Nut-Free Sunflower Seed Macarons with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling by 6 Bittersweets

I couldn't think of a better guest than Xiaolu (@6bittersweets) blogging from 6 Bittersweets to wrap up half a dozen in the tree nut/nut free macaron series. I could not have imagined the immeasurable enthusiasm, creativity, awareness and buzz this series would evoke. Last, until we resume this series in the Fall, but not least, is a local DC area favorite of mine, Xiaolu. A beautiful person with a strong point of a view, through the lens, food styling and interpretation of mostly desserts. Xiaolu is pursuing her studies to become a nutritionist, juggling her studies and orders for her delicious confections. Her delicate demeanor matches her sublime creations. 6 Bittersweets is breathtaking and I assure you will repeatedly keep coming for more. Yes, spoken like a true mom, as Xiaolu as other dear food blogger friends of mine could potentially be my girls.

Please be sure to see the recap of all the talented guests I had in this series at the bottom of Xiaolu's post.
When Shulie approached me with the challenge of baking tree nut-free macarons, I felt many things at once: excitement, nervousness, resolve. If you’ve seen my blog, you know I’m no stranger to experimentation in the kitchen. But usually for me it’s a form of play, an adventure of sorts, with nothing on the line other than my personal enjoyment (unless it’s for an order, of course).
This time when I stepped into the kitchen, I was driven by something the desire to give Shulie’s son (and so many others with nut allergies) the chance to experience a treat they otherwise couldn’t, the enchanting French macaron. Never before have I been so aware of the power we have as home bakers -- to create something delicious with our own two hands controlling exactly what ingredients go into it. And I have Shulie to thank for this.
I picked sunflower seeds as my nut replacement of choice. When I saw feet (albeit small and lopsided) growing on my very first batch, I was hoping I’d been blessed with beginner’s luck. However, when I sampled a shell, I was hit by sunflower seed flavor so strong as to give me an immediate headache! So back into the kitchen I went...
After some mental and pantry digging, a bag of dried coconut was the solution. It worked perfectly to mellow the seed flavor while also complimenting the spiced pumpkin filling. Since desiccated coconut doesn’t grind up as finely, these also had more texture than the average macaron. Kinda like a love child between French macarons and American macaroons. I found them tasty but feel free to substitute coconut “flour” if you prefer your macs smooth.
It’s been an exciting ride creating a possibility of French macarons without the traditional ground almonds. Thank you so much to Shulie and all of you for joining me!

Nut-Free Sunflower Seed Macarons with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling
Makes about 25 to 30 macarons

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Please do not try to convert this recipe to volume measurements if you don't have a scale (I use and love this one). This recipe is very sensitive and will not work if the measurements are not exact. Please also note that every oven is different and you'll figure out what works best for yours over time (see this post for great information on ovens and macarons). Since mine has major hot spots, I bake on 2 stacked pans for insulation if using parchment paper. If you're uncertain of your ability to pipe uniformly-sized macarons, like me, simply trace 1 1/4-inch circles on your parchment paper, flip the paper over, and pipe on the other side, using the outlines as your guide OR print (choose "fit to page") and slide this template under your parchment as a guide but don't forget to remove before baking! Even if you accidentally overbake the shells by a few minutes, maturing the macarons in the fridge for at least 48 hours should undo most of the damage =). See my first macaron post for helpful videos of the whole macaron-making process!

65 g sunflower seeds [not salted]
40 g desiccated coconut
170 g powdered sugar
Large pinch of salt
35 g granulated sugar
2 g egg white powder [optional, to stabilize batter in humid weather]
Splash of white or cider vinegar [to clean utensils/stabilize meringue]
90 to 95 g egg whites [about 3 large egg whites]
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling (Recipe below)

Microwave fresh egg whites 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave on medium-low heat (I set my microwave to 40%).

Combine the sunflower seeds, coconut, powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse on and off until seeds are finely ground (about 1 to 2 minutes). Sift the powder to remove any large chunks that remain. Put those chunks back into the food processor and pulse again for another 30 to 60 seconds. Sift again. Much of the coconut will remain too large to pass through the sifter. You should pick out any particularly large pieces of coconut or sunflower seed and add the rest back into the dry ingredients.

Weigh out and mix your granulated sugar and egg white powder in a small bowl until uniform; set aside. Add splash of vinegar then a splash of water to the bowl that will be used for whipping the egg whites. Swirl liquid around the bowl, then use a clean paper towel to wipe the bowl dry. Use the same paper towel to wipe down your beaters. Now using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, then turn the speed up to medium to medium-high and gradually add the sugar mixture until you obtain a glossy meringue (it'll look like shaving cream, hold stiff peaks, and stay in place if you turn the bowl upside-down; but don't overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry).

