What Is Almond Paste?

Learn all about almond paste, a versatile yet under-appreciated baking ingredient used in everything from cookies to pastries.

What is Almond Paste?

Almond paste is a baking ingredient used in cookies, cakes, tarts, and other desserts. It consists of a mixture of almonds, sugar, a binding or thickening agent such as corn syrup or glucose, and a natural flavoring agent, usually almond extract. Commercially produced almond paste often contains preservatives to increase its shelf life. Almond paste is naturally gluten-free.

The texture of almond paste is soft and similar to a spread. Unlike marzipan, almond paste has a slightly coarse texture. It is not ready to eat.

Almond paste can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.

How to Make Almond Paste, 3 Ways
How to Make Almond Paste, 3 Ways. Nadia Hassani

Are There Different Types of Almond Paste?

At grocery stores you will only find one type of almond paste, which usually contains around 45% blanched almonds. But different types of almond paste with varying sugar content are available for restaurants and pastry shops.

There are different varieties of homemade almond paste that you can't find in the store. You can choose to prepare almond paste in different ways, impacting both color and flavor. Almond paste made from raw blanched almonds has a light tan color. Using toasted almonds gives the almond paste a slightly deeper flavor and darker color. Almond paste made of almonds with their skins on is the darkest and most intense in flavor.

Many recipes for homemade almond paste call for egg white. Because almond paste is not consumed raw and is always baked at temperatures above 150 degrees F (65 degrees C) where the salmonella bacteria are killed, using egg white is less of a concern in almond paste than in marzipan.

You can also make a vegan, egg-free version of almond paste, which uses boiled syrup instead of eggs.

Almond Paste Uses

Besides being the main ingredient in marzipan, almond paste is used as a filling for Danish pastries and bear claws. Many countries have their own specialties with almond paste, especially for Easter and Christmas holiday baking.

The German equivalent of almond paste (Marzipanrohmasse) has a finer texture and is firmer than almond paste. It is incorporated in countless types of Christmas cookies and added to the famous yeasted holiday bread, Stollen.

In Italy, almond paste (pasta di mandorle) it is used to make pignoli, chewy cookies topped with pine nuts.

Semla, the Swedish yeasted buns, are filled with almond paste (mandelmassa). The buns are also popular in other Scandinavian countries under different names. Danish kringle, another specialty of Scandinavian origin, has gained popularity in the United States as the Wisconsin kringle.

In the Netherlands ropes of sweet flaky pastry are filled with almond paste to make Dutch letter or letter banket.

One of the many ways almond paste (pâte d'amande) is used in France is to make almond-filled croissants. Galette des rois, or king cake, is another seasonal specialty featuring almond paste, made every year for Epiphany in January.

Almond Paste Substitutes

The terms "almond paste" and "marzipan" are sometimes used interchangeably, but the two are indeed different. But in a pinch when baking at home, you can substitute marzipan for almond paste. Use the same quantity as called for in your recipe.

In commercially produced pastries and confections, persipan is used as a low-cost alternative to almond paste. It consists of apricot or peach kernels instead of almonds.

Wrapping almond paste
Wrapping almond paste. Nadia Hassani

How to Store Almond Paste

Commercially produced almond paste has a long shelf life. However, to keep it from drying out, once opened it should be tightly wrapped and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you are making your own almond paste with egg whites, it is best to prepare it just before you need it, or at the maximum a few hours ahead and store it in the refrigerator, to cut down on the risk of salmonella contamination.

Cooked almond paste without egg white will keep for several weeks if stored in the fridge or for up to six months when frozen.

More About Almond Paste

Making almond paste at home is both economical and easy. Our guide showing you how to make almond paste step-by-step includes recipes for three versions of homemade almond paste.

Also, check out these top-rated recipes featuring almond paste:

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