What Are Macadamia Nuts?

Buying, Using, and Recipes

what are macadamia nuts

The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Kreighbaum 

Macadamia nuts are small, round, almost chickpea-like nuts that have been an important part of the Aboriginal diet in Australia for thousands of years. They have been called Queensland nuts or Australia nuts. After they were "discovered" by the rest of the world in the late 19th century, they became especially popular in Pacific island cuisines. Australia, South Africa, and Hawaii now produce most of the world's macadamia nuts; 70 percent of the commercially grown varieties can still be traced to a single tree in Queensland, Australia.

What Are Macadamia Nuts?

The fruit of slow-growing tropical evergreen trees, macadamia nuts are highly nutritious and coveted for their sweet buttery flavor and creamy texture. It takes machinery to crack the shell, which may explain why macadamias rank as the world's most expensive nut. Commercial producers sell the nuts roasted (often seasoned with sea salt) or raw, most often in sealed cans or jars to preserve freshness.

How to Use Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts pair particularly well with coconutchocolate, and fish. You can make a pie crust using toasted and crushed macadamia nuts, coat a fish filet with coarsely chopped nuts, or roast them with a little chili powder for a spicy salad topper.

Macadamia nuts can be substituted for other nuts measure for measure in most recipes and vice versa without compromising the integrity of the original recipe. Try them in chocolate chip cookies (like these white chocolate macadamia nut cookies), add them to your favorite holiday stuffing, or use them to garnish a bowl of soup.

Although macadamia aficionados might disagree, a few nuts make an acceptable substitute if you can't find macadamias or don't want to spend the money for them, especially Brazil nuts and hazelnuts, which are also high in fat, and cashews, with their similar texture. You can also purchase macadamia nut oil (try drizzling it on roasted vegetables), macadamia nut butter, dairy-free macadamia nut milk, and gluten-free macadamia nut flour.

These measurement equivalents and references can help you figure out how many macadamia nuts you need for a recipe:

  • 4 ounces of macadamia nuts equal 1 cup of whole nuts
  • 1 pound of shelled macadamias equals 3 1/3 cups
  • One 5-ounce can of whole macadamia nuts yields about 1 1/4 cups of nuts
  • One 7-ounce jar yields about 1 1/2 cups of nuts
Macadamia nuts in dried outer shell, Louis Trichard, Limpopo
Fran Hunziker Photography / Getty Images
Macadamia nuts
 Flavia Morlachetti / Getty Images
Pesto preparation with macademia nuts
annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images 
Macadamia nut encrusted Mahi
 mitchellpictures / Getty Images
Macadamia Nut and almond cake, pistachio pie
Jobrestful / Getty images 

What Do They Taste Like?

The fattiest of the nut family, macadamias have a sweet buttery flavor and crisp exterior with a creamy interior. Roasting deepens the flavor and enhances the crunch just a bit.

Macadamia Nut Recipes

The rich and creamy flavor of macadamia nuts makes for a great addition to all sorts of dishes from desserts to main courses.

Where to Buy Macadamia Nuts

You can purchase macadamia nuts at any well-stocked grocery store or from online grocery retailers, although the quality can vary substantially. If you buy them in bulk, make sure the store turns them over frequently. Fresh macadamia nuts should look light in color, while those going rancid start to turn brownish. Roasted nuts will have a golden hue. Mealy nuts are also past their prime.


Their high oil content means macadamia nuts go rancid easily, so store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they can last for up to nine months. Storage in the pantry shortens their shelf life to about six months, while frozen macadamia nuts last up to a year in an airtight container.

what are macadamia nuts
The Spruce Eats / Hugo Lin