Flickr: Adam Wyles

The Big Difference Between Pecans and Walnuts

Pecans and walnuts might seem likely vaguely similar nuts, but they have some key differences between them, particularly in nutritional ways. Both of them have better health benefits and antioxidants than most traditional snacks, but let's take a look at how pecans vs walnuts differ and why.


Pecan nuts in wooden bowl

Getty Images/Amarita

Pecans are a species of hickory originating from pecan trees in northern Mexico and the southern United States, mostly around the Mississippi River, according to Wikipedia. They have a rich buttery flavor and are used in treats like pecan pie and praline.

Nutritionally, per 100g, pecans have 13.86 carbohydrates and are a rich source of of total fat, protein, dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and thiamin. The fat content of pecans has mostly monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid, polyunsaturated fat in the form of linoleic acid. These fats make pecans excellent for your cardiovascular health, especially since they contain low saturated fats.


Organic walnuts still life

Getty Images/fcafotodigital

Walnuts come from — you guessed it — walnut trees, and the ones you'll find are generally Persian, English walnuts, or black walnuts. The English walnut (J. regia) originated in Iran and the black walnut is native to eastern North America, according to Wikipedia.

They can be shelled or deshelled, and eaten raw, toasted, or pickled. Walnut oil is also used as a food ingredient. They're sometimes added to brownies, cakes, fudge, and other treats, but can be enjoyed alone as a weight loss food, as long as consumed in small amounts.

As far as nutrition goes, walnuts are rich in manganese and vitamin B. In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration said walnuts may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, much like pecans.

Pecans vs Walnuts: What's the Difference?

?Pecans are smaller and sweeter than walnuts, for a start. Walnuts tend to be more expensive and are light brown, while pecan shells are dark brown.

Walnuts are higher in Polyunsaturated fat, which includes Omega-3 fatty acid and Omega-6 fatty acid, according to FoodStruct. Pecans are higher in fiber, and both are pretty equal when it comes to cholesterol levels. Fans of the Keto Diet will want to choose pecans over walnuts since they contain slightly fewer carbs. Walnuts contain a slightly higher amount of protein, and both are excellent sources of potassium as well as Vitamin B6.

Walnuts tend to have higher calcium and phosphorus levels while pecans are higher in zinc.

Most nuts, pecans, walnuts or whatever they happen to be are going to aid in a healthy diet as compared to something like a sugary snack or drink. So if you're working on your heart health and hope to work more healthy fats into your diet, choose a nut and start adding them to the menu!

How to Cook Walnuts and Pecans

Despite their differences, walnuts and pecans can be cooked the same way for delectable results. Toasting your nuts make them even more delicious for use in salads, cookies, and as toppings for stir fries and other veggie-based recipes. Whole nuts are easiest to use because they roast the most evenly, all being roughly the same size. Chopped nuts work for roasting too, but the smaller pieces can burn before the larger pieces are done, making the process frustrating and wasteful when you need to throw out some of the pieces.

Since nuts already have oil in them, you don't need to add oil when toasting them. Make sure to taste your nuts before you put them in the oven to make sure they're good; even the best roasting method won't save rancid nuts. Roast your nuts for about 10 minutes, or a few minutes extra for larger nuts. When roasting, put them in the oven and roast until golden brown, but don't let them get dark brown. When you're done, you can add them into a cookie or brownie recipe, top a salad, or just eat as a snack.

You can also make flavored roasted nuts if you want to add even more flavor. Use cayenne pepper and maple syrup or brown sugar for sweet and salty nuts, or go for spices like rosemary or smoked paprika. Flavoring your nuts perfectly takes some trial and error, so consider making a small batch to make sure you like the flavors that you've chosen. Here's a recipe at Cookie & Kate for tasty roasted nuts.

Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

This post was originally published on May 11, 2021.

READ MORE: Health Benefits of Pecans That Are Absolutely Nuts