Home » Food Information » Pecan Vs. Walnut: The Ultimate Comparison

Pecan Vs. Walnut: The Ultimate Comparison

It can be challenging to choose between pecans vs. walnuts. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two popular nuts.

They’re both tasty, nutritious, and versatile, but which one is better? Join us as we delve into these nuts’ characteristics, culinary uses, health benefits, and taste distinctions to help you make an informed choice.

Blog cover showing salad topped with walnuts and with pecans.

What Is Pecan?

Pecan, or Carya illinoinensis, is a nut that grows on hickory trees native to North America. It belongs to the Juglandaceae family or the walnut family.

People widely cultivate them in the United States. You’ll mainly find them in New Mexico, Texas, and Georgia. But Mexico is the world’s largest producer of pecans.

While commercial cultivation of pecans is widespread, wild pecans continue to be cherished by some for their unique characteristics.

Pecans are a popular ingredient in many recipes, especially desserts. Pecan pie is a classic American dish that showcases this ingredient’s flavor and texture.

In addition to their delicious taste, pecans are also nutritious. They are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Pecans also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Whether you choose to eat fresh or use them in cooking, they provide a range of health benefits and add a unique flavor to many dishes.

Bowl filled with nuts: pecans and walnuts.

What Does Pecan Taste Like?

Pecans have a unique and delicious taste. It is the perfect combination of sweet, buttery flavor and a mild floral and foresty aroma.

The nut’s flesh can have a fatty taste and a slightly crumbly texture, similar to a cookie.

When you bite down a pecan, the nut releases rich oils that add flavor. The outside of the nut has a slightly bitter taste.

But the inside is a delightful combination of flavors, making pecans a popular choice for sweet and savory dishes.

You May Also Like

Honey Roasted Pecans Recipe

What Does Pecan Look Like?

Pecans are a distant relative of walnuts and have a similar appearance. They are usually longer, slimmer, and smoother.

The pecan nut is oblong in shape and grows inside a rough green husk. This husk turns black and splits open when it matures.

On the outside, you’ll observe a brown or tan exterior with black streaks. This shell is thin and smooth, so it is easy to crack.

Each pecan nut is one to two inches long and has a pointed end with distinct ridges.

What Is Walnut?

Walnut is a nutritious nut with a distinctively shaped shell, known for its rich flavor, healthy fats, and versatile culinary uses.

It is an edible seed of any tree of the Juglans genus, which belongs to the family Juglandaceae.

There are many kinds of walnut, but the most common type is the Persian walnut, Juglans regia. People also call it the English walnut.

While people call it a “nut” and use it as one, walnut is not a true botanical nut. Once the walnut reaches full ripening, you discard the shell and eat the kernel.

They are widely available in various forms, including whole walnuts, shelled walnuts, chopped walnuts, and walnut oil.

What Does Walnut Taste Like?

Walnuts have a rich, slightly sweet, and mildly bitter flavor.

They have a creamy and buttery texture when eaten raw or can be roasted to enhance their nutty taste.

The bitterness of walnuts comes from the tannins. This organic compound is the same thing that gives tea leaves their bitter flavor.

The oil content in walnuts also contributes to their taste.

What Does Walnut Look Like?

Walnuts have a distinctive appearance due to their rounded shape and unique browning shell. These characteristics make them easily recognizable.

The husk surrounding the shell becomes brittle as it ripens. And their hard and wrinkly shell is usually split into two segments.

Inside the shell, you’ll see a walnut kernel or meat with a brown covering. This kernel is what we consume; similarly, it consists of two halves. A thin membrane in between separates the two halves.

You can commonly buy walnuts either with or without their shells. You’ll need a nutcracker if you get them still with their shells.

Pecan nuts Vs. Walnuts Taste Comparison

While pecans and walnuts come from the same plant family, they have distinct taste differences.

Pecans have a sweeter and more buttery taste compared to walnuts. Walnuts tend to be slightly more bitter.

You can substitute these nuts for each other in most recipes. But their differences in taste and texture may affect the outcome of certain dishes.

The taste preferences can vary from person to person. Some individuals may prefer the milder, buttery taste of pecans, while others may enjoy the richer, slightly bitter flavor of walnuts.

Pecan Vs. Walnut Look Comparison

When it comes to appearance, there are notable differences between pecans and walnuts.

Pecan shells are generally darker and oblong in shape. On the other hand, walnut shells are lighter in color with ridges that give them a bulbous and rough appearance.

Pecan shells are also smoother and thinner. So, they are easier to crack open than walnuts.

In terms of the kernels or nuts themselves, walnuts have a convoluted, “brain-like” shape. Walnuts are also larger and lighter than pecans.

Pecan halves are straighter in appearance, with a distinct central fissure. The pecan kernels are also smoother and more delicate than the curly walnut kernels.

Both nuts have a brownish color, but the differences in their shapes and textures make them easily distinguishable.

These differences in appearance can affect how you can use the nuts in cooking and baking. As pecans are straighter and more uniform, they are popular in cakes and pastries for decorative purposes.

The larger size and unique shape of walnuts add a distinct crunchy texture to salads, oatmeal, and other dishes.

Nutrition difference between Pecan and walnut

Pecans and walnuts are both nutritionally dense nuts, and each offers a unique set of advantages.

It’s important to note that roasting or cooking walnuts can slightly alter their nutrient composition. While roasted walnuts still offer health benefits, the roasting process may cause some loss of heat-sensitive nutrients.

Walnuts are a particularly good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid.

Pecans, on the other hand, contain smaller amounts of omega-3 fatty acids overall.

Omega-3s are crucial for a healthy heart and brain and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Both walnuts and pecans are rich sources of polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-6 fatty acids.

Pecans contain a higher proportion of omega-6 fatty acids.

Walnuts generally have a higher fiber content compared to pecans. On average, walnuts contain around 2 grams of dietary fiber per ounce (28 grams).

Both walnuts and pecans are good sources of vitamin E.

They also have magnesium, iron, and calcium in small amounts. You’ll get slightly more protein from walnuts than from pecans.

Pecans have fewer calories compared to walnuts. Here’s a general comparison:

  • Pecans: On average, one ounce (28 grams) of pecans contains about 196 calories.
  • Walnuts: On the other hand, one ounce (28 grams) of walnuts typically contains about 183 calories.

In conclusion, including either or both in your diet can benefit your overall health.

Infographic showing difference between pecan vs walnut

Pecan Vs. Walnut Cost Comparison

You’ll typically find both walnuts and pecans in the list of the most expensive nuts. Why? For starters, pecan and walnut trees are slow-growing.

Pecan trees need at least three years to yield. But you can only expect a significant production from each tree beginning in its 10th year.

Walnut trees begin producing fruits after five years. Some varieties can take up to 8 years to fruit. This growing time ultimately plays a big role in its price.

And not only that, these trees only bear fruit once a year. So this means there is a limited supply that drives the prices up.

And both trees are tall, so harvesting them takes a lot of work. You can do them manually if you have time. But most nut producers use machines to shake the trees and pick up the falling fruits. Of course, the expense of buying and operating these machines adds to the nuts’ cost.

After harvesting, people must clean and dry the nuts, then grade and sort them. This process means you need many people, which translates to higher prices.

The prices of pecan and walnuts only differ by a few dollars per pound. Depending on your location, one nut can be more expensive than the other.

Expect to pay at least around $7 per pound of these nuts.

Pecan Vs. Walnut Shelf Life Comparison

When stored properly, pecans in the shell can maintain their quality for up to a year or even longer.

The shells protect the nuts from outside elements, so their quality stays top-notch for a long time.

To maximize their shelf life, it is important to store pecans with shells in a cool, dry, and dark place, such as a pantry or a refrigerator.

Pro Tip:

Keeping the nuts with their shells still on significantly extends their shelf life.

In The Pantry

At room temperature, unshelled walnuts are kept for four months.

Keep them in a container that will not expose them to insects or ants for the best result.

In The Fridge

Pecans and walnuts have a high fat content, and this fat does better in lower temperatures.

That said, both nuts would have a longer shelf life if you keep them in the fridge.

Refrigerated, unshelled pecans with their shells still on will last around nine months. Walnuts with intact shells last longer, as they can stay good for at least a year in the fridge.

In The Freezer

If you’re not planning to consume your nuts for a long period, store them in the freezer.

Both nuts will stay good frozen for up to one year or more, provided their shells are on.

Shelled Nuts Shelf Life

After shelling the nuts, they get exposed to the elements, making them more susceptible to getting rancid. That said, the shelf life of shelled pecans and walnuts is shorter than their unshelled counterparts.

How you store them after purchase and how producers handle and pack them affects their quality. In that case, you should rely on the expiration dates on their label.

