Pinole Energy Cakes


Pinole energy cakes, ready to eat

A wee bit of kitchen witchery happened tonight.  Thought I’d share.

So, what is pinole?

As I understand it, the word pinole arrived in California with the early Spanish colonizers who had been in Central America before arriving here. They called the local toasted seed foods they experienced with First Peoples of North America, pinole…as it reminded them of what they had seen/eaten in Central America.  Apparently, the word is derived from the Aztec word “pinolli” meaning ground and toasted grain or seeds (or cornmeal).

The reason I started to explore pinole is because the word kept on coming up in two references that I have been enjoying over the past couple years:

While reading the Chumash Ethnobotany, I started to document the various seeds that were used to make pinole.  I realized the importance of ‘seed foods’ among the First Peoples and how they carefully farmed the wild to provide abundance.


Judith Lowry, The Real California Cuisine (which I think she has an updated and expanded version since I bought this booklet two years ago)

However, with the arrival of Spanish colonizers and later colonizers from other European countries, the wilds began to change swiftly.


Judith Lowry, The Real California Cuisine

The land is much different in California than it was 300 years ago.  Many of the seeds collected by the First Peoples (the Chumash, in the area I live) are no longer found in large stands.  So, while I compiled a list of seeds used for pinole, it is not practical or ethical to harvest these seeds unless cultivated in your own space.

Here is my list (ones in bold were the most prized by the local Chumash):

Acorn flour (Quercus spp) – leached to remove tannins

Chia seeds (Salvia columbariae)

Red maids (Calandrinia ciliata)

Islay seeds (Prunus ilicifolia) – called shukuyash – leached to remove cyanide

Purple stipa (Nassella pulchra)

Coast tarweed (Madia sativa)

Common madia (Madia elegans)

Tarweed fiddleneck (Amsinckia lycopsoides) & Menzies’ fiddleneck (A. menziesii)

Peppergrass (Lepidium nitidum)

Berrylike seed-cones of CA Juniper (Juniperus Californica) – made from very young pollen cones/seeds? – dough from this called hukhminash

Masa corn flour (from Central America, but adopted by a number of tribes in the North)


Jan Timbrook, Chumash Ethnobotany

After sifting through these books, I began to ponder what I could make with seeds and wild foods that are available to me.  I had just processed acorn flour again last Fall, so I wanted to include this in my recipe.  I found quite a few good recipes with masa corn flour on-line that were inspired by the Tarahumara people of Mexico, so I integrated that into my recipe.  As well, chia seeds are widely available, so I wanted to use that (it is sourced from Central America as the California stands of chia have been greatly impacted by European colonizers use of land).


Judith Lowry, The Real California Cuisine

I hope to try some other methods of pinole, as well.  Pinole was mixed with water to drink.  Actually, from the texts I read, it seems like pinole is a catch-all term for ground berries or seeds used in food.  So, there are a number of other ways pinole was prepared and enjoyed.

Remember.  This is my first attempt.

If you cannot access acorn flour, try hazelnut flour or pine nut flour.


Pinole Energy Cookies
(makes about 6 small rounds)

1/2 cup masa harina flour
1/2 cup acorn flour (or hazelnut, pine nut, etc)
1/4 cup chia seeds, ground
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp green, powdered stevia
2/3 cups water
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Grind chia and mix with water; mixture will form mucilage and become gooey

Toast masa in a skillet or pan on medium heat (keep an eye on this and stir often)

Mix chia and masa with other ingredients until evenly moist

Start to knead the pinole mix with your hands until moisture is mixed in well

Shape into rounds

Place on a non-stick sheet or parchment paper on a baking pan and bake for 30 min’s (bake until a crust is formed on the outside)

Remove from heat and let cool.  Enjoy or store in an air-tight container.  You can store in fridge as well.

My second batch turned out tasty as well.  I adjusted the recipe and added ground (and toasted) curly dock seeds that I harvested from the wild, as well.  I toasted them with the masa corn flour.


from The Real California Cuisine

I do think that food is an act of remembrance.  It is also a way to honor the land and be in relationship with it.  I realize how disconnected we are now with traditional food ways.  At least, we can take small steps in slowing down…realizing where we are…and honoring those before us…  And maybe, we can find ways to tend the wild again…leaving more than we are taking.


One thought on “Pinole Energy Cakes

  1. Pingback: Exploring Acorns, Starch Noodles | Lindsay Kolasa

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