Macarons: Not As Nutty As You Thought

Culinary purists consider the very idea of a nut free macaron heresy. If almond flour defines a macaron, its absence defies it. Stella Parks begs to disagree.
By Stella Parks – Photo By Stephen Weber

Culinary purists consider the very idea of a nut free macaron heresy. If almond flour defines a macaron, its absence defies it. Those without a nut allergy can afford such strict definitions. But as someone employed in the hospitality industry, I consider shrugging my shoulders and walking away from that problem a mighty inhospitable solution.

The hundreds of millions of people with tree nut and peanut allergies have suffered long enough. Into their dark world, bereft of Nutella, peanut butter, and even the humble pecan pie, I say, “Let there be macarons!”

I don’t care what the Food Police think about a nut free macaron. If it has a smooth, shiny dome, lacy feet, an eggshell crust, a crisp yet chewy interior, and a luscious filling, no lack of almond flour can prevent this confection from wearing its rightful macaron crown.

A trio of nut free macarons
Malted Pumpkin Seed Macarons with Malted Vanilla Buttercream

A quick Google search will turn up all sorts of nut-free macaron recipes, most based on coconut, peanut, or sesame. All make splendid macarons but all also carry their own allergenic risks. Peanuts and sesame seeds are two of the world’s most allergenic foods; sesame allergies in particular have risen dramatically in recent years (more info here). Coconut, though not a proper tree nut, has its own problems as well. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network advises those with a tree-nut allergy to always talk with a doctor before including coconut in their diet.

So while peanut, coconut, and sesame might make great options for those who know their specific allergies, they don’t provide a one-size-fits-all macaron fix. Pumpkin seeds, however, offer an elegant solution.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, pumpkin seed allergies are rare (read summery of one study here). As they have no botanical relationship to nuts of any kind, they make a safe and reliable substitute. Presuming, of course, the pumpkin seeds don’t hail from a plant that also processes tree nuts or sesame.

Pumpkin seeds can replace almonds or almond flour in any macaron recipe, always in a one-to-one ratio. If the recipe calls for almond flour, make your own pumpkin seed flour by grinding the seeds in a food processor until fine.

If you don’t already have a go-to macaron recipe, here’s mine.



4.5 from 2 reviews
Nut Free Macarons
 
Prep Time
Cook Time
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A nut free macaron recipe
Author:
Recipe Type: Cookie
Serves: About 35 sandwich cookies
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces (115g) toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar
  • ¾ ounce (21g) malt powder
  • ¼ ounce (7 g) cocoa powder
  • 5 ounces egg whites (144g)
  • 2½ ounces (72g) sugar
  • the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ tsp (2g) salt
Filling
  • 8 ounces (230g) of your favorite vanilla buttercream
  • 1 ounce (28g) barley malt syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F (148° C).
  2. Fit a large pastry bag with a plain tip, set aside.
  3. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside as well. (If your oven has a particularly strong bottom-level heating element, consider double panning.)
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the pumpkin seeds, powdered sugar, malt powder and cocoa for one minute.
  5. Sift this mixture, reserving whatever bits don’t pass through.
  6. Repeat processing and sifting until all of the mixture passes through a sieve, then set aside.
  7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean and salt. Turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip for 3 minutes.
  8. Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes.
  9. Increase the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes.
  10. Whip for a final minute on the highest speed. At the end of this minute you should have an exceedingly stiff, dry meringue.
  11. Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula; mix until a cake batter-esque consistency is achieved.
  12. Transfer the batter to a piping bag and pipe onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
  13. After piping the macarons, rap the sheet pan firmly against the counter two or three times.
  14. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the macarons away from the parchment paper. This may take longer than 18 minutes depending on your oven.
  15. Cool thoroughly before removing them from the parchment.
  16. Whip the buttercream and barley malt syrup together and use as a filling for the cookies; sandwiching approximately ½ Tablespoon buttercream between every cookie pair.
  17. Store the macarons, refrigerated, overnight before consuming.


Stella Parks

Stella Parks is the pastry girl at Table 310 in the heart of bourbon country: Lexington, Kentucky. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and went on to attend school in Tokyo, part of an elaborate scheme to better understand Japanese cuisine. When not actually making food, she writes about it on her blog BraveTart, and here on Honest Cooking.

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31 Comments
  1. I love that you took matters into your own hands and created this Macaron recipe. While I don’t have a nut allergy I can really appreciate it. Cooking is all about finding and experimenting and if the food police doesn’t like that then tough :) Lovely photos too.

