Pine nut and garlic sauce

August 10, 2009  •  Category:


Brought back a stash  of pine nuts with me in my luggage, dutifully declared at customs. Pine nuts in Lebanon are so good! They always bring back fond memories of entire summers spent in Ain Zhalta (Shoof area) treasure-hunting these delightful snoobar. We’d grab a pine cone that seemed promising and feverishly  dislodge the little nuts and break them open with a small rock. Oh, simple and natural pleasures of a childhood spent in the Lebanese mountains.

I wanted to make the tarator sauce with pine nuts that we used to eat with a whole baked  fish. It was so delicate tasting and so exquisite. I knew it would go very well with bland steamed vegetables. Simple in execution, it requires only the best pine nuts, some garlic, fresh lemon juice and water. If needed, a few fresh crumbs of white bread can be added to the mix to give it more body. The sauce will look like a liquid mayonnaise, but the taste is, oh so infinitely superior! (and has no cholesterol to boot!)

Pine nuts play such a prominent role in Lebanese cuisine. Used in  pastries, in kibbes, tarator , pies like lahm bel-ajeen and as a stuffing ingredient for grape leaves, among others. What about nutritionally? Well, surprise, surprise!

  • Protein-packed, at 30% ratio, they surpass all other nuts
  • Appetite-suppressant, thanks to a special hormone cholecystokinin. I tested it and had an ounce of pine nuts one morning and I was able to last without a meal till the afternoon without major hunger pangs.
  • Magnesium-rich (more than 120% RDA), iron-rich (3 mg per 1 ounce)
  • Vitamin A & D rich, an antioxidant and rich in fiber

This sauce can be used on fish, steamed veggies, as a dip with celery,  carrot  and green pepper sticks.

INGREDIENTS: This quantity will yield about one cup or 4-6 servings

  • 1 scant  1/2 cup of pine nuts (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon  of mashed garlic (fresh) with a pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced , or more to taste
  • 1/2  cup of cold water
  • 1 slice of American-style white bread, crusts removed or 2 ounces of fresh bread crumbs, or more


  • Mash the garlic with a pinch of salt in a wooden pestle or simply peel the cloves and cut them in fine slices
  • In a small processor place the garlic, salt, pine nuts and process for a few minutes until the nuts are chopped up fine
  • Add the lemon juice and process some more
  • Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, processing more
  • Add the bread crumb or the slice of bread chopped in little pieces
  • Keep processing until the sauce has the consistency of a liquid mayonnaise
  • Taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Serve cold or at room temperature with white fish or any type of steamed or baked vegetable

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  1. You can add more bread crumbs to achieve the consistency you are after. Two slices of white bread instead of only one.
  2. You can soak the pine nuts in water for a few hours before processing them.


6 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. History of Greek Food says:

    In Greece we make tarator with yogurt, water, cucumber and nuts.. it’ s more like a cold soup than a sauce. It is of bulgarian origin, and i find surprising that you also use the word ‘tarator’.

    • Joumana says:

      I will have to research this! in Lebanon, we also have a yoghurt salad called simply laban o khyar (yoghurt and cucumber) Tarator is the name for a sauce made either with pine nuts or tahineh (sesame paste).

  2. Christie @ Fig & Cherry says:

    I absolutely adore pine nuts – especially when they’re toasted! I can’t wait to try out this sauce, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Joumana says:

      Christie, I am happy this recipe interests you. I would like to point out also that the amount of pine nuts can be adjusted based on your preference. You can also add more bread crumbs (fresh) or pieces of white bread, and this also can be adjusted, starting out with 1/4 cup.

  3. Sophie says:

    Hello, EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil! I don’t want to write it down all the time!! I just find yourblog & I like it a lot!!

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