Here’s a quick guide to pecans, with tips for how to store and use them, and some recipes for this delicious nut.
If there’s such a thing as an all-American nut, then pecans surely fit that definition. Native to the American South, pecans grow on a tall tree that’s a species of hickory.
A culinary trip through the South, whether in real time or virtually, through books and other media, confirms that the rich-tasting pecan is still quite a favorite.
Pecans are highly compatible with sweet dishes and baked goods. They’re interchangeable with walnuts in most recipes (especially where chopped nuts are called for in baked goods, such as brownies) and are, of course, commonly used in pies and tarts. Their mellow flavor is welcome in mixed nuts and trail mixes. We’ll get to more of their uses in this post.
Buying and storage
Oil-rich pecans are susceptible to rancidity. If buying in bulk, choose a source that has a good turnover (Pecans are 70 percent fat, second only to macadamia nuts). They’re also available packaged.
No matter how you buy them, it’s a good idea to refrigerate pecans if you don’t plan to use them within a month or so. In the summer, it’s safest to refrigerate them from the start.
Pecans are 70 percent fat, second only to macadamia nuts in fat content. Most of the fat is in the form of monounsaturates, with only a small portion of saturates.
An ounce of pecans (about 20 halves) contains 195 calories, 20 grams of fat, 2.6 grams of protein, 2.7 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of carbohydrates. Pecans are a good source of potassium and the B vitamin thiamine. Their vitamin A content is appreciable in comparison to other nuts. Other minerals and vitamins common to all nuts are present in modest amounts.
Learn more about the nutrient profile of pecans.
How to toast pecans
Generally, pecans don’t come raw, so you need not toast them at all if you choose not to. However, toasting them definitely brings out more of their flavor if they’re going to be the highlight of a dish. You can toast pecans in the oven or on the stovetop. It doesn’t take long, and enhances their flavor and aroma.
In the oven: Scatter the pecans in a parchment-line baking pan. Bake at 300º F for 10 minutes or so, shaking the pan about half way through.
On the stovetop: Simple toast pecan halves on a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until aromatic.
Ways to use pecans
Here are a few general ways to use pecans:
- A classic pancake topping: Simple scatter a few pecan halves over your favorite kind of homemade pancakes.
- In baked goods: The warm, mellow flavor of pecans makes them especially welcome in baked goods like the famous pecan pie, as well as muffins, cakes, and granola.
- Garnish for cool-weather vegetables: Pecans are especially good as a garnish for the orange veggies like squash and sweet potato dishes, and they’re also great sprinkled over broccoli, green beans, and Brussels sprouts.
- A tasty crumb topping: Combine 1 part finely ground pecans with 3 parts fine dry bread crumbs to make a tasty topping for casseroles, pasta dishes, and vegetables.
- Embellish fruit salads: Add a few pecan halves to summer or winter fruit salads or to stewed fruits.
Recipes using pecans
See more of our food guides.