Can You Eat Acorns?

Most people are familiar with acorns as the little brown nuts that fall from oak trees, but did you know that you can actually eat them? 

That’s right, acorns are edible and have been a part of the human diet for centuries.

However, before you go out and start munching on acorns, there are a few things you should know. Keep reading to find out!

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Are acorns poisonous?

No, acorns are not poisonous. 

However, they do contain compounds called tannins, a group of bitter and astringent compounds that can bind to minerals and prevent them from being absorbed in the intestines (1, 2).

There are reports of severe diarrhea and kidney damage in animals that have ingested large quantities of raw acorns, but no studies have confirmed these effects in humans (1, 3).

Still, to be on the safe side most people choose to reduce the tannin content through leaching, a process that involves boiling or soaking acorns in water.

Can you eat acorns raw?

Yes, you can eat acorns raw, but they will be quite bitter due to the tannin content.

As long as they are consumed in small quantities, the tannins in raw acorns don’t pose a serious threat to your health. 

However, if you plan to include them as a regular part of your diet, it’s best to leach acorns before you eat them.

How to leach acorns

If you want to eat acorns, the first step (after shelling them) is to leach out the tannins. This can be accomplished via any of the following methods.

Hot leaching

The fastest way to remove tannins is hot leaching.

To do this, place shelled acorns in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer until the water turns dark brown.

Drain off the brown water, then refill the pot with fresh water and repeat the process until the water runs clear.

Keep in mind that this method can destroy nutrients and may mute the flavor of the acorns.

Cold leaching

If you don’t need to use your acorns right away, consider cold leaching. 

Simply place shelled acorns into a bowl or glass jar and cover them with cold water, then let them sit on a countertop or in the fridge. 

After 24 hours, the water will turn brown — that’s a sign that tannins are being leached out. Drain the brown water and refill with fresh water.

Repeat this process daily, until the water runs clear or the acorns have lost their bitter flavor.

How to cook acorns

Once the tannins have been leached out, you can prepare acorns like you would any other nut. They can be roasted, ground into flour, or pressed for oil.

How to roast acorns

Roasted acorns have a stronger, nuttier flavor and a hint of sweetness. They’re great for snacking and can also be ground to make acorn coffee.

To roast your own acorns, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place leached, shelled acorns in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
  3. Bake for at least 20 minutes or until the acorns become fragrant and start to turn brown. 
    1. If you plan on using the nuts for other purposes, like acorn coffee, roast for up to 1 hour or until they turn chocolate brown, but take care not to burn them!
  4. Remove the acorns from the oven and let them cool.
  5. Sprinkle the acorns with salt (optional) and enjoy!

How to make acorn flour

Acorn flour is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes.

To make your own, simply place roasted or raw (leached) acorns in a food processor or blender and process into a fine powder.

Acorn flour is tough to find online, but you may be able to find it from local artisan producers.

How to make acorn oil

It’s possible to make your own acorn oil at home, but you will need an oil press designed for nuts and seeds. 

The process is pretty simple — just leach and dry your acorns, then place them in the press and crank away! If you want a stronger, nuttier flavor, use roasted acorns. 

Another more convenient option is to purchase acorn oil here.

How to eat acorns

Whole acorns

Like other nuts, whole acorns make a great snack, especially when they’ve been roasted. You can use them in trail mixes or eat them with some fresh fruit.

They can also be chopped and added to salads and grain-based dishes for a crunchy texture, or used as a garnish on hearty soups and stews.

Acorn flour

You can use acorn flour as a replacement for regular flour in most recipes, but keep in mind that it may affect the texture of the final product.

For this reason, many people choose to use acorn flour alongside all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blends when making baked goods.

Here are some delicious recipes that use acorn flour:

Acorn oil

Acorn oil can be used in cooking just like any other oil. It has a similar flavor to olive oil and is great for stir-frying, sautéeing, and roasting, as well as drizzling over salads and side dishes.

Acorn coffee

You might be surprised to learn that acorns can be used to make “coffee.” It’s perfect for people who need a caffeine-free alternative and don’t like the taste of decaf coffee.

To make acorn coffee, simply stir 1-2 tablespoons of roasted acorn flour into a cup of hot water and let it brew for at least 5 minutes, then strain out the grounds and enjoy! 

Can you eat acorns if allergic to nuts?

Acorns are tree nuts, a common allergen. In fact, an estimated 1-3% of the global population has a nut allergy (x, x).

Being allergic to one type of tree nut doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be allergic to all tree nuts, but it’s definitely a possibility.

There have been reports of acorns causing anaphylaxis — a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction — in some people with tree nut allergies (x).

If you’re worried that you might be allergic to acorns, it’s best to avoid them or consult with a doctor before trying them. 

Final thoughts

Acorns are a nutritious, versatile food that has been enjoyed by humans for centuries.

Whether you’re looking for a new snack to munch on or want to experiment with acorn flour in your baking, they’re definitely worth a try! 

Just be sure to leach out the tannins before eating them and avoid them if you’re allergic to tree nuts.

Want to learn more about acorns?

Check out our in-depth post:

Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today.  Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.

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