These dates will be a good basis for judging the quality of the shelled nuts.

Of course, observe for any discoloration or funky smell to gauge if the nuts are still edible.

How To Use Pecans And Walnuts In Recipes

People often use pecans in desserts like pecan pie or as a snack on their own. On the other hand, walnuts are a common addition in savory dishes like salads or as a topping for oatmeal.

Green salad topped with pecans next to the jar with dressing.


Both nuts offer a delicious crunch to salads. To make them taste better, toast the nuts lightly before putting them over your salad. They will add texture and flavor.

For instance, this Kale Crunch Salad recipe originally calls for almonds. But you can easily replace them with pecans, walnuts, or a combination.

Use candied pecans or walnuts for a sweet and savory twist if you want something extra.


You may also add chopped pecans or walnuts to your bread dough. Aside from adding crunch, these nuts will provide a nutty flavor to your bread.

Try them with zucchini bread and other sweet bread recipes. Better yet, use them in this Banana Walnut Bread recipe.


Pecans and walnuts are classic ingredients in many sweet treats. You’ll find them in cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, and pralines.

There are many ways to use them in these dishes. You may add chopped nuts to the batter so they’ll incorporate into the bread.

Or, you can sprinkle them on top for a crunchy finish. Lastly, you may also make a nutty crust for your pies.

Nut Butter

Both pecans and walnuts make delicious nut butter. To make pecan or walnut butter, roast the nuts first to enhance their flavor. Then, blend them in a food processor until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and some honey or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

Use these nut butter as a spread, or eat them on their own – the choice is yours.

Pesto Sauce

A regular pesto sauce calls for pine nuts. But if you are in for something different, use pecans or walnuts instead of pine nuts in your pesto sauce.

Similarly, roast them first for a richer flavor. Then, blend them with fresh basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. This nutty pesto is delicious with pasta, pizza, and sandwiches.

Meat or Fiish Crust

Crush pecans or walnuts and use them to coat chicken, fish, or pork before frying or roasting them. Doing this will give your meat a flavorful and crunchy crust.

Try combining these nuts with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and herbs for added flavor. If you need some guidance, this Pecan Crusted Chicken recipe is a good starting point.

Can I Substitute Pecans For Walnuts?

Yes, you can use pecans instead of walnuts in most recipes. However, keep in mind that the two nuts have slightly different flavors and textures. That said, the result may taste a little different. After all, pecans are sweeter than walnuts and are not as bitter.

Which Is Better, walnuts or Pecan?

The choice between pecan or walnut being the better nut is subjective. It depends on personal taste and dietary needs. Pecans are sweeter and can add a distinct flavor to recipes. Walnuts are slightly bitter and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Why Should You Store Pecans And Walnuts In The Fridge?

You should store pecans and walnuts in the fridge because they have a high oil content. Their oils can cause them to go rancid more quickly, especially if you keep them at room temperature. The fridge’s low temperature will help slow the oxidation process and maintain the freshness of the nuts longer.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Pecans And Walnuts?

The easiest way to tell pecans from walnuts is by looking at their appearance. Pecans have a darker brown color than walnuts; they are also smaller and elongated. Walnuts have a curly pattern that resembles the brain, while pecans have a more uniform pattern.

What is black walnut?

Black walnut refers to a specific species of walnut tree known as Juglans nigra. It is native to North America and is valued for its timber, as well as its edible nuts. Black walnuts have a stronger, more robust flavor compared to the English or Persian walnuts commonly found in stores. The nutmeat is typically smaller, with a more intense and earthy taste.


Pecans and walnuts are two of the most common nuts from the same plant family. Yet, they have distinct differences in taste and appearance. Pecans taste sweet and buttery, while walnuts taste earthy and slightly bitter. Both nuts are versatile and nutritious, making them great additions to various recipes and diets.

That said, you can substitute these nuts for each other in most recipes. But their taste and texture differences may affect the outcome of certain dishes. So, who wins the battle between pecan vs. walnut? You decide. After all, the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference. Regardless of your choice, pecans and walnuts provide various health benefits, so the real winner will ultimately be you!

Recipes With Nuts

Filed under
Food Information
Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
pinterest instagram instagram

Get new recipes and tips via email
when you subscribe!

Have a comment? I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

As seen in:

Eating WellmashededibleWomans WorldTasting TableHomes and Gardens
Back to the Top