30 Jul2008

Peeling Pili Nuts

by Marketman


The OTOP (One Town, One Product) Fair was recently held at SM Megamall, and as usual, they had delicacies from all over Luzon… I found some pili nuts for sale at PHP150 for a half kilo package so I bought some, hoping to experiment with my own pili nut brittle. Pili nuts are one of those uniquely pinoy kind of ingredients, and we often eat them in candied or sweetened form… but frankly, I think it is a product which we just haven’t leveraged enough, whether because of technology, marketing, perishability, etc. My grandfather hails from town outside Legaspi, and my dad was a huge fan of pili, so I feel I have a kinship to this nut and wish it would get the attention it deserves. I have written about fresh pili before, and did a post on poached or cooked fresh pili which is a Bicolano delicacy. I was particularly thrilled to write this post, on some FRESH pili nuts eaten seconds after it was plucked from a tree… and they were stunningly good. And finally, I did a post on pili nut delicacies, or perhpas should have been renamed as 50 ways to sell pili with some form of sugar mixed in…


At any rate, my half kilo of nuts wallowed in the dark pantry for a week or two before I remembered to cook them. Let me set you straight on what these are. The pili nut has a dark skin or peel (when ripe) and that is removed. Then it has a hairy pulp, which is eaten if cooked in a special way. Once the skin and pulp are removed, you are left with a hard outer shell which houses the nut. But before you actually get to the creamy nut, as in these specimens, there is a thin “skin” around the “nut” in the same way that peanuts have that skin around them. So now, how the heck do I remove these skins? Turns out it is really simple. Just blanch the nuts in boiling water for a minute or two then let them cool until you can easily peel off the skins… Now I had some peeled pili nuts to experiment with… P.S. Pili nuts go rancid quickly, so DON’T let them sit around for long. In fact, if you stare closely at the top photo, there are a few mold spores visible. Those nuts were dumped and the rest of them were, thankfully, still okay.



  1. Cumin says:

    My favourite is pili that is simply roasted with their thin brown skin. Some friends recommend using roasted pili as a substitute for imported pine nuts.

    Jul 30, 2008 | 9:57 am


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  3. sister says:

    Blanch pili and them dump them into cold water. Slide off peel. Mom used to make a pili nut pound cake:
    1 lb. unsalted butter (Star margarine in her time)
    3 1/4 c. white sugar
    8 large eggs room temp.
    2 tsp. each vanilla and almond extract
    4c. unsifted cake flour or 3 3/4c. all purpose
    1 tsp. baking pwder
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 c. evaporated milk or cream

    1/2 kilo blanched and peeled pili nuts
    1/2 c. sugar for topping

    Line 2 9×2″ round pans with parchment or grease and flour. Sift together flour, bp, and salt.
    Beat butter and sugar 5 min. until fluffy. Add eggs one by one, and vanilla and almond extracts, beat well.
    Now add the flour mixture and the milk.
    Beat on low speed only 2 min. Scrape down sides and beat another min only.
    Divide into the 2 pans and level off.
    Now arrange the pili in concentric circles around the top of the cake. You can divide the each nut in half if you don’t have enough to go around. Sprinkle top with additional sugar.
    Bake in a preheated 300. F oven on middle rack for 40-45 minutes until golden brown. Cool. It will have a nice caramelized nut crust.

    Jul 30, 2008 | 10:26 am

  4. A scientist in the kitchen says:

    There is a Pili Drive in Los Baños (from UPLB campus to IRRI) that is lined with pili trees. We used to pick up the nuts when we go walking over there and crush and eat them there and then.

    Jul 30, 2008 | 11:07 am

  5. Apicio says:

    Or you can bake a pecan pie or individual tarts and substitute lightly toasted pili nuts but I assure you it’s going to be even richer (read more of a laxative) than when using pecans. A lot less sweeter or richer but no less toothsome are the tarts that Poujauran makes with crème pâtissière base substituting chopped pili nuts for the pine nuts topping required. Finely chopped pili nuts bound with yemma is what passed for marzipan at home, as far as I can recall.

    Jul 30, 2008 | 11:36 am

  6. Beng says:

    A Scientist in the Kitchen: Hi Gay! Kami rin! Ang sarap mag-reminisce. Haha! But we dont eat the pili nuts right there. We take ’em home and use martilyo to open up the nuts. Mas marami pa nadudurog kesa sa makakain but its fun (sometimes use the wooden door to crack open the nuts until our lola found out…).

