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.
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 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 nut free macaron recipe, here’s mine.
Step by Step Guide to Making Nut Free Macarons at Home
Preparing the Workspace:
- Preheat the oven to 300° F (148° C). Ensure even heat distribution to avoid uneven baking.
- Outfit a large pastry bag with a plain tip and keep nearby.
- Align two sheet pans with parchment paper. If your oven tends to have intense bottom-level heating, double panning (stacking two sheets) is advised.
Creating the Macaron Mixture:
- In a food processor, combine the toasted pumpkin seeds, powdered sugar, malt powder, and cocoa.
- Blitz for a minute until finely ground.
- Sift the processed mixture. Retain any larger bits and re-process, followed by sifting again.
- Continue until all the mix is fine enough to pass through the sieve. Set the refined mixture aside.
- Using a stand mixer, combine egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean scrapings, and salt. Start on medium speed (4 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip for 3 minutes.
- Raise to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip for another 3 minutes.
- Switch to speed 8, whip for 3 minutes more, then blast at the highest speed for a final minute. This process ensures a superbly stiff and dry meringue.
- Add the dry ingredients to the meringue all at once.
- Fold using a rubber spatula until you achieve a smooth consistency reminiscent of cake batter.
Piping & Baking:
- Transfer the batter to your prepared piping bag.
- Pipe consistent dollops onto your parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Post-piping, firmly tap the baking sheet against the counter 2-3 times. This helps eliminate air bubbles and ensures a smooth macaron shell.
- Bake for roughly 18 minutes. A clean peel-off from the parchment indicates they’re done. Depending on your oven, this might require a touch more time.
- Always cool them entirely before attempting removal.
- Blend together the vanilla buttercream and barley malt syrup until smooth.
- Pair up macaron shells by size.
- Using about 1/2 tablespoon of the buttercream mixture, sandwich the filling between each pair.
- For the best flavor development – store the macarons in the refrigerator overnight before indulging.
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.