How to Peel Pine Nuts: 10 Steps (with Images)

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How to Peel Pine Nuts: 10 Steps (with Images)
How to Peel Pine Nuts: 10 Steps (with Images)

Once you've seen the work it takes to peel pine nuts, you'll be able to understand the price they often receive. As the name implies, pine nuts are the edible seeds of several species of pine that come in a pine cone surrounded by a hard shell. To peel them off, you need to remove the hard shell that surrounds them. Depending on the variety of pine nuts, this can be a bit of work, but it will be worth the effort.


Part 1 of 3: Getting Ready

Shell Pine Nuts Step 1
Shell Pine Nuts Step 1

Step 1. Gather the shelled pine nuts

If you purchased shelled pine nuts, skip this step. However, if you are looking to gather your own pine bark, then you should be aware that this is a time-consuming process that can take months. Here's what you need to do:

  • For gray pine nuts, you should collect them in September or October and keep them in a cool, dry place, such as a garage. The pine cones should still be tightly closed at this point.
  • Wait for the pine cones to open slowly, revealing the pine nuts.
  • Then beat the pine cones in a cloth bag until all the pine nuts fall out. Alternatively, you can pick them up by hand if you don't mind sticking with some tar resin.
  • Discard the winged part of the bark that connects it to the pine cones.
  • Remove all pinions with holes; this is a sign of insects.
Shell Pine Nuts Step 2
Shell Pine Nuts Step 2

Step 2. Identify the pine nuts species

It's important to know what kind of species you're dealing with. Pine nuts can have soft or hard shells, and pine nuts with a hard shell should not be broken with your teeth, or you could injure yourself. Here are the main types of pinion you need to know about:

  • The pine nuts of Pinhão, New Mexico. This is a buttered and hand-picked pine nuts. These are the most valuable pine nuts in the world, having a rigid shell that is too hard to break with your fingers or teeth.
  • The Italian Stone Pine Nuts. This pinion is popular in Europe and the Mediterranean. It is a long, rounded sprocket.
  • The Chilgoza pine nuts. These are pine nuts typically found in Afghanistan or Pakistan, being long and boat-shaped with a sharp edge. They are typically peeled when roasted over an open fire; this type of pinion is rarer.
  • The gray pine nuts. Typically found in Northern California, these pine nuts have a slightly soft shell.
  • The Nevada pine nuts. These pine nuts are sweeter, wider and easier to peel.
Shell Pine Nuts Step 3
Shell Pine Nuts Step 3

Step 3. Be sure to cool your pine nuts

Unshelled pine nuts have a long shelf life if kept refrigerated, so be sure to put them in the fridge if you're not planning on peeling them right away. However, when shelled, pine nuts can only last a few weeks or even just a few days without the fridge, so you should freeze them as soon as possible if you don't plan on eating them right away.

Many people like to put pine nuts in the freezer to provide an extra crunchy flavor and to make them last longer, while others claim that it takes away some of the rich nut flavor

Part 2 of 3: Peeling hard pine nuts

Shell Pine Nuts Step 4
Shell Pine Nuts Step 4

Step 1. Use a hammer on harder sprockets

If you are not concerned about the integrity of the pine cone and are working with a particularly difficult to open one, place the pine nuts on a solid surface and hit them with a hammer. Try to beat a little gently to break the shells without spraying the pine nuts. This method is likely to make a big mess or dent in the floor, so try placing them on a piece of cardboard or thick plastic bag. That way you won't cause any damage to the property as you try to break the most stubborn pine nuts.

  • This method is not suitable for the faint of heart and requires some power.
  • When you are done, you can remove the pine nuts from the bag and remove the extra shell.
Shell Pine Nuts Step 5
Shell Pine Nuts Step 5

Step 2. Peel using a can opener

That's right. If you place the pinion in the notched part of the opener, exactly where the handles meet, you can use the opener as a makeshift nutcracker. This can do some damage to the can opener and may take a while as you will need to peel one pinion at a time, but this method will give you the expected results.

When you have broken all the houses using a can opener, you can peel the remaining shells off with your hands

Shell Pine Nuts Step 6
Shell Pine Nuts Step 6

Step 3. Use a pinion stripping machine

If you want to invest in a pinion stripping machine, it can make your job much easier. Although you need to shell out some money, you can save money in the end if you plan on shelling them regularly. Shelled pine nuts are much cheaper than shelled pine nuts, saving you money in the end. Below is everything you need to do to use this machine:

  • Place similar sized sprockets inside the machine so they are set sideways. When finished with pine nuts that size, add pine nuts of a different size.
  • Wait until the pinions come out of the machine without the shells.
  • Remove any remaining husks and enjoy.

Part 3 of 3: Peeling soft pine nuts

Shell Pine Nuts Step 7
Shell Pine Nuts Step 7

Step 1. Use a roller to peel pine nuts

For softer pine nuts, you can simply place them in a large plastic bag, remove all the air, place them on a flat surface, and use a wooden roller to pass them forward and over the pine nuts. Keep doing this until you hear and see the shells breaking and revealing the pine nuts. This may take a while, and you can roll over small batches of pine nuts for best results.

After you have broken all the shells, simply remove the pine nuts from the plastic bags and remove the remaining shells with your fingers

Shell Pine Nuts Step 8
Shell Pine Nuts Step 8

Step 2. Use your mouth

While this is not the most recommended method, it will work for some if you are using soft-shelled seeds such as gray pine nuts. Just do what you would to break a sunflower seed husk: place the pinion at the back of your mouth and bite down a little gently until you hear the husk crackle. Then, remove the pinion from the shell and peel what is left over.

  • Be careful not to bite too hard if you want to keep your teeth healthy.
  • This method is one of the best for preserving the pinion's original shape, if that's important to you.
Shell Pine Nuts Step 9
Shell Pine Nuts Step 9

Step 3. Use your thumb and forefinger

If you have a soft sprocket, then you may be able to break it with just the force of your hands. Simply place the pinion between your thumb and forefinger and apply pressure on it until you hear and see a crack. Then use your hands to peel off the rest. This will be a repetitive movement and may take a while, but it may be better to use your hands than your teeth.

This can also take a while, as you'll be peeling each pinion individually

Shell Pine Nuts Step 10
Shell Pine Nuts Step 10

Step 4. Enjoy

After peeling the pine nuts, you can enjoy them raw or use them in a variety of recipes. They're tasty, quite rare, and add a rich, buttery bag to any meal. Here are some things you can do with them:

  • Enjoy them raw, as a snack.
  • Use them to make pesto for use in pasta or fish, or poultry dishes.
  • Toast them lightly in the oven and enjoy the crunchy taste.
  • Add them to any salad, from goat cheese and beet salads to salads with brie and orange slices.


  • Some pine nuts don't split right, so set them aside and move on to the next one.
  • It takes practice to get well, so be patient.
  • Shelled pine nuts are available, but they have a much shorter shelf life than shelled ones.
  • The flavor of freshly peeled pine nuts is much richer than that sold on the market.
  • It is very profitable to shell your own pine nuts and there are many ways to do this.


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