    Hi Sister (ni MM?), thanks loads for the recipe. I still got some pili nuts in my freezer so I will try your mom’s recipe sooon!

    Jul 30, 2008 | 11:42 am

  7. Marketman says:

    ARRRGHH! I used the nuts in a basic brittle… then now all these brilliant suggestions. Shucks! Will have to get more nuts soon…

    Jul 30, 2008 | 12:20 pm

  8. Sam says:

    …and then try the pili nut pesto. Follow the basic pesto recipe (which I’m sure you have lurking somewhere in this site :). When I tried it,I reduced the qty. of the basil, because of the pili nut’s assertive flavor. I blanched the nuts,dried it on a pan over low heat to draw out the flavor, and took it out before the nuts started browning. I also suggest using regular olive oil (extra virgin variety would clutter the flavors) to highlight the pili nut flavor (but in a pinch, canola or other plain vegetable oil would work, but please do not rat me out to your Italian friends ;’ Cool before grinding to prevent the basil from scorching. Now go find some more of those nuts!! Enjoy!!

    Jul 30, 2008 | 3:12 pm

  9. Lex says:

    One of my greatest childhood memories is mazapan de pili which used to be made by some relatives in Iloilo. It was wrapped in “ostias” like covering similar to the ones used for the turrones de casuy from Bulacan. This mazapan was sweetened just right and reminded me of the Spanish turrones imperial but with the unique richness of pili nuts.

    Jul 30, 2008 | 4:43 pm

  10. Katrina says:

    My favorite way to eat pili is in a pie, like Apicio suggests. My sister, who makes a good one, gets her pili from Market, Market. Thanks for the pound cake recipe, Sister! I’ll ask my own sister to try making it. :-)

    Jul 30, 2008 | 5:03 pm

  11. lee says:

    ARRRGHH! I used the nuts in a basic brittle…

    That’s why they are called nuts.. they drive you…

    Jul 30, 2008 | 5:26 pm

  12. kurzhaar says:

    I’m not sure if this will work with this nut but I make a tart crust of ground nutmeats, sugar, and butter (the original recipe called for equal weights of each but can be adjusted depending on the nut’s oil content). I usually use almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts…and have been meaning to try pistachios. Blind bake in a tart tin until just palely colored and then let cool. Fill with appropriate filling…I have used anything from stewed rhubarb to fresh blueberries to a bittersweet chocolate ganache.

    Jul 31, 2008 | 2:04 am

  13. Quillene says:

    How come pili nuts are so underrated in this country??? It must be the price range…

    Jul 31, 2008 | 6:57 am

  14. dee says:

    I love love love candied pili in my yogurt every morning. If I dont have granola, pili does it for me :)

    Jul 31, 2008 | 8:19 am

  15. zena says:

    I have used pili in place of walnuts in food for the gods. It was very moist just a tad too oily. Should’ve used less.I love mazapan di pili. They make it more like a nutty bar than a paste.

    Jul 31, 2008 | 10:15 am

  16. sonia says:

    I am from Bicol and would like to inform you that you were able to buy your fresh pili nuts at its current price here. During Christmas season, a kilo would cost you Php400+. Here in Camarines Norte, in addition to the usual tarts and candies (made of pili&condensed milk) we have two other ways of preparing pili that is unique to our province: PILI ROLL and PAN DE CILLOS. The first is, obviously, just your plain roll with sweetened pili as filling and although made of very plain ingredients, it is as yummy as could be. The second is cookie-like in texture and was first made by my husband’s grandmother, Juana Basa (who was from Indang, Cavite), years back and was modified many times over by locals here to suit their palate and budget. It is commercially available here and is always a “pasalubong” hit.

    Jul 31, 2008 | 10:45 am

  17. sonia says:

    Would you believe that the outer covering of the pili shell, yes, the thick black part OUTSIDE the shell, is also eaten here (in my husband’s hometown of Vinzons, Camarines Norte) as an appetizer of sorts. They call it TAMPUYAK. The whole nut is cleaned then blanched after which, they separate the fleshy part that covers the shell. And though I have seen many locals eat this paste-like delicacy with gusto, I was (still AM) never able to eat it.

    Jul 31, 2008 | 10:55 am

  18. MarketFan says:

    It would be nice if you can get a whole nut and show everybody the different layers. I grew up in Bicol myself and people are always fascinated when I describe the “original” pili. They often think its just the brown, paper-like covering before the edible portion which comes with it. As Beng mentioned, the challenge is to crack the hard shell without breaking the nut inside into two.

    Jul 31, 2008 | 12:43 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    Marketfan, follow the imbedded links in the post, particularly to the FRESH pili nuts and you will see the whole nut, other links give you the hairy pulp, etc. sonia, cool… I wouldn’t have known the outermost peel is also eaten! zena, pili is one of the oiliest nuts on the planet! :) quillene, I think it is the price, but also that it spoils so quickly. Frankly, I think it is one of our food assets that hasn’t been capitalized on enough… kurzhaar, pili may be a bit too oily for a nut crust but it may be worth a try anyway… Sam, pili nut pesto… that is inspired!

    Jul 31, 2008 | 12:51 pm

  20. joey says:

    Love fresh pili ever since we tried it in Bicol…although my dad was always a fan and was the one who taught me how to make pili nut pesto (posted about this too)…yummy! I have actually make the pesto without peeling (because I was lazy) to no ill effects, the pesto was just a bit “nuttier” :)

    Jul 31, 2008 | 2:51 pm

  21. kurzhaar says:

    Marketman, if pili nut is as oily as I gather it is, has anyone looked into either fresh or roasted pili nut oil? I have a variety of oils for salads and to finish off a dish, and they can add a unique (though usually fairly subtle) touch. My latest additions to my kitchen are 2 kinds of mustard seed oil and tea seed oil…relatively “old hat” now are walnut oil and of course sesame oil.

    Jul 31, 2008 | 8:23 pm

  22. rose says:

    the pulp,should i say the fibrous covering or the pili nut sehll is also eaten…. after blanching the pili and separating that fleshy part from the shell. it can be eaten together with fried fish with matching patis as sawsawan…in the article where i read that.. it was suggested to use bicol patis which has a pinkish color…. i wasnt able to get bicol patis.. but i tried eating the pulp with fried fish and rice.. yummy!

    Jul 31, 2008 | 9:57 pm

  23. thelma says:

    gosh, i would love to try cooking the fleshy part of the pili nut. could this be cooked in coconut milk? otherwise, how is it cooked?

    i am going to manila this coming december. i hope that there will be pili nuts still for sale during that month.

    Aug 2, 2008 | 1:40 am

  24. alice says:

    let me go through the whole thing: the outermost part is colored black or black violet, and is what is peeled when the pili nut is placed in warm (but not lukewarm), almost hot water. this can be used as dye.
    after the peel is the pulp, which most bicolanos love but yes, it is an acquired taste. once acquired though, you will look for it. however, it is only eaten in that state as viand (dipped in fish sauce), or as dessert which is the tampuyak referred to by sonia. no one has ever tried cooking that in coco milk.
    pili oil can be extracted from the pulp, and it has a unique aroma, you can use it as salad dressing or make it into mayonnaise. it has medicinal properties too.
    after the pulp comes the hard shell. once cracked, you see the kernel with the brown covering, the testa (the first picture). if fresh, this is difficult to remove. blanched, it’s very easy to peel off.
    the last, of course, is the kernel, which is the second picture. it is processed in so many ways.
    the reasons why the Philippines hasn’t gone so much into export for pili are: there is insufficient supply; research still has to be done to lessen the oil yet not sacrifice the flavor; right packaging.
    j. emmanuel in camarines sur, though, is already exporting pili in various product lines. they’re good, contact DA, DTI, or DOST bicol for their contact info.
    someone in albay came up with chewy pili, which is the kernel still with testa baked in layers like croissant. it tastes like food for the gods and is delicious. it’s unique to them, no one else is doing it. contact DTI for the info.

    Aug 18, 2008 | 12:56 pm

  25. erika pereña says:

    well, for your information..my mom made that croissant- like concoction, mentioned by ms. alice(chewy pili caramel, otherwise known as wrapsody. for more details, you can contact my mom with this no.09166430696..or e-mail her at: cindyspecialties@yahoo.com. that particular product was cited for trendy award on the last IFEX 2008, at SMX Convention Center. what my mom is actually making are all non- traditional pili products, as of now, we have five products; chili garlic pili, pili puffs, hopia de pili and mini baked mazapan. you should try it. it’s all yummy:)

    Aug 30, 2008 | 7:20 pm

  26. erika pereña says:

    by the way, our other customers tell us that it’s a local rendition of the Mediterranean baklava(or even better).

    Aug 30, 2008 | 7:24 pm

  27. Mrs Ergül says:

    my hubby got me a packet of SunDry’s caramel coated Pili nuts and I love it. Everytime someone heads to Philippines, I’ll surely beg them to buy some more back for me!

    Oct 28, 2008 | 9:58 am

  28. eugene eustaquio says:

    Does anyone know if Pili stay fresher if boiled? How about roasted? I live in California and want to know how I could get a hold of some without having the nuts go rancid. Thanks!

    Nov 21, 2008 | 3:29 am

  29. edelyn asejo bonto says:


    pilinut (i mean the kernel) can last for months if it is sun dried however the probem here is that when u boil it to remove the black coating of the kernel to finally cook it into something you well end up having problem with the oil it produce.

    Dec 23, 2008 | 2:57 pm

  30. Nik says:

    How do you store raw, shucked pili nuts? (nuts with just the thin, brown skin left)

    Jan 9, 2009 | 9:29 am

  31. Bok says:

    Does anyone know where to buy delicious pili pie here in Manila? I’m craving for one after I have eaten mazapan de pili just a few weeks ago.

    Thanks! :)

    Jan 31, 2009 | 4:26 pm

  32. liza says:

    good morning, can anyone give me the recipe of moledo? i am from bulusan, sorsogon and presently residing here in novaliches, caloocan city and i really wanted to perfect this pili delicacy since this is my favorite.

    Feb 16, 2009 | 8:26 am

  33. jun says:

    Am not really a Bicolano but my wife and I are fond of eating fresh pili dipped in fish sauce and calamansi. We found out that after the skin softens after blanching it with hot water, you can actually eat the skin too. It gives a different taste and eating adventure. Most of our Bicolano friends says it should not be eaten that way. Checking on the skin, it was found nutritious just like eating apples with skin on it.

    Can anyone comment on this please. \Thanks.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 11:10 am

  34. rovel alvarez says:

    just asked my office mate who was assigned to bicol to bring me fresh pili nut. He did and I ate maybe 10 or more but I got dizzy. I feel like my blood pressure went up. Is the pili the source.

    Aug 3, 2009 | 1:29 pm

  35. mary says:

    where can i buy your mons’ product, hopia de pili and pili puff

    Nov 5, 2009 | 6:52 pm

  36. Ed says:

    @sonia: TAMPOYAK?!? Did you know that there is a Malay version of this (called “tempuyak”) which is made of fermented durian? (Now I wonder if tempuyak/tampoyak just refers to a jam made of almost-rotten smelly fruit?)

    Nov 17, 2009 | 8:50 pm

  37. erika o. pereña says:

    @ ms.mary
    it is only available by means of ordering from us po.Ü

    Dec 18, 2009 | 11:39 am

  38. alice says:

    jun, my father used to eat blanched pili pulp with the skin still in it. he didn’t want to go through the hassle of peeling off the skin so he ate the pulp that way. apparently it was still delicious, so … to each his own.
    ed, the tampuyak isn’t rotten, it’s freshly blanched then mixed with sugar. if the pulp isn’t fresh, there’s a slightly sour taste so i don’t know if anyone eats that still. for us who get it fresh, no one eats pili that has been blanched for over a few hours already. the taste is simply different.
    rodel, that’s a new one. i haven’t heard of anyone having high blood pressure from eating pili but then again, i’m not a doctor. maybe it’s because the oil content is high – which gives the delicious flavor but also the potential for rancidity.

    Dec 25, 2009 | 8:31 pm

  39. dits says:

    can anyone from cam. norte share me the recipe of pan de cillos?
    salamat na maray!

    Feb 16, 2010 | 2:45 pm

  40. Bogs Goyena says:

    So far peeling the pili fruit after blanching it is the only way to do it if you are going to eat or use the pulp. its a tidious job but its all worth it when you begin to like the taste or cook it for something.

    May 1, 2010 | 10:31 pm


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