What? You can eat acorns! No way.
Yes! You can eat acorns. In this tutorial, I will show you how to process acorns and make acorn flour. You’ll learn how to prepare acorns to eat. Acorns are a very abundant food source but it seems few people know that they can be eaten. I have talked to several people who had no idea acorns could be eaten. Acorns have been eaten for thousands of years and are a good source of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and other healthy minerals.
However, you can’t just eat them right off the tree, acorns need to be processed first. Acorns contain tannins which make them very bitter and potentially toxic to humans. The tannins need to first be leached out of the Acorns then they can be eaten. Red Oak acorns contain the highest level of tannins. It can be tedious to process them but very satisfying. The acorn flour that is created can be used in muffins, pancakes, bread, and more. It is straightforward to do, if I can do it, you can do it. Let’s get started!
Want to learn more about the acorn? Check out this Wikipedia article.
What is an Acorn?
Before I get ahead of myself maybe you are wondering what an acorn is? An acorn is a nut that grows on an Oak tree. There is a whole variety of oak trees and the nuts that grow on them are acorns. Some of the popular oak varieties are Red Oak, Live Oak, White Oak, and Willow Oak.
Step 1: What you will need
There are a few methods that you can use to process acorns. I will cover only one of the methods in-depth and briefly discuss another method. To process acorns to eat you will need the following:
- Acorns (White Oak, Live Oak, Red Oak, etc.)
- Large Bowls
- Nutcracker or meat tenderizer
- Sheet pan (lined with a silicone mat, parchment paper, etc.)
- Wooden spoon
- Airtight container for storage (Tupperware, mason jar, etc.)
- Patience – seriously you will need a lot of patience, but it will be worth it.
Step 2: Gather the Acorns
First, you will need to gather up some acorns. I found these Live Oak acorns about a mile from my house. They were from live oak trees in my church parking lot actually, lol. Depending on the variety of oak tree your acorns will probably look different. Some common varieties found here in the States are Red Oak, Live Oak, and White Oak. Live Oaks grow very well here in the Phoenix Valley, they are drought tolerant and withstand the heat. They are very common in the urban areas of Phoenix and Tucson. Once you have the acorns gathered up, search through them and throw away any acorns that have the shells split. Also, throw out any that have tiny holes (from Weevils). If you shake the acorn and the nut moves around, it is bad, throw it out as well.
I guess you might need to battle your local squirrel population as well if you want some acorns. Squirrels LOVE acorns.
Step 3: Wash and Dry Acorns
Once we have only good acorns left we need to wash them with clean water. Pour some water into the bowl with the nuts and move them around with your hands. Make sure to remove any clumps of dirt that may be stuck to them. Then pour out the water and dump them onto a few sheets of paper towel. Dry the shells off with the paper towel. Next, place the acorns on a sheet pan and set them out in the sun for several hours, out of the reach of the squirrels!
Step 4: Crack the acorn shells
Now comes the fun but tedious part. I do this while on the couch in front of the TV. If I am going to watch TV anyways I mind as well prep acorns. Crack your acorn shells with a meat tenderizer, pliers, or use a nutcracker. Dig out the acorn nut and place it in a bowl of cold water. You can use various little tools like a knife, etc. to help dig out the nuts. Also, make sure to remove any little parts of the inside of the shell that may be stuck to the acorn nut. Those little bits contain lots of tannins. Remove any floating shell scraps from the water once you are done. Now let the acorns soak in the cold water for 12 hours. I typically do this in the evening and let them soak overnight.
Step 5: Soak and drain acorn water until clear
Now after 12 hours or so, the water will be really dark from the leached tannins. Dump out that water slowly, so you don’t dump out any of your nuts. Then replace the water with fresh cold water. Now let it soak again for 12 hours, and keep repeating the process for 4 to 7 days until the water looks clear after a long soak.
Step 6: Drain and taste the acorns then roast them
Now drain the water and give the acorns a taste. If they are bland and not bitter, they are ready to go.
Place the acorn nuts on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Then place them in the oven at warm temperature (around 160 to 175 F.) Put a wooden spoon in the door so it can’t shut all the way. We don’t want the damp acorns to make it humid inside of the oven, so we need to release that moisture.
After 45 minutes, check the acorns, they will probably still be damp. Move them around a bit with the spoon, then place back in the oven, repeat the process until the acorn nuts are nice and dry. It usually takes 3 hours or so. Alternatively, you can probably use a dehydrator as well to dry out the nuts. Once dry they are ready to be eaten. You can season them with salt and eat as is, or make acorn flour.
Step 7: How to make acorn flour and how to store it
Place those nuts in a food processor or coffee grinder and grind them up until it makes a nice fine powder/flour. Place the acorn flour in an airtight container like Tupperware or a mason jar and store in a dark cool place. There you go, you have acorn flour which you can add to pancakes, muffins, bread, etc. 🙂
It is way fun going through the process, although it does take a while, something very satisfying about the whole process. 🙂
Alternative ways on how to process acorns
There are a few more ways to process acorns. Another common way is to use boiling water. After you have de-shelled your acorns heat a pot of water until it boils, add in your acorns and wait as the water turns dark. In the meantime heat another pot of water to boil. Dump out the dark water from pot 1, then add the nuts to pot 2. While the boiling water is leaching out the tannins from the nuts, heat new water in pot 1 again, etc. Do this back and forth until the water is clean. This whole process only takes around 1 hour to 2 hours. Which saves several days. However, I have heard that the boiled method doesn’t produce as good of acorn flour.
What can I do with acorn flour?
There are a variety of recipes that you can make once you have acorn flour. One of my favorite recipes is this Acorn Bread recipe. You can make muffins, pancakes, and many others.
Watch this video on how to process acorns for food
If you are more of a visual learner after reviewing the above steps watch this video tutorial.
If you wind up making acorn flour tag me on Instagram @inthekitchenwithmatt. Also, sign up for the newsletter so you won’t miss out on any of my new posts and recipes.