OK. You're allergic to tree nuts. Or all nuts. What nut‑like foods can you eat? Here are some possibilities:
- Sesame seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)
- Soy nuts
- Dry‑roasted edamame
- Corn nuts
- Roasted chickpeas
A warning: Everything on this list won't work for everyone. Be guided by your previous experience and your doc's advice. (I won't keep repeating this mantra in every paragraph, but you should.) All the listed seeds and "nuts" are good foods, but some are better than others — for some things. Unless you're a chickadee, you probably won't be eating sesame seeds or poppy seeds out of hand, let alone flax seeds or chia seeds — though I've caught Farwell licking poppy seeds off a roll on more than one occasion. Still, there's no denying that small seeds are at their best when they're part of something bigger. The executive summary: Put seeds in cooked dishes, sprinkle them on cereals and salads, or incorporate them into homemade snack bars or breadstuffs.
On the other hand — aha! — sunflower and pumpkin seeds can be eaten straight, and so can corn nuts. All three are time‑tested backcountry snacks, and they can also be added to main dishes and baked goods. Soy nuts and edamame might not be as familiar, though. Of course, soy nuts aren't really nuts at all. They're soybeans that have been baked and roasted. Sometimes they're salted, and sometimes they're coated with spices. And they score well in the protein and fiber departments. Edamame beans are soybeans that haven't grown up — think of them as soy "veal," if that helps. Since the dry‑roasted edamame beans I see on the shelves are actually larger than the neighboring soy nuts, however, the veal analogy isn't particularly apt. (Edamame is traditionally prepared by steaming or boiling immature soybeans in the pod, but the HyperMarts that I frequent stock only the dry‑roasted beans.) Anyway, both soy nuts and edamame make excellent snacks, and both can pinch‑hit for tree nuts in recipes.
A further word about corn nuts: These are large kernels of corn that have been roasted or deep‑fried, and they're usually heavily salted. They're a good source of food energy, if a little light on protein, and they have a pleasant taste when eaten out of hand. But think twice before biting down if your teeth aren't in perfect shape. Most corn nuts aren't much easier to chew than pebbles picked up from the bottom of a stream.
As you can see, the list of possible alternatives to "real" nuts is pretty long. But where can you harvest this bounty? In almost any HyperMart or food co‑op, that's where. You can also order in bulk online. If you do much cooking, however — or if you live with someone who does — you probably won't need to go shopping. I found five candidates right on my Test Kitchen shelves, along with a bag of my custom bonk‑buster mix. It contains pumpkin seeds (they're the greenish bits in the photo) and soy nuts, as well as dried cranberries. Take a look: