Albuquerque, New Mexico, and New Mexico as a whole, is well known for its spicy green chili that native New Mexicans put on everything from burritos to beer (yes, green chili beer) . Only slightly less well known to non-natives about Albuquerque is the city’s obsession with pinon pine nuts.
What is a Pinon Nut?
Pinon nuts are a type of pine nut that grows naturally in New Mexico. Part of the obsession with this particular pine nut is that it is not grown on farms. Rather, pinon pine trees grown naturally along the landscape. Because of this, and because pinon pines only produce nuts once ever seven years, when the nuts are ready for harvest, you will find people of all walks of life scrambling to collect as many of these little nuts as possible.
Word to the Wise : In Albuquerque, never call a pinon nut just a pine nut. Its not ‘just a’. Though they are in fact pine nuts, it is as insulting to the locals as going to Milwaukee and calling a Harley Davidson motorcycle just a motorcycle.
Why Pinon is Not Just a Nut
Part of the attraction to the pinon nut in Albuquerque is the fact that they grow naturally in the area and they are free (in most cases) to harvest.
Another part of the attraction to the pinon is not the nut at all but the tree itself. The aroma released by burning pinon pine is a highly unique and pleasant scent. Difficult to describe, it speaks of Christmas and BBQ wrapped in a chili pepper.
Where and How You Can Find Pinon Nuts
New Mexico Pinon Coffee Company (website)
Pinon is enjoyed in nearly every fashion possible. Coffee is no exception. With a slightly woody, but not burnt wood flavor, Pinon Coffee tastes almost like there is a hint of hazelnut without hazelnut’s familiar sweetness. What makes New Mexico Pinon Coffee Company so great is that, unlike most other pinon nut distributors, you can buy New Mexico Pinon coffee from outside New Mexico.
Buffett’s Candies (website)
Making candy in Albuquerque for about 60 years, this family owned business creates some of the best tasting and most unique pinon-inspired candies I have ever laid eyes on.
Buffett’s Candies’ website only allows you to purchase three types of of their pinon candies (order page) , but if you go to their shop on Lomas Boulevard, you can purchase some of their more exotic creations like marshmallows covered in pinon and chocolate.
A common occurrence in the Southwest is the Native American roadside merchant trucks and carts. These entrepreneurial stands have everything from homemade burgers in freshly made pita-like flat breads to trinkets to red and green chilies and, of course, pinon.
Sure Albuquerque is known for Route 66 burger stands and green chili that would knock your socks off, a lesser known delicacy that gets a food group all its own in the Duke City is the pinon nut. Fanatics of these tasty protein infused treats are used in everything from coffee, candy, main dishes, and anywhere else you can think to stick them. Even the pinon pine wood burns a distinct and highly sought out aroma in Albuquerque especially around winter time.