Pecans and walnuts are two akin, versatile, nutritious, and delicious types of nuts. Both are an incredible source of energy for your body, and they also provide many health benefits.
However, although they share plenty of similarities, there are some differences in terms of appearance, taste, and nutritional content that you should know.
So, in this article, we will take a closer look at the main differences between pecans and walnuts, plus some recipes you can make with each.
Let’s get started!
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What Is the Difference Between Pecans and Walnuts?
Pecans and walnuts come from the same family of trees, which is why they seem so similar. Both are culinary nuts rich in vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fats, and fiber. They also give a feeling of satiety and are low in carbohydrates, making them the perfect healthy snack.
Both kinds of nuts can be eaten raw or in pastries, salads, or cookies. What’s more, given their fat content, they are also excellent ingredients to prepare butter and oils.
As you can see, pecans and walnuts are super versatile and nutritious, but they differ a bit in their composition. Therefore, depending on your dietary needs or the recipes you want to prepare, sometimes one option will suit you better than the other.
That said, let’s compare their main qualities:
Walnuts and pecans come from the Juglandaceae family of trees. There are over 50 species worldwide, but most of them concentrate in the Northern Hemisphere, predominantly in the United States and some parts of Europe and Asia.
Pecans are indigenous to the southernUnited Statesand northern Mexico. They are rather popular in North America and therefore cheaper than walnuts in this region.
On the other hand, walnuts grow mainly in the northern regions of Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Shape and Color
Although pecans and walnuts might seem similar when cracked, they are pretty easy to differentiate once you understand their primary qualities.
First of all, pecans are smaller and darker than walnuts, and they have a uniform look. Their shell is brown, smooth, and has an oval shape with slightly pointed tops. Contrarily, walnuts are rounded and lighter. Plus, they have a distinctive wrinkly texture— they almost look like tiny brains!
On the inside, pecans are dark brown, oblong, and have two lengthwise grooves separated by a ridge in the middle. Like walnuts, they also have wrinkles, but they have a regular, elongated shape that is very easy to distinguish.
For their part, walnuts have a golden or yellowish color, and they are super irregular in shape. Additionally, they are easier to crack than pecans, so that is another difference to note.
Taste and Culinary Uses
Both types of nuts are pretty versatile and serve the same purposes. They can be eaten fresh as a snack, toasted, or as toppings for salads or desserts. Moreover, as mentioned before, they are rich in healthy fats and proteins for making oils and butter.
In many cases, you can substitute one for the other without altering the recipe too much. Still, there are a few differences in taste.
Pecans are drier and sweeter than walnuts. They add an extra flavor and crunchy texture to a wide variety of dishes that call for a touch of sweetness, including sweet potato casseroles, pasta, salads, and pastries. One of the most popular recipes is the traditional pecan pie in the United States.
In contrast, walnuts are a bit more bitter, soft, and buttery. They have a classic nutty flavor and a crispy but mellow texture to the bite.
Walnuts are best suited for granola, cakes, muffins, or any recipe that already has other sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup. They are also a fine choice to eat with salads, yogurt, and ice cream.
Another popular way to eat both pecans and walnuts is to caramelize them. You can melt brown sugar in a pan and mix it with some water, cinnamon, sea salt, or any other spice you like. Then, add the nuts until they are well coated, and that’s it! That works as a snack or topping for a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes.
Pecans vs. Walnuts – Nutritional Value Comparison
As they are almost like siblings, pecans and walnuts have a similar nutritional composition.
So far, we already know both types of nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, low in carbohydrates, and full of vitamins that bring a host of health benefits to your body. That is why they are perfect for people who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Even so, they do not have the same distribution of vitamins and macronutrients. That is not to say that one is better than the other, but they offer different benefits.
As a general idea of what they provide, pecans are 4% water, 72% fat, 9% protein, and 14% carbohydrates. A one-ounce serving (28 grams) of pecans contains around 196 calories and 2.7 gr of dietary fiber.
