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Varieties & Forms

There are more than two dozen almond varieties produced in California orchards, each with distinct characteristics. There are also a number of ways to process the almonds, including slicing, dicing, slivering, or making into butter, meal, or oil.

California almond classifications & varieties.

California almond varieties are categorized into five broad classifications based on distinguishing characteristics such as size and shape. Approximately 90 percent of almond production in California falls into the following three major classifications: Nonpareil, California, and Mission. Within those classifications there are over 30 almond varieties, many of which are grown in California. Some varieties may fall under more than one classification since they have characteristics of one type (such as Mission), but are also blanchable (a requirement of the California classification).

Nonpareil

With the widest range of uses among the marketing categories, Nonpareil are readily blanched (skin removal) and cut for processed forms. A thin outer shell and smooth kernel allow for easy, blemish-free processing. As a result, Nonpareil are used anywhere an attractive appearance or a strong almond identification is important. Examples of Nonpareil varieties include Independence and Nonpareil.

California

This classification includes a number of varieties that are blanchable and used primarily in manufactured products. California-type almonds have a wide range of shell hardness, kernel shapes, skin color, and surface characteristics. As a result, they are quite adaptable and well suited for nearly any process or application. Examples of California varieties include Aldrich, Carmel, and Monterey.

Mission

Mission almonds have hard shells, and their kernels are small, wide, and often plump. The kernel skin is generally darker than Nonpareil and wrinkled, which enhances salt and flavor adherence. Blanching is not as common for this type. Examples of Mission varieties include Butte, Fritz, and Padre.

Almond forms: there’s an almond for that.

almond-whole
Whole – Natural or Blanched

Typical Uses:

  • Natural almonds: versatile and suitable for all-around use

  • Blanched: works well as an attractive garnish, either as is or roasted to bring out the flavor and color

  • Natural, roasted or flavored snacks
    Embedded or enrobed in chocolate

  • Ingredients for confectionery, energy bars, bakery

  • Inputs for processing

almond-slices
Slices or Flakes – Natural or Blanched

Typical Uses:

  • Topping for salads

  • Ingredient for cereal

  • Coating for savory dishes

  • Garnishing for baked goods, desserts

almond-halves
Slivers or Halves – Natural or Blanched

Typical Uses:

  • Roasted or flavored snacks

  • Ideal for stir-fries and grain dishes

  • Ingredient for baked goods, cereal

  • Texture for confectionery

  • Topping for prepared foods, salads

Diced or Chopped – Natural or Blanched

Typical Uses:

  • Topping for dairy items, baked goods

  • Work well for stuffings and coatings

  • Coating for ice cream bars

  • Filling for bakery, confectionery

  • Crust for meats, seafood

Meal or Flour – Natural or Blanched

Typical Uses:

  • Sauce thickener

  • Perfect for making almond butter or marzipan

  • Ingredient and filling for confectionery

  • Flavor enhancer in bakery

  • Coating for fried foods

Almond Milk

Typical Uses:

  • In morning cereal or coffee

  • Blended with smoothies

almond oli
Almond Oil

Typical Uses:

  • Salad dressings

  • Non-food (e.g., cosmetics, moisturizer)

almond paste and butter
Paste and Butter – Natural or Blanched

Typical Uses:

  • Alternative to other spreads

  • Filling for chocolate, cereal bars, confectionery and bakery

green almonds
Green Almonds

Typical Uses:

  • Cut the almond hull along the seam with a paring knife and use the fresh, herbaceous-tasting nut’s inside as part of a composed salad or plain with a bit of sea salt

  • Pickled

Additional resources:
Guide to California Almonds Poster - to request a hard copy, email: jnicolau@almondboard.com.
USDA Standards Almonds In-Shell
USDA Standards Shelled Almonds