How to Make Acorn Cake and Acorn Recipes | Hank Shaw (2024)

Home | Foraging | Acorn Cake and Acorns Around the World

4.60 from 15 votes

By Hank Shaw

January 03, 2010 | Updated May 19, 2020


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How to Make Acorn Cake and Acorn Recipes | Hank Shaw (2)

One of the first questions I had as I began researching acorns years ago was what do other groups do with them? The literature is dominated by roughly hewn recipes from either various American Indian groupsor hippies. Neither, quite frankly, are recipes I am overly jazzed about.

Oaks live all over the world, from Asia to North Africa to Europe to North America. And where there are acorns, people have eaten them. They have their own methods, too.

Turns out the acorn-eatingest people in the world right now are the Koreans. If you go to a good Asian market, there is a good chance you will find acorn flour and acorn noodles, which look just like soba noodles. From what I can tell the noodles are eaten in the same way soba noodles are; and yes, they also appear to a lesser extent in Japanese cuisine.

Any Korean food experts out there? My question is whether acorn flour and noodles are considered low-class or poor people’s food. Because that is their stigmaeverywhere else in the world, best I can tell.

This is interesting. A certain set of scholars think that sometime around 10,000 years ago, humans — who ate acorns with aplomb at the time — grew in population to the point where they were overeating them and threatening the oaks. Great big oaks that gave sweet acorns would be in demand and might even be fought over, as the Indians did in parts of California.

How to Make Acorn Cake and Acorn Recipes | Hank Shaw (3)

So with too few acorns and a burgeoning population, the scholars theorize that the people looked to wild grains as a secondary source of vital carbohydrates. And carbs are key to a hunter-gathering society; remember the Forager’s Dilemma?

Turned out these wild grains — emmer wheat, spelt, barley and rye — domesticate easily, are annuals so can be planted anywhere if your tribal group moves around, and give easily collectible seed that is lighter than a big ole’ bag of acorns, which havea pretty long lag time from acorn to acorn-bearing oak. And good luck moving a giant oak when invaders arrive, but you can flee with some barley seed and plant again next spring.

Acorns, which are, for the most part, bitter and need to be water-leached at least once or twice to be palatable, fell by the wayside. Acorns also lack gluten, which is vital in making bread items stick together. Wheat, barley and rye all have at least a little gluten.So acorns, and in Europe chestnuts, which havea similar consistency, fell to the status of emergency or famine foods. A fixation with whitened wheat flour furthered this. Black bread was for peasants, and acorn cooks up dark. It’s the sugars in them.

Consequently, you need to search far and wide for acorn recipes in European circles. North African Berbers do use them, however. I corresponded with Paula Wolfert, who wrote the great Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, which is the sine qua non of Moroccan cookbooks. Wolfert told me that Berbers will sometimes make couscous from acorn flour. Fascinating. I have heard that Italians will make acorn flour pasta, too. I developed my own recipe for acorn flour pasta here.

Another source on Moroccan food tells me they alsoroast and salt acorns and serve them like roasted chestnuts. Linda Berzok, who wrote American Indian Food, says that the Indians around Tuscon, Arizona, sell roasted acorns from the Emory Oak, which are so sweet they don’t need leaching. An expert on Mexican food says in Chihuahua they do the same thing; makes sense, as the Emory Oak lives there, too.

How to Make Acorn Cake and Acorn Recipes | Hank Shaw (4)

Back in Europe, acorns from the cork oak are pretty sweet, and those that the famed jamon iberico pigs eat, the bellotas, reputedly need no leaching.Janet from The Old Foodie sent me a recipe for acorn bread from an English book written in 1802 that is a little like the acorn flatbreads I made last week, although with no wheat flour. These English acorn cakes are more like acorn meal hamburger patties cooked in embers.

In Europe, the thread running through most acorn and chestnut cookery is that they are fillers when wheat flour is scarce. Considering the reverence many groups have for wheat it’s pretty easy to see why anything they need to fill out a bread recipe would be seen as an adulteration, not an enhancement.

There is one European food that uses acorns that isn’t stigmatized: It’s an acorncake. The Italians make a chestnut flour cake called castagnaccio, but it contains no leaveners. I imagine it’s like a hockey puck. So I Frenchified it and added beaten egg whites, baking powder and baking soda. I baked it in little ramekins and topped it with powdered sugar.

How to Make Acorn Cake and Acorn Recipes | Hank Shaw (5)

Now I am not a cake maker. The cake itself was really crumbly — too crumbly for my taste. But the taste of the cake was amazing! It was a dead ringer for a gingerbread cake, only there was no gingerbread spices in it at all! I was shocked. All that’s in it is acorn flour, eggs, honey, olive oil, sugar and a pinch of salt. How did it get to be like gingerbread? Must be the acorns.

4.60 from 15 votes

Acorn or Chestnut Flour Cake

I found a version of a chestnut cake like this in an old Gourmet magazine, and this acorn cake recipe is a riff off that. These are lovely done in a 9-inch springform pan, but are equally good in buttered ramekins. Be sure to use a small circle of parchment paper on the bottom of the ramekin, and butter both sides. This will help you get the little cakes out easier. Oh, and don’t forget they rise, so don’t fill them too high.