Meanwhile, walnuts are 4% water, 65% fat, 15% protein, and 14% carbohydrates. One ounce of walnuts contains 185 calories and 1.9 grams of fiber. They are slightly less caloric and have less fiber than pecans but more proteins.
Overall, both walnuts and pecans contribute a lot of energy to your organism. So, the winner choice will depend entirely on your taste and dietary needs.
To help you decide which one is the best for you, let’s compare their vitamin, mineral, and fat content:
These two nuts are high in various B vitamins (which help with cell metabolism and the formation of red blood cells) and have small amounts of vitamins A, C, E, and K. The difference is in the quantities of each.
Pecans have a noticeably higher content of thiamine (vitamin B1) than walnuts. Thiamine is an essential vitamin to transform nutrients into energy, and it is responsible for the full development of systems and organs, among other crucial functions inside the body. They are also richer in vitamin B5, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
Where walnuts outperform pecans is in their vitamin B6 content. Vitamin B6 has a fundamental role in brain health and is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system and immune system.
While pecans might have richer content in the vitamins category, here is where walnuts shine the most.
Walnuts are high in calcium, iron, and potassium, which support healthy bone and blood care. They are also a great source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and copper.
Copper plays a fundamental role in red blood cells production and the maintenance of bones, nerves, connective tissue, and immune function.
Pecans are a good source of zinc, a necessary mineral for keeping a strong immune system. Zinc also improves skin health, helps in wound healing, and reduces the risk of age-related diseases.
Like walnuts, pecans also provide plenty of manganese, which helps the brain and nervous system function well.
Before anything else, let’s remember that both pecans and walnuts are excellent sources of unsaturated fats, just like all nuts.
Pecans contain a lot of monounsaturated fats that may reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.
On the contrary, walnuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve cardiac function and blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and prevent clot formation in your arteries— just to mention a few benefits. Omega-6 fatty acids are also beneficial for your heart and help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.
The balance between these omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in walnuts boosts the proper functioning of your entire body, offering positive effects on your cardiovascular system, mental health, and even your skin and bones.
Best Recipes for Walnuts
- Blondies with Walnuts and Chocolate Chips – The perfect cookie-like chewy treat to satisfy your sweet cravings!
- Honey and Walnuts Hot Oatmeal – A delicious, simple, and energy-boosting alternative for breakfast.
- Apple Walnut Salad – The ideal balance of crunchiness, freshness, and flavor for a substantial and different salad.
- Walnut Pasta Sauce – A vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free pasta sauce packed with flavor and a creamy texture to take your pasta dishes to another level.
- Zucchini Walnut Fried Rice – A different way to eat rice, mixing the crunchiness of walnuts with the softness of zucchini.
- Walnut Crusted Chicken – Served with honey mustard glaze, this walnut-crusted chicken is wholesome, crisp, and flavorsome.
Best Recipes for Pecans
- Candied pecans – To eat as a snack or topping for desserts, pancakes, yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
- Pecan pie – The simple, delicious, and traditional American pecan pie with toasted pecans, corn syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and melted butter.
- Turtle cookies – Easy-to-make, sweet, and full of chocolate, these chewy cookies make the perfect afternoon treat.
- Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans – An easy, classic, and sweet Thanksgiving side dish.
- Pecan Crusted Salmon – A healthy, easy yet fancy-looking dish to impress everyone at a special dinner.
- Brussels Sprout & Sweet Potato Salad – A filling salad with shaved Brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, Gouda cheese, and toasted pecans.
Pecans and walnuts are delicious and provide tons of nutrients for your body. No matter which of the two is your favorite, you can get countless health benefits by incorporating them into your diet. Plus, they are so versatile that you can eat them in almost any type of dish!
Which one is the winner for you? Pecans or walnuts?
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I’m Maria and I love cooking—and mostly EATING—food from all around the world. I’ve been sharing my abuela’s secret Latin-American recipes for the last 7 years with the world on this blog. I’ve been a full-time food blogger for many years and I’m always trying new delicious meals that don’t require a culinary degree or a Michelin-star chef. I also love traveling, cats, and knitting.