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.
Here are a few recipes you may enjoy:
Soft Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
I have heard of acorn coffee. I am thinking about making some when the oak trees make acorns. Have you ever made acorn coffee before? If so, how did you do it?
I am not a coffee drinker, so I haven’t really looked into it, sorry! I imagine all you would need to do is heat up some water really hot and then add the acorn powder/flour to it.
thank-you for the lesson. i hear that boiling acorns take the healthy qualities out of them.but, i can’t wait to process and eat my first batch. and also make flour for pancakes with some fruit.
Awesome, yeah, I prefer the soaking method like I showed, even though it takes longer, it really is the way to go if you want to make acorn flour.
Thank you for sharing this information. I was raised in the swamps and have known about some wild foods but the acorn flour is new to me. I gathered a few in my yard and am going to try making a small batch of flour. I’m sure my squirrels won’t miss them since we have so many oaks in both the neighborhood and nature areas. (I read the banter from two years ago ) Thanks again.
You are very welcome!! Let me know how it goes, and luck you were able to get some before the squirrels got them all. 🙂
Great step by step. I only wish I read this before boiling with the shells on. 🙁 I discarded that batch and tossed back out under the trees to decompose. I have a new batch from white oak and small black oak. I read in a different article about making grits to mix with oat meal.
I love to forage in my forest. and sharing with the animals.
Keep up with the great work.
Thank you, Penni! So glad you found the article. 🙂 Let me know how it turns out, yes the grits mixed with oatmeal will be amazing. I have an acorn bread and acorn blueberry muffin recipe on here as well you can try if you like.
Hi, thanks for posting the video. Is it ok to use acorns that I picked up last fall. They’re approximately 4 months old and have been stored in my garage. I put them out for the squirrels, but I’d like to try some acorn flour.
Thank you, Dawn
You are very welcome, Dawn! Yes, if you picked them 4 months ago and they have been stored in your garage they should be fine to use. Crack open a few and see what the nut looks like on the inside. Typically you can store acorns 4 to 5 months sometimes, depending on the storing condition.
How long can raw Acons be stored before Can’t use them?
Hi Scott! Store them in a ziplock bag or airtight containers in a pantry or other cool place. They should last for 3 to 4 months before going bad. 🙂
Thanks for the post, never even thought about it before.
I started small with about a cup. Made some pancakes and they were really good. When I went to grind them up they were still a tad wet so I added in some wheat berries to dry them the rest of the way. The half wheat half acorn mix worked really well.
Hired my 5 year old to gather up another bucket and on to trying some bread next.
That is awesome, Mark! Way to get your 5 year old involved! haha 🙂
Nice post and some interesting comments. I work around a lot of Acorn trees and there’s aplenty for everyone , the deer and squirrels eat a lot of them but there is always enough to take some for us humans as well. As long as we are not greedy and redpect nature it provides so much food. I have only had them made into a coffee substitute but will try some flour at some point. Again a great informative article thanks.
Thank you, Stephen!! Yes, there is more than enough for the animals, even with the animals so many of the acorns spoil. At the church where I get mine, there aren’t any squirrels, so they definitely all get wasted on the ground. Definitely make acorn flour some time, you can make acorn bread, either with yeast, or acorn blueberry muffins, acorn pancakes, etc. I have a few recipes using the acorn flour here on my blog. 🙂
Good information but unfortunately, as the human race always tends to do, because of people teaching and learning how to eat foods they’d never think of eating including acorns, we have countries like South Korea where they’ve had to hire acorn rangers to help stop the citizens from taking all the acorns from the squirrels.
Squirrels BTW need a minimum of 100 acorns each to make it through the winter.
Add to the taking of food meant for wild animals, researchers in South Korea estimate there will be no acorns left in South Korea in 50 years thanks to human foragers.
Lastly.. Foraging for food was great at one time when it was done by only a few but now with so much attention directed at it, aka, numerous books and cookbooks and TV shows on foraging, we humans are putting those food sources in danger of disappearing for good.
Isn’t it amazing how human beings have always been so good at doing that.
I am sorry, but Human beings are more important than squirrels. I know that may sound harsh, but if it is a choice between a human being surviving and their family because that is what they can find and the squirrels, human beings all day long. Plus plenty of human beings eat the squirrels. But with that said, they are many many parts of the world that have a huge squirrel problem. They are pests and eat fruit and nuts from fruit trees meant and grown for humans. Plus, in most parts of the world, people aren’t foraging for acorns, like they use to many many many years ago. Also, the acorns I gather, ARE NOT meant for the squirrels, they are white oak treats that are for urban landscapes, and are grown in places like Arizona because of their drought tolerance. Also, knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two different things. I value learning and teaching and information. What you do with that information is your choice.
So basically Mr. Taylor, you’re in favour of human beings ridding the planet of nuts and seeds because human beings are more important in your eyes. How nice to know you believe human beings are the superior beings when in reality, they are the exact opposite. The I could care less attitude of many human beings causing the extinction of so many species throughout the centuries is proof of that.
Sorry Mr. Taylor but when there’s no seeds and nuts left to naturally re- grow or plant due to over foraging and no plants, nuts, seeds and berries left for wild animals to consume due to the greed of human foragers like yourself, human beings will have succeeded, as it has always been predicted, in starving themselves and the earths wild life, to death.
You obviously didn’t read my comment very well. I said if it is a choice between the two scenarios. So you think a family should starve and die if foraging and eating acorns nuts and other seeds would have saved them? I am sorry you have such a bleak outlook on the human race. I stand by my statement. If it is a choice between human beings and squirrels, I will choose human beings ALL DAY LONG. 🙂 I won’t argue any further with you. Move on. And last point, you are accusing me of being a greedy human forager, you don’t know anything. I pick up the acorns in my church parking lot, in an Urban setting, not out in the wild. But if I was in the wild, and was starving, you better believe I would forage as many acorns as I could to survive.