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Indonesian cuisine relies heavily on candlenuts as a base and thickener for spice pastes which are the foundation of the cuisine. This includes many of the various rendangs and sambals, such as Sambal Kemiri. Candlenuts are also used in Malaysian cuisine.

Thing is, in San Francisco candlenuts are kind of hard to come by. I have to buy them in the Asian supermarket, frozen, and they're quite expensive. So my question is, what's the best substitute for candlenuts using readily available ingredients in an American general market?

Here's a few I've thought of, some of which I've even tried:

  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Raw cashews
  • Roasted Cashews
  • Brazil nuts

The thing is, I don't have very in-depth experience with Indonesian cuisine, so even if it tastes OK, I'm not sure I'm getting the flavor right. Recommendations?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Macadamia is as close as you will find for the texture and oil content. As you are using it for spice pastes -the only use I have had for them- then macs are an excellent carrier. That slightly bitter and sometimes soapy aftertaste, I have yet to find a substitute for. What's a Laksa without that flavor component?

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I don't know -- I suspect I've never had an authentic-tasting Laksa. – FuzzyChef Mar 31 '12 at 18:49
@FuzzyChef: "[A]uthentic-tasting Laksa" is a misnomer. There is no official Laksa. Overseas Chinese communities throughout "The Straits" / Peranakan areas (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore) all cook it slightly differently. I say: If it was once a family recipe, it is good enough for me. – kevinarpe Dec 14 '13 at 6:15

Could ground almonds be used since a thickening agent is looked for?

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Dear Sue, thank you for your contribution to Seasoned Advice! Discussion of health and nutrition is off topic here, as we don't consider ourselves qualified to give health advice. So I removed that part of your post, but left in the actual suggestion for almonds. – rumtscho Apr 16 '14 at 12:00

I find blending 50/50 peanuts with coconut flesh works.. And it's cheaper

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Brazil nuts work fine, also chopped and sprinkled onto the Laksa give texture and crunch

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other recipes call for cashew nuts instead of candlenuts

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Cashews were already mentioned in the question; do you have any new information to add? How do you that some recipes call for cashews "instead of" candlenuts - did they mention it as a direct substitution, or did you find two recipes that were identical in every other respect? – Aaronut Aug 4 '13 at 13:13

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