Add all of the seed mixture to the meringue and fold together. Use both a folding motion that scrapes the bottom of the bowl (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a gentle pressing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. Slow down after all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, and continue folding the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that looks somewhat glossy and flows from the spatula in a thick ribbon. Test the batter by spooning a small amount of the batter on a plate: if the top flattens on its own within about 20 seconds, it’s ready to pipe. If there is a small peak, give the batter 2 to 3 more folds and test again. The peak shouldn’t disappear immediately either or it’s already overmixed.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/3 to 1/2-inch wide plain tip (I like Ateco #806 or 807) with half of the batter. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.) Pipe tiny blobs of batter onto the 4 corners and center of 2 baking sheets, then line baking sheets with parchment paper OR line with silicone mats. Pipe small rounds (slightly larger than 1 inch wide) straight down and about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets. Pick up each sheet with both hands and slam it firmly straight downward on the counter 2 to 3 times. This will to force out any large air bubbles. Immediately pop any bubbles that rise up but don't break with a toothpick. Do NOT do this once a few minutes have passed because you'll mess up the shell that's forming.

Preheat the oven to 285 to 300 degrees F. Let the macarons sit out for 25 to 90 minutes to harden their shells a bit (to prevent tops from cracking during baking). Test if they're ready by touching the top and side of one shell lightly. It should feel dry and not stick to your finger at all. Bake one pan at a time for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the macarons. After the first 10 minutes of baking, rotate the pan and place a large piece of foil loosely over the macarons to prevent browning (If I’m baking on 2 stacked pans, I also remove the bottom pan at this point to make sure the macarons will be completely cooked on the bottom and not sticky). Let cool completely before trying to move the shells.

Once cool, remove the shells from the silicone mat or parchment and flip them over. If you have trouble removing them, freeze the macarons for about 10 minutes, then quickly peel them off before they have a chance to warm up and get sticky again.

Fill the shells (spooning or piping) with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of filling and top with a similarly-sized top shell. For the best flavor and texture, store in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating (see notes above for detailed explanation) but they are best if eaten within 6 days. Bring to room temperature before eating.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup cream cheese, cool room temperature
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
3 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree [fresh is fine if not too liquid]

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter, powdered sugar, and spices until thoroughly blended and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition (just enough to work it in until it’s smooth). Finally add in pumpkin puree and mix on medium-low speed just until the pumpkin has been fully incorporated.

Tree Nut Free Macaron Series:
1. Mocharons, Chocolate-Coffee Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache by The Daily Palette.
2. Pumpkin Seed and Matcha Macarons with Coconut, Dark Chocolate Ganache by Brave Tart.
3. Cocoa nib Macarons with peanut butter ganache by
4. French Fridays: Peanut Macarons with Cacao Nibs by The daily Palette.
5. Black Sesame Macarons with Cherry Chocolate Ganache by Passionate about Baking.
6. Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache by The Pleasure Monger.
7. Nut-Free Sunflower Seed Macarons with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling by 6 Bittersweets.


  1. They are lovely - I particularly appreciate that you - even YOU! - didn't get it right the first time. Macarons the classic way are hard enough, these nut free guys are even more difficult. You succeeded wonderfully :)

  2. A great challenge! Those macarons look fantastic. Lovely guest post.



  3. Love that box stacked with Macs! Macarons look grogginess and hats off to you both, X and S for taking such a difficult baking task at hand.
    After my feet less Macs at the first attempt these have become a forbidden fruits for me..wish somebody can get feet for me :)

  4. Xialou has been on a macaron roll lately! I'm in love with all her creative combinations.

  5. What an awesome guest post! I love the pumpkin filling in these delectable cookies,

  6. Beautiful recipe!! SO inspired. These macarons look divine.
    Heidi xo

  7. Thanks so much for this opportunity, Shulie! It was my honor to be part of this series and I'm so glad we "met" through Twitter and our blogs. Cannot wait to meet you in person =D.

  8. WHat a very unique combination! What's in the photo background? Is that cider vinegar? or something else? Xiaolu, your directions are always very detailed and perfect. Nice to meet you, Shulie!

  9. fabulous! I love this one! Awesome job girl!

  10. they look fabulous! love sunflower + pumpkin combo! and i think xiaolu has more than beginner's luck. macarons are her one of her many expertise!

  11. They look awesome and I love the coconut in it! Great guest post!

  12. I want to eat that whole box. It's calling my name! I cannot wait to try making them!

  13. coconut and sunflower, what a great combo and the macarons are so pretty.
    Nice to meet you Xiaolu, love the way you explain the directions and your photos are beautiful.