Candlenuts (Buah Keras)

January 28th, 2010Ingredients18 Comments

Many readers emailed and asked about candlenuts or buah keras when I posted the Udang Masak Lemak Nenas recipe by Nyonya Pendek Melaka.

An important ingredient in Nyonya (and Indonesian) cooking, this post serves as a brief introduction of candlenuts, or buah keras in Malay, or kemiri in Indonesian.  On the packaging of candlenuts, you will mostly see the above three names: candlenuts, and kimiri, as most candlenuts found here in the United States are made in Indonesia…

Candlenut is quite possibly one of the secret ingredients of Nyonya cooking.  My late grandmother who was a Nyonya used a lot of candlenuts in her cooking, especially when making curry dishes. My uncle told me that when candlenuts are ground and cooked in curries, the oil in the nuts lend a very creamy texture to the dishes, hence they make curries thicker and super delicious. I am a firm believer because my late grandmother would always ask for buah keras when she was cooking.

If you can’t find candlenuts at your local Asian stores, you can use macadamia nuts as a substitute as they have a similarly high oil content and texture when pounded.

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18 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Kate says:

    Thanks for posting it, now I know how candlenuts look like.

  2. Maninas says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve always wondered what candlenuts are!
    How do they compare in taste to macadamia?

  3. in says:

    Candlenuts cannot be eaten raw. Its slightly poisonous.

  4. Tuty says:

    I recently posted article on candlenuts in my blog too :-)

  5. Alvin says:

    Next you have to feature Buah Keluak which is a black nut from Indonesia. Its more popular down south if I’m not mistaken. I’ve just got my supply from my mum in Melaka. I cook it with chicken (or fish head) in a “pedas” style gravy. Heavenly with white rice.

    • Nyonya Food says:

      Alvin – you are right, yes, in Penang, I have never seen buah keluak chicken. Would love to try it though.

      • Puvan says:

        You can get it at perut rumah restaurant at kelawai road. The restaurant located near the gurney hotel. And it depends on the season. Sometimes they have it sometimes they dont.

  6. kate says:

    Thanks for the tip! some friends and I tried to snack on candlenuts we purchased at the New Sagaya grocery in Anchorage and only found out AFTER starting to eat them that you’re really not supposed to. I look forward to trying them again after cooking.

  7. kahseng says:

    Candlenut is a relative of the delicisous macadamia nut. It has so much oil it can burn like candle. Saw that on “Man vs Wild” documentary once. Tried it too at lantern festival. Fun to play with.

  8. markj99 says:

    My wife and I were on Maui, Hawaii, and we wandered into a botanical garden that we passed on the road to Hana. I picked up a weird semi-hollow “rock” buried in the mud on the trail.

    When I got home, I broke open the “rock”, and was surprised to find that the “rock” was probably actually a nut that I think was from a candle nut (Buah Keras) tree. So I’ve been on a hunt for a source of whole (edible) candlenuts ever since. No luck so far.

    Any tips for finding Buah Keras, or Candle Nuts, other than “local Asian grocery store”?

  9. Gail says:

    We have a candlenut tree producing (and dropping) nuts. Please advise how to prepare the nuts for cooking. (ie. do we peel the outer layer off?)

  10. Sophie says:

    Thanks for posting. I’m going to bring the picture to China Town London and asked the grocery shop.

  11. Pingback:Candle nuts | Auctivastoreen

  12. Irene Law says:

    Do I have to boil candle nuts before grinding? Or are they cracked and toasted before grinding?

  13. Barbara says:

    I bought candlenuts to use in satay, left them in the car for the month of November in north Texas. We’ve had some very warm and very cold weather. My husband is now convinced that they are probably spoiled and dangerous to cook with. I can find nothing on the shelf life or the possibility that staying in the car for that length of time would be a problem or not a problem.


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