Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a pecan vs. a walnut?
Let’s discover these differences by first looking at pecans and walnuts individually.
What Is A Pecan?
A pecan is a type of nut that comes from the pecan tree.
You’ve likely heard of the famous pecan pie if you are from the United States. (If you haven’t, you’re missing out!)
This is because the pecan comes from the pecan tree that is native to the U.S., and more prominently in Texas, where it thrives in the temperate climate.
Texas has even named the pecan tree as its state tree and the pecan pie is the state’s official pie.
The pecan nut is also the official state nut in Alabama and Arkansas and makes the list on California’s list of state nuts next to almond, pistachio, and walnut.
Oklahoma even includes the pecan pie in its official state meal.
This nut is more famous than any of us!
In addition to its interesting history, the pecan is uniquely high in healthy fats, and therefore is a great high-calorie snack option that provides a rich flavor by itself.
Pecans are often eaten raw, salted, or glazed in sugar (pralines)… or baked in delicious pies 🙂
What Is A Walnut?
The walnut is a tree nut that comes from the walnut tree.
There is no famous ‘walnut pie,’ but these nuts date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, where it was thought to be a gift from the gods.
They also wrote about medicinal properties they thought the walnut possessed.
It may not be famous for pie, but its history is quite fascinating.
Walnuts are enjoyed more as a topping or ingredient in dishes rather than eaten raw like pecans due to the differences in taste that I will go into later in the article.
How Are Pecans and Walnuts Related?
Pecans and walnuts come from the same family of deciduous trees called Juglandaceae, indicating some similarities between the two in their genetics.
Although commonly called a nut, both pecans and walnuts come from the seed of the plant.
Nutritionally, they are both high in healthy fats, protein, fiber, and some micronutrients that contribute to brain health.
What Are the Differences Between a Pecan Versus A Walnut?
Pecans and walnuts greatly differ in appearance, but have more similarities when it comes to their nutritional benefits and uses in the kitchen.
Pecan Vs Walnut: Nutritional Benefits
1 serving = 1 ounce of nuts
DV = Daily Value
Pecan Nutrition Facts (for 1 ounce or 28.4 grams, about 19 halves)
- Calories: 196 kcals
- Protein: 2.6 grams
- Fat: 20.4 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3.9 grams
- Fiber: 2.7 grams
- Magnesium: 8% DV
- Phosphorus: 6% DV
- Zinc: 12% DV
- Manganese: 56% DV
- Thiamin: 16% DV
- Vitamin E: 49% DV
Walnut Nutrition Facts (1 ounce or 28.35 grams, about 14 halves)
- Calories: 185 kcals
- Protein: 4.3 grams
- Fat: 18.5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3.9 grams
- Fiber: 1.9 grams
- Magnesium: 11% DV
- Phosphorus: 8% DV
- Zinc: 8% DV
- Manganese: 42% DV
- Thiamin: 8% DV
- Vitamin B-6: 9% DV
- Folate: 7% DV
- Vitamin E: 41% DV
- Lutein + zeaxanthin
Pecans and walnuts have similar nutrient profiles, as shown above. In addition to being high in protein and fiber for their small size, they are especially high in manganese and vitamin E.
Manganese is essential to normal metabolism of nutrients, the central nervous system, immune function, blood clotting, and bone health.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and has beneficial effects on vision, reproduction, and brain health.
As with any edible plant, there are also phytonutrients present in pecans and walnuts.
Phytonutrients also provide antioxidant benefits to combat inflammation.
It’s NUTS how many benefits are packed into these little vessels of food!
Pecan Vs Walnut: Uses
Taste test time!
If you have pecans and walnuts at home, try an experiment to see if you can identify the differences by eating one at a time and recording what you taste.
If you don’t have them at home, I’ve got you covered. Just keep reading 🙂
Pecans tend to have a sweeter taste profile than walnuts. If you sampled them, did you notice that difference?
This makes them a more favorable choice for raw consumption or in trail mixes.
Walnuts tend to have a more bitter flavor, making them less favorable for raw consumption.
You likely enjoyed eating the pecan more if you sampled the two together, noticing the unpleasant bitterness of the walnut.
Walnuts are better used as a texture additive in salads, oatmeal, and other dishes to reap their amazing benefits without noticing the bitterness.
Best uses of pecans:
- Raw, salted, glazed in sugar
- Trail mix/granola
- Paired with dark chocolate
Best uses of walnuts:
- Additive on salads, oatmeal,
- Trail mix/granola
Which Nut Is More Expensive?
Pecans are generally less expensive than walnuts and are a great option for gaining the brain boosting benefits while sticking to a tight budget.
In A Nutshell
Nutritionally, pecans have more fiber while walnuts have more protein per ounce.
Both pecans and walnuts contain high amounts of vitamin E and manganese, both powerful antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory effects on the body and brain.
Pecans are less expensive, and therefore may be a better option for those looking to get the same benefits as walnuts but on a tighter budget.
You walnut regret adding these nuts to your diet!
Sources of Information
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, July 25). walnut. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/walnut-tree-and-nut
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2020, November 19). pecan. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/pecan
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/
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Rachel Badtke, RDN, CPT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). She specializes in holistic wellness and whole food plant-focused nutrition. Rachel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and an ACE-approved certificate of completion in Advanced Sports Nutrition.