Pecans: About the Nut, Measurements, and Cooking Tips

Pecans
Pecans. © 2014 Paul Poplis/Getty Images

There are over 500 types of pecans in the world, and most of them are named after Native American tribes or those that grafted the plant in which it came from. Most pecans in the U.S. are from Georgia, Texas, and New Mexico, although they can be grown in many other states. Pecans are considered a tree nut, and other nuts in the same category include cashews, almonds, walnuts, and more. This smooth and brown nut has an edible kernel in a similar fashion to a walnut.

The Benefits of Pecans

Pecans are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, an important antioxidant. In fact, there are a total of 18 vitamins and minerals in pecans. Nutritionally, about one cup has 10 grams of protein, 753 calories, and 78 grams of total fat. According to a 2001 study from the Journal of Nutrition, eating a handful of pecans daily helped lowered cholesterol like that of a medication.

This nut is also high protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. Additionally, this rich source of energy can nourish the skin and stimulate hair growth, allowing it to grow strong and healthy. This is due to the amino acid L-arginine which specifically helps treat baldness in men, improve blood flow, and provide a good source of iron which is imperative to keeping hair healthy. 

Pecan Measurements

In most recipes, walnuts are interchangeable with pecans in equal measure, although chefs should keep in mind that pecans have a more delicate flavor.

You can also try substituting peanuts, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, and other nuts for chopped pecans.

Here are some pecan equivalents:

  • 1 pound pecans in the shell = 3 cups shelled
  • 1 pound shelled pecans = about 4 cups pecan halves
  • 1 pound shelled pecans = about 3-3/4 cups chopped

Pecan Cooking Tips 

Toasting pecans will bring out their aroma and add crunchiness.

To toast, cooks can preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and then spread pecans on a cookie sheet. Finally, the pecans can bake for about five minutes or until lightly browned and aromatic.

Pecans can also be ground into a meal and used as a wonderful flavoring additive to bread, cookies, and other baked goods. Care must be taken when grinding your own pecan meal at home since the high oil content can turn the meal into a butter-like consistency if done too fast and too quickly.

The following includes several additional tidbits about pecans:

  • For a hefty price, you can find pecan oil in gourmet stores which works beautifully in many recipes.
  • The most popular pecan dish is pecan pie (sometimes called Karo pie after the brand of corn syrup which is often used as an ingredient).
  • Pecan balls are a dessert famous in Pittsburgh, Ohio, made by rolling vanilla ice cream in chopped pecans and topped with chocolate syrup.

Tasty Pecan Recipes

There are many delicious recipes, great desserts, and savory dishes perfect for the holidays and special occasions. Some of these recipes are also included in great cookbooks that highlight pecans for the versatile ingredient that it is. Several of these cookbooks include the Pecan Lovers' CookbookThe Totally Nuts Cookbook, and The Book of Edible Nuts.

Here are some recipes to try out: