Nuts, Seeds, and Beans | Spices & Herbs


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Candlenut is an essential ingredient in some parts of South East Asia, used for its thickening and enriching qualities.


Other Names

  • Aleurites moluccanus (scientific name)
  • Kemiri (Indonesian)
  • Buah keras (Malay)
  • Lumbang (Philipines)
  • Kukui nut (Hawaiian)
  • Candleberry
  • Indian walnut

What is Candlenut?

Candlenut is a relative of Macadamia nuts. It has a hard furrowed shell and the nuts are yellow, waxy, and brittle, much like its Macadamia cousin.

It is named candlenut because it used to be used to make candles. The nuts have such a high oil content they simply burn like a candle. Hawaiians also used candlenuts for making torches, by filling the end of a bamboo pole with candlenut kernels, which were set alight.

What Does Candlenut Taste Like?

The candlenuts are not eaten raw because they contain saponins and phorbol. Both are toxic when ingested and can cause nausea, vomiting, and discomfort to the digestive system. They taste bland with a slightly bitter aftertaste when eaten raw, but the bitterness and toxicity wear off once roasted or cooked. The roasted nuts have a similar taste to macadamia nuts with a creamy and nutty, almost almond-like flavor, but milder. 

How to Choose

Candlenuts turn rancid easily because of their high oil content. You should choose nuts that are light beige or cream-colored, rather than brown. In addition, choose the ones with a firm texture with a nutty smell.


Use candlenuts as soon as possible after purchase as it turns rancid easily. I recommend buying in small quantities and keeping them refrigerated. Stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or in the freezer for up to a year.


The perfect substitute would be macadamia nuts because they have the same mildness and creaminess as candlenuts. Cashews can also be used. However, because they are very creamy, you will want to reduce the amount called for in the recipe.

How to Use Candlenut in Cooking

In Southeast Asia cuisine, especially when it comes to Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisines, candlenuts are often used in curries and stews. The high content of oil in them contributes to making the dish thicker, creamier, nuttier, and slightly oilier. 

They are not eaten raw because of their slight toxicity and laxative effect, as evidenced by their bitterness. You must cook candlenuts before consumption for at least 15 minutes at 250F/121ºC to neutralize the toxicity and remove bitterness.

When cooking with candlenuts, most recipes will advise toasting on the pan or roasting in the oven before they are crushed or roughly chopped and added to a dish. In most Asian cuisines, candlenuts are usually blended or pounded to be added to the seasoning paste, which will be then sauteed in oil until cooked. 

Recipes with Candlenut

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