They’re a key ingredient in many pesto recipes and they’re a versatile addition to a variety of other dishes as well. But can you freeze pine nuts if you need to store them long term? Or is there another way to extend their shelf life?
I like pine nuts in a flavorful pesto sauce, a crunchy salad, and even in baked goods. They just add an extra dimension to some foods. But they can also be expensive, so I hate to throw away leftovers if I don’t have to.
So what’s the best way to keep pine nuts long term? Can you freeze them without harming their taste or texture?
Yes, you can freeze pine nuts, and they’ll keep for several months in the freezer. But there are a few steps you’ll want to take to make sure they retain as much flavor as possible during that time.
I’ll walk you through how to prep your pine nuts before freezing them. And I’ll show you some other ways to store pine nuts so they stay fresh for longer.
What are pine nuts?
Have you ever had a favorite tune that you’ve sung along to for years, only to find out that the lyrics you thought you knew weren’t the actual ones in the song?
That’s kind of like pine nuts. Because they’re not technically nuts. In fact, they’re seeds from pine trees. Several species produce them. Among the most common are the Italian Stone Pine, the Colorado Pinyon, and the Mexican Pinyon. But growing and harvesting these nuts — uh, seeds — that are large enough to be edible can be challenging, which makes them pretty expensive.
Why? Well, it can take up to a decade for a pine tree to start producing edible pine nuts. And they don’t just fall off the trees. In order to get to them, harvesters need to extract them from inside pine cones. All that work translates to a higher cost for you, the consumer.
What do pine nuts taste like?
Despite coming from pine trees, these small, lightly-colored seeds don’t smell or taste piney. Instead, they have a mild nutty flavor with a buttery creaminess. That can add a subtle flavor depth to dishes, along with a satisfying textural crunch. They’re often toasted first to bring out the most flavor.
How can you use pine nuts?
One of the most widespread ways to use pine nuts is in pesto. When they’re blended, they can lend pesto a creaminess and savoriness. But pine nuts have a range of other uses, mostly because of the texture they can add.
They’re a popular crunchy addition to risotto, salads, and dips. They can provide some extra texture to a host of baked goods, from cookies to tarts. And they make a great complement to a range of pasta dishes beyond just pesto-based ones.
How to freeze pine nuts
So, now that we know a bit about pine nuts, how to use them, and why they’re so spendy, let’s take a look at how to make them last.
While pine nuts can keep for a long time, if you need to store them for an extended period, freezing them is your best option. Here’s how to do it:
Freezing pine nuts in bulk
This is the easiest method. Simply transfer the nuts from their original packaging to a freezer safe bag. Then remove any excess air, seal it, and label it with the date of freezing.
If you have a lot of pine nuts, you can portion them out and freeze them in separate bags. That way you can quickly grab the amount you need when you’re ready to use them.
Freezing them this way should make them last for about 6 months.
Freezing toasted pine nuts
To help make your pine nuts last even longer, toast them before freezing.
Step 1 – Remove the nuts from their original packaging.
Step 2 – Spread out the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Step 3 – Toast them at 350° Fahrenheit in the oven for about 5 minutes until they’re golden brown, being careful not to burn them.
Step 4 – Allow them to cool completely, then transfer them to a heavy-duty freezer bag or airtight container. This will help prevent freezer burn.
Step 5 – Label the container or bag and place in the freezer.
This freezing process can extend the shelf life of pine nuts to up to 12 months.
👉🏼 Related: Can You Freeze Almond Milk?
How to defrost pine nuts
One of the best things about freezing nuts is that you don’t really need to defrost them. You can usually just take them straight from the freezer and add them to your dish, whether that’s a salad, a pesto sauce, hummus, or something else.
But if you prefer to thaw them, it’s a simple process. You can either just transfer them from the freezer to the fridge and let them defrost over a few hours. Or you can place the bag with the nuts in a bowl of cold water and let them thaw.
⭐️ Tip: If you plan to use frozen pine nuts in a homemade pesto sauce, soak them in lukewarm water with a bit of salt and lemon juice for a couple of hours first. This will soften the nuts and make them easier to blend. As a result, that will make the pesto creamier and release more flavor from the nuts.
Other ways to store pine nuts
If you plan on eating your pine nuts within a few weeks or months of buying them, you don’t need to freeze them at all. That’s because they can last for that long by just storing them in the fridge.
Just wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then place in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They should keep for a couple of months. For peak freshness, eat them before the expiration date or best-by date on the packaging.
❌ Because pine nuts have a high oil content, they can quickly spoil and go rancid, so avoid keeping them in a pantry or cupboard and keep them refrigerated instead.
How do I know if pine nuts have spoiled?
A few key signs can let you know when pine nuts go bad, especially smell and taste. Fresh pine nuts are usually odorless, but when they start to spoil, they’ll give off a strong, unpleasant smell. They’ll also develop a bitter flavor. And in some cases, mold may begin to grow.
If you notice any of these signs of spoilage, it’s a good idea to simply discard the nuts.
Pine nuts can last a fairly long time depending on how they’re stored. In the fridge, they will last for up to 2 months if wrapped tightly in plastic and placed in an airtight container. They can last for 6-12 months in a tightly sealed bag in the freezer. Avoid storing them at room temperature as they can spoil quickly due to their high content of oil.
No, this isn’t necessary, but it can extend their shelf life for a few more months. And toasting the nuts beforehand can also help release more robust flavors from the nuts.
More food storage answers
Find out how to freeze other popular foods. Check out the posts below.