Is it Safe to Eat Apricot Kernels?

apricotkernels

You might come across a recipe which calls for the use of sweet apricot kernels, that differ from bitter apricot kernels, which are used as a flavoring agent in jams, candies, pastes, custards, and other baking applications. Europeans and others often use them to enhance jams and jellies, putting a kernel is each jar, which isn’t normally consumed. Italians crush them to make the famous Amaretti di Saronno cookies, and Asian markets stock them in their spice aisles.

Anything can be dangerous if used incorrectly; Vitamin A, eaten in very large quantities, can be toxic, some people consider MSG dangerous (others wonder why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?), and parsley and chives contain small quantities of oxalic acid, the same thing that makes rhubarb leaves inedible.

lait cru

Some raw or undercooked foods and dishes pose a risk; milk, sushi, cheese (raw, as well as ones said to be made with pasteurized milk), Caesar salad, shellfish, sunny side-up eggs, and rare meat are a few of them. But even everyday foods aren’t necessarily safe as well, as recent recalls of peanut butter, cantaloupes, honey, cookie dough, and pistachios have proved.

Here are some links to articles from universities and other sources. These can give you an idea of any dangers from apricot kernels and to help decide if you need to avoid them or if they’re okay to use.

As with anything, if you are unsure if it is edible or you don’t feel comfortable eating it, don’t eat it. And if you’re foraging for wild ingredients, if you’re not sure something is suitable for consumption, consult your local cooperative agricultural extension for advice before consuming it.

Related Links

Seeds of Anxiety (Washington Post)

Is It Safe To Eat Apricot Kernels? (Oregon State University)

Amaretti di Saronno (Lazzaroni)

Cyanide in Bitter Apricot Kernels (Health Canada)

Concerned About Consumption of Apricot Kernels (New Zealand Food Safety Authority)

Cherry Pits: Poisonous? Edible? Usable Culinarily? (Eggbeater)

Apricot Kernels (Wikipedia)

Utilization of Stone Fruit Kernels as a Source of Oil for Edible and Non-Edible Purposes (International Society for Horticultural Science)

Sweet Apricot Kernels, Reviewed (Baking Bites)

Apricot Kernels–How Nutty! (Chicago Sun-Times)

How to use Stone Fruit Pits (Food 52)



Related Products

Organic Apricot Kernel Butter

Raw Organic Apricot Kernels

Apricot Kernel Oil

35 comments

  • The subject of ‘safe-foods’, both grown and foraged, is an important and interesting one. It is also timely with many new gardeners growing food for the first time. I became involved in a lengthy discussion about cooking with tomato leaves earlier this year, and then in July an article appeared in the New York Times: Accused, Yes, But Probably Not a Killer.

    Tomato foliage has long rumored to be highly toxic, and this is actually not true. In fact the leaves of tomato plants can be quite tasty.

    Thank you for the information on apricot pits… and the helpful links.
    -Michaela

  • It’s sometimes the quantity of the ingredient ingested that can be a problem. Which is how some people become ill–from eating too many vitamins.

    When I was writing my chocolate book, there are indeed some ‘stimulating’ ingredients in chocolate. But you’d have to eat a ten-pound (4-5kg) block of it to feel any effects.

    So far I haven’t gotten there yet!

  • Is tomato foliage poisonous? I wish it was, if it only affected the spider mites! I have ordered their natural predators in an effort to preserve what’s left, or perhaps I should just eat it myself before they get it.

  • Oh, David. You reminded me some pictures I have seen a while ago. The pictures were of internal bodily damage caused by consuming excessive sushi! :-D

  • I’m a lot more comfortable eating things like meat & eggs rare and drinking my raw milk since I know where they’re coming from and how they’re being handled (we get them at a local farm). I’d never get raw milk in the store or at a restaurant.

    There’s always a risk when eating things, pretty much anything can be contaminated.

    And yes, I always throw a small tomato branch in my tomatoes when I’m stewing them, I remove before canning. It adds so much more “tomatoey” flavor.

  • That’s really funny you wrote apricot kernels, because I just saw some for sale for the first time yesterday at whole foods. I had never really heard of people eating them before that.

  • It’s safe, I’m sure! We always eat this kernels…but never too much. Moderation is a golden way!

  • How extraordinary. I had just gone to your blog to ask you a question about apricot kernels (after harvesting about 200 from as many apricots last month), but you were too fast for me!

    My question: any recommendations for an apricot kernel ice cream recipe? A local ice cream place here in Berkeley seems to make it under the name “Noyaux” (noyaux ice cream, noyaux with caramel) and I would like to try with mine.

    Thanks a bunch!

  • Erin: Shuna posted a recipe for Noyaux Ice Cream, although if you make it, you might wish to consider dialing back the amount of kernels.

  • This is the first time I hear that eating apricot kernels might be dangerous. Ups. I have eaten pounds and pounds of apricot kernels in my life and so has my whole family and none of us have noticed any side effects (I got my PhD a few months ago and my sister got her MBA, so seriously, how bad could it be?). My grandparents had a lease on 20+ apricot trees in an apricot orchard. The apricots were turned into jam and preserve and dries apricots and apricot brandy, while the kernels were collected, dried and baked with salt as a mid-winter snack. It’s safe. And delicious.

  • When I grew up, my mother would buy apricot kernels and eat them as “health food”, as they were supposed to be good for something rather. (Can’t remember what, though.)

    Most foods are bad for you if eaten in large enough quantities. Even pure water can cause poisoning if one takes in absurd amounts of it. The key words for all eating and drinking are variation, diversity and balance, and not too much of anything.There is a lot of leeway though – so eating healthily and having a balanced diet isn’t all THAT difficult.

    http://www.healthassist.net/food/side-effects/side-effects.shtml

  • I’ve read that its the amygdalin which occurs naturally in the inner pits that causes the issue. The body breaks it down into prussic acid (hydrogen cynadie) when its digested! I’ve never had the kernels and I don’t recall ever seeing them. They actually remind me of almonds! So I’ll add this to my list of things I want to see – including fresh blackcurrants. I’ve seen redcurrants but never blackcurrants!

  • Well I thought they were safe to eat… but now I’m not so sure!

  • I’ve always disliked the food safety rule about cooking eggs till firm to prevent salmonella. You may end up with a safer cooked egg, but nobody likes rubbery, dried out eggs.

    The controversy about MSG is an example of how little we really know about diet and nutrition. Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, explores how the science of nutrition isn’t as developed as we think. That is why we get so much conflicting information. Fortunately, Pollan also asserts that it is okay to enjoy food rather than viewing it as a necessary evil for survival.

  • Velops: Interestingly, according to the American Egg Board; “…if you’re an average consumer, you might encounter a contaminated egg once every 84 years.”

    It’s interesting what people panic over. Everyone is in a tizzy about raw milk cheese, yet the only documented problem that I can recall in America involving cheese, was with a pasteurized cheese (Jalisco). I have a friend that won’t eat sushi (her father was a microbiologist) but when she makes stock, she says that if you bring it to a boil with the lid on, then turn it off, if you don’t remove the lid, you can store it at room temperature for days. She says her father taught her that.

    Personally, I don’t find that very safe and don’t recommend it, but she does it all the time.

  • I love, love love your blog, and your books for that matter. Your candied bacon ice cream is on the top 10 weird ice cream flavors list on sfoodie today. (Ten Weirdest Flavors of Ice Cream.)

    Did you see it? I am annoyed that they don’t mention trying to make it and eat it, because everyone knows that your recipes come out great.

  • Thanks for the link to the article on MSG. I can’t believe it appeared in 2005 and people are still villifying the stuff. I love umami and I have a theory about why people complain about headaches and excessive thirst after dining out on Chinese food. Some of them unwittingly dump loads of soy sauce onto their food, not realising just how salty it is. Then their bodies get wigged out on the sodium overload.

  • When I was a kid we had a big orchard of fruit trees, mostly apricot and peach. when mom made apricot jam or canned apricots, we would save the seeds and dry them in the sun. Then after they dried for a few days, we’d crack them open with a brick, rock, or hammer, and eat them by the handfuls. Obviously I’m still here, so I’m guessing they’re safe!

  • I use apricot kernels and I’m still there to tell it :) . The fact is I never use them a lot at a time, maybe that’s why.
    That’s funny, I thought you would have made this kind of note but about pine nuts, les pignons de pins, everyone is talking about the burns and the bitter taste they leave for days in the mouth of a lot of people in france and europe. They say that turkish pine nuts are guilty for this, but some from china have the same bad effect.

    I woudn’t eat pesto this days, even well paid :D…

  • That’s interesting. I have never had apricot kernels but the last time i cooked raw pine nuts they gave me gas. The raw ones were alright, but the cooked were very bad for my stomach.

  • David, thank you for the post and the links. I noticed on the WAPO article stated that the seeds must be roasted in order to be safe (not raw). That bears mentioning.

    I’ll be roasting and gobbling up my apricot pits next year.

  • Yes, I agree. if you aren’t sure, don’t eat it. Just might not be worth the trouble that follows!!

  • I’m finding this all interesting since I have a bag of sweet apricot kernels sitting in my pantry that I’ve been eating – I bought it at Trader Joe’s. (I’ve discarded the packaging – but I’m sure they are roasted.) I’m quite sure this is what Amaretto is made from, as well.

  • Great info! I love apricot kernels. They bring back summer memories in my grandparent’s village. We would always crack the apricot seeds for the kernels. They are especially delicious when fresh.

  • I believe that the reason apricot kernels got a bad name was that about 40 years ago some alternative medicine people were saying apricot kernels, with the ingredient identified above – amydalin – was a cancer cure/preventive.

    As a self-certified hypochondriac, I can assure you that is correct. Every time I suspect I have cancer somewhere, I eat 4 kernels a day for a few days until I am ‘cured’… of the fear.

    There was a negative reaction from the allopathic medical world, and I believe some child was suspected of having eaten some kernels and got ill or died. California then made the sale of the kernels illegal. *sigh*

  • When I was kid I ate apricot kernels a lot (like 30 at a time), and never had any problems. My granny used to tell me they are poisonous, so I had to semi-hide to eat them. Apricot kernels are delicious and taste like a very mild almond. They taste good both raw and dried. When they are raw, I like to peel off brownish outer layer and eat white kernel only.

  • Heh…this caught my attention, because we had soup last night with snow fungus, sea coconuts and apricot kernels. It was a chinese dessert soup, and delicious.

    When I was a kid, I was informed that the kernels inside of apricots/peaches/nectarines were poisonous and could kill if eaten in large doses.

    Hmm. I wouldn’t sit down and eat them out of hand, but a few thrown into a soup pot are DELICIOUS.

    (And I have to chime in on the Asia Headache thing. They DO get headaches if too much MSG is consumed. When I lived/worked in Hong Kong, I was DEEPLY impressed by the moderation that seems ingrained into the Chinese way of viewing food. MSG-rich foods are consumed sparingly, and off-set with cooling teas and fruits. It seems that restaurants use MSG like the home cook uses salt…resulting in the headache that we find so bothersome.)

  • David, you lost me here…are bitter and sweet apricot kernels thus the same thing?
    I’ve always added them to my apricot jam, a trick I learned from my French step-mom, and never worried about it much. One recipe I came across this year, suggested boiling the kernels for 3-5 minutes prior to using; this time I did, but in the past I just dropped it into the pot of jam or jar of whole apricots, if I was canning. I also recently saw the Trader Joes version, and wondered about them.

    Romney

  • Romney: Yes, bitter and sweet apricot kernels are different. Because of diverging information, I’ve linked to a couple of reputable places where readers can learn more information about their differences and their uses.

  • Hehe, I made a batch of orgeat a while back, with a drop or two of bitter almond oil (I wanted to make some decent Mai Tais and Japanese cocktails). My friends were terrified of the stuff, because of the whole cyanide thing (I believe two tablespoons of the undiluted oil could be enough to finish you off), but I just laughed them off—the French and Italians have been using this stuff like forever, and there are still plenty of Frenchmen and Italians around (maybe this substance could explain some of the eccentricities that their cultures are known for? Who knows?).

  • I was introduced to apricot kernels a couple of weeks ago and have been chewing 6 every morning with my breakfast. I’m still very much alive otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this e-mail !!!

    If they ARE a cure or preventative for Cancer, I wonder why apricot kernels (or Vit B17) are not being promoted more?

    A friend, who introduced me to them, had awful lumps on her arms and these have disappeared completely since eating 6 apricot kernels every morning !

    I wish I’d known about apricot kernels a long time ago as I have lost 3 family members to Cancer. I wonder if Leukaemia can be cured with apricot kernels ?

    Thank you for the info.

    Grace Boshoff

  • The amygdalin in the apricot kernel can be converted into prussic acid by bacteria in the intestines. High quantities of this is poisonous, but overdose is rare.

  • Read the following books, not only do they explain why apricot kernals are not promoted more, but how and why the AMA, FDA etc. have worked so hard over the years to shut down and run out of the country anyone who does try to offer alternative/natural methods to treating cancer (I have read these and given them away to friends and family):

    World without Cancer – G Edward Griffin
    Cancer – Step Outside the Box – Ty Bollinger

    There is also another one I would like to read, Laetrile Case Histories by John A. Richardson and Patricia I. Griffin

    By the way, my Grandmother always told my mother, when you eat an apple, make sure you eat the seeds as well. She never knew why, and my father told her not to because of the cyanide. Evidently the cyanide is only released when in contact with a certain enzyme, and that is only found in cancer cells, not in regular cells within your body.

    An apple a day . . .

  • As one who gets an extremely nasty migraine very soon after eating MSG, I won’t go near the stuff.

    On the other hand, the apricot information is very useful, since you can’t get bitter almonds in the USA anymore. Mom would put 1 or 2 in the vanillakranzer every Christmas, until she couldn’t get them anymore (and we live where the nuts are grown. :) )

  • I go through 250 grams of apricot kernels a week – I know because that’s the weight indicated on the package (I live in the EU, where you can buy them) – and would probably eat even more if I didn’t control myself. I just love them, always have.
    As a child (also in Europe) I used to crush the apricot pits I found on the ground and enjoy the delicious almondy flavour.

    I am not “recommending” anything to anyone, but I eat them by handfuls.
    As far as I know, my only health problem – which I’ve had since childhood – is rather severe astygmatism, which has nothing to do with apricot kernels.
    And I am 49 years old (will be 50 this year).
    Never even a cold or any aches and pains (except for the occasional mildish headache).

    I am NOT crediting the apricot kernels for this.
    But clearly they haven’t harmed me so far.