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Course: Dessert

Cuisine: French

Servings: 4 people

Author: Hank Shaw

Prep Time: 20 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes minutes


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup acorn or chestnut flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour or all-purpose wheat flour
  • ¼ cup toasted and chopped pine nuts (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 separated eggs
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  • Butter for greasing pans


  • Grease the springform pan or ramekins. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • Mix the acorn flour, wheat flour, baking soda and powder and salt in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in another large bowl, beat the egg yolks, oil, honey and 2 tablespoons of sugar together until it looks like caramel. Mix in the dry ingredients.

  • In another bowl, add the egg whites and just a pinch of salt and beat into soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and beat a bit more, so the whites are reaching the firm peak stage.

  • Fold this into the dough a little at a time gently.Pour, or really gently place, the dough into the ramekins (remember they will rise!) or the springform pan. Using a rubber spatula flatten out the top and place in the oven as fast as you can.

  • Bake for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, watch for burning, as acorn flour browns faster than chestnut flour. Remove from the oven, let rest 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

  • When they have cooled for a good 15-20 minutes or so, dust with the confectioner’s sugar.


Calories: 686kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 123mg | Sodium: 340mg | Potassium: 184mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 54g | Vitamin A: 195IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

Categorized as:
Foraging, How-To (DIY stuff), Italian, Recipe

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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How to Make Acorn Cake and Acorn Recipes | Hank Shaw (2024)


How do you make acorn meal? ›

If you have some acorns with worm-eaten bits, you can cut off the bad part if you want to and toss the good part into the bucket of water. Once your acorns are all shucked, put enough of them to fill a blender or food processor (use a food processor if your blender isn't too strong) up about 1/3 of the way.

How do you make acorns taste good? ›

To prepare palatable acorns, crack them out of their shell and break any large pieces into “pea-sized” chunks. Then soak these acorn chunks in cold, warm, or even hot water to remove the bitter and irritating tannic acid. Note that some books instruct us to boil acorns, but this locks in some of the bitterness.

What food can you make with acorns? ›

Acorns can be ground to make flour for bread, pancakes, pastries, cookies and even pasta. If you plan to do this, it's best to leach with cold water to preserve the starch and help the dough hold together better. If you're going to keep your acorns whole, or at least chunky, you can leach them with boiling water.

How long do you have to boil acorns to make them edible? ›

You'll want to leach your acorns to draw out the tannins. Bring two large stockpots to a boil. Pour the acorns into one pot and let it boil until the water turns dark, usually about 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the acorns to the second pot of boiling water and boil the nuts for about 15 minutes.

Which acorns taste the best? ›

White Oak—the undisputed king. Low tannic acid levels, high fat and carb levels, and generally very sweet compared to others. We, too, can eat these fruits once the tannic acid is removed. Folks make acorn flour, so if you are gluten free, give it a whirl.

What happens when you boil acorns? ›

But tannins can be removed from acorns. When boiling or soaking the acorns, the water will turn brown from the tannic acid. This brown water should be thrown out and replaced, and then the acorns must be boiled or soaked again. This process should be repeated until the water no longer turns brown.

Is it OK to eat acorns? ›

Like hazelnuts and walnuts, acorns are an edible, nutritious food for human consumption. You can forage, leach, and prepare acorns for a simple snack or make an acorn meal for baking.

Can you eat boiled acorns? ›

I have boiled acorns multiple times until they were edible, but honestly not very good. You could also get a food mill (or borrow one) and use it to make flour. Don't forget to place them in water.

What alcohol is made from acorns? ›

Bolota, which is also known as aguarrás de bolota, is a strong alcoholic beverage made by fermenting and distilling the juice of acorns.

How many acorns does it take to make a cup of flour? ›

For those who think it would take many trees to produce enough flour for even a small batch of pancakes, it surprisingly doesn't take many acorns at all. It takes about 3 cups of acorn meat to yield 1 cup of flour. Once the acorns have been shelled, place them in a blender and add water to cover.

How many acorns do I need to make flour? ›

I found that two pounds of acorns yields three cups of flour. Always collect more acorns than you think you'll need because some of them will turn out to be rotten when you open them up.

How did Indians make acorn flour? ›

To do this, the acorns were dried for one year, shelled, winnowed to remove a thin inner shell, pounded into flour, sifted repeatedly through finely-woven baskets, leached by rinsing in water, then cooked into a mush like grits.

Can you eat acorn meal? ›

Acorns can be used in a variety of ways. They can be eaten whole, ground up into acorn meal or flour, or made into mush to have their oil extracted. Once you've safely leached the tannins from your raw acorns, you can roast them for 15 to 20 minutes and sprinkle them with salt for a snack.

How did Native Americans prepare acorns for eating? ›

To do this, the acorns were dried for one year, shelled, winnowed to remove a thin inner shell, pounded into flour, sifted repeatedly through finely-woven baskets, leached by rinsing in water, then cooked into a mush like grits.

What can I do with a bunch of acorns? ›

What to Do With Acorns in Your Yard
  1. Use them for arts and crafts and holiday decorations.
  2. Use them to grow an oak tree.
  3. Use them in animal feeders.
  4. Donate them to zoos and wildlife preserves.
Jun 14, 2023

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