  2. I really want to give this a shot there is just one thing I am wondering. Will the pumpkin seeds flavor be too powerful and give the macaron a whole new taste? I am guessing there is now way around that. But a pumping spice cream cheese filling with macaron shells made from pumpkin seeds sounds amazing! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Thank you for the recipe. I was given a book of macaron recipes by a relative who did not realize that the entire book was full of almonds (of which I am deathly allergic) However I have always wanted to try macarons so I’m glad that I’ll be able to make them now.
    My little sister is badly allergic also so she’ll be happy.

  4. This is a good idea, however with a serious nut allergy people would need to scoop pumpkin seeds out of a pumpkin themselves, I’m yet to find pre packaged pumpkin seeds from a nut free environment.

  5. I love u. I love macaroons. My youngest child has a peanut allergy life threatening. I hate the word nut in the home. .I am sooooooo making this recipe. If my child can’t have something, he says can u make it mum? And I will. By hook or by crook. Salute u. And salute the healthy heart food pumpkin seed! Mwah

  6. I only wonder if i need to butter the parchment paper cause I tried without any seeds for the first time or any nuts, used wax paper… the worst to do in my life T.T wasted hours of hard work especially when you do the egg white beating by hand >w<

  7. So pleased that you have taken the time to find a nut free recipe :D

    My daughter who is 3 1/2 has recently been diagnosed which severe nut allergies & she really wants to make some Macaron chicks

  8. Symptoms of peanut allergy are related to the action of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and other anaphylatoxins, which act to release histamine and other mediator substances from mast cells (degranulation). In addition to other effects, histamine induces vasodilation of arterioles and constriction of bronchioles in the lungs, also known as bronchospasm (constriction of the airways).*^,*

    Best wishes
    <http://www.wellnessdigest.co/

  9. Hi. Both of my neices have nut allergies and they bith would love to try a pink macaron. I learned the traditional method in a baking class I took but i really want to try this recipie for my nieces. Can you explain why the malt powder and cocoa powder are used? Is it a flavor issue? Or does it contribute to the structure or texture? Also is malt powder readily available or do I need to find a specialty store? Is it ok to add food coloring (since the girls want pink) to thos recipie? Thanks in advance!

  10. Tried making this recipe as my son too has a nut allergy. First of all I was able to find pumpkin seeds at the grocery store. It’s the David brand roasted and salted. With that I just rinse the seeds really well and roasted them again. Followed the rest of the recipe but unfortunately the macarons fell flat. In other recipes I have read you have to let them sit for at least 15 minutes to an hour, preferably longer so that they develope an outer shell. I didn’t see that anywhere in these instructions so I am wondering if that is why they were flat. I’m not going to give up on this recipe but ideas would be helpful of what I may be doing wrong.

  11. Great recipe! I am planning on using this for my daughter’s school’s bake sale (which is strictly nut-free)!

    What I would like to inquire is that different variations on this recipe (such as lemon nut-free macaron, strawberry, rose…??) would be great!!

    Reply soon,
    Catherine

  12. Pumpkin seeds are my go to nut. Hemp hearts are my sub for nut flavour in cookies. I have made a cranberry / pumpkin seed biscotti that everybody loved and didn’t believe they weren’t nuts.

    I never ever thought of making them into a flour though. Thank you so much

  13. I’m very anxious to try this recipe, but am having a very difficult time locating malt powder. Which type of malt powder is called for, diastetic or non-diastetic?

  14. Looked promising except my girl is allergic to seeds as well as nuts, including coconut. Oh, well….no macaroons on our menu

  15. Hello, thank you for sharing your nut free/allergen free recipe. if I wanted to colour the meringue, when would I do that? Thanks again! Kathleen

  16. The only problem I’m seeing is that it’s labeled gluten free when it’s not actually gluten free. Malt is made from barley which has gluten. So close for me to be able to eat, but no cigar. I have nut allergies and celiac. :( Do you have any recommendations for something to use instead of malt powder?

  17. Hi, I don’t have any malt powder and can’t find it in stores. Could I replace it with powdered sugar or cocoa or more seeds or leave it out completely?

  18. Ok so this macaron recipe is almost exactly what I am looking for. I say almost because of the malt. So my daughter is not only allergic to tree nuts she also has celiac disease. This means she is unable to process gluten. Malt has gluten. So is there a substitute for malt or can it be omitted and then add slightly more pumpkin seeds ? I just thought these would be a nice surprise for Christmas for her since there r so few desserts she can eat. Any help would be appreciated. She is pregnant so I want to do something nice, but not taking any chances. I really don’t need a trip to the er.
    Thanks

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