acorn Recipe Ideas

  • Mix up cooked acorns with raisins or other dried fruit to make a trail mix.
  • Substitute acorns for chestnuts in baking recipes.
  • Use acorn flour in bread, cake, pancakes, and more! Try this acorn flour flatbread recipe (similar to tortilla).
  • Or, try this acorn flour honey cake tastes a little like gingerbread cake.
  • The flour also makes an excellent pasta dough when mixed with regular flour.
  • How about adding acorn flour to a pancake recipe for that nutty taste and nutrition?

Acorn Pancakes Recipe
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!

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Reader Comments

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Love this article!

When I was a kid I'd bring books home from the school library. I remember one in particular had all sorts of recipes for living off the land, using dandelions, violets, cattails, acorns, etc. Well, I had literally copies all those recipes by hand... wrote them out word for word, then returned the book to school. I still have those hand-written copies, and always wondered about trying some, but have been skiddish. After coming across this article, and reading the comments, I have decided I really do want to try this. And a huge thank you to all the commenters who gave advice and instruction... I'm printing those out too, for reference!

Awesome!

I processed Live Oak acorns, it was my first time processing acorns. I opted for the cold water method, after 5 to 6 days, they were ready to go. I dried the acorn pieces out in the oven at about 180 degrees. Then ground them up in my food processor. I made these acorn pancakes today, and they tasted amazing! The only thing I did, is I added the tsp. of honey, and then I added 2 tsp. of white granulated sugar. Great recipe! Thanks for sharing!

Acorns

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We’re glad to hear that the recipe worked well for you!

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?

Tannins in acorns

Yes, used to be used in and still work very well in tanning.

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!