Pecan FAQs

Curious about pecans?

We’ll help you get to know this nut. The American Pecan Council is your go-to resource for all you need to know about the American Pecan.

Who is the American Pecan Council?

The American Pecan Council (APC) is a newly formed organization of U.S. pecan growers and handlers (processors) who are working together to build demand for the American Pecan. Created as a result of the recently approved Federal Marketing Order for pecans, the APC is helping to tell the unique story of America’s only native nut. The APC is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and funders include pecan handlers in the 15 pecan-producing states of the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Aren’t there other pecan organizations?

Yes, there are several other pecan groups, including national, regional and state pecan organizations. For instance, the National Pecan Shellers Association is a non-profit trade association funded by America’s pecan shellers (handlers). This group is committed to educating culinary and health professionals, food technologists and the public about the nutrition benefits, variety of uses and great taste of pecans. The National Pecan Growers Council promotes the international marketing of U.S.-grown pecans.

How do pecans compare to other nuts?

Pecans are the only tree nut that is truly native to the United States – other tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios, were brought to America from the Middle East or Europe. While often thought of as a dessert nut, pecans are just as heart-healthy as other tree nuts and have similar scientific research documenting their heart-health benefits. But what makes pecans unique is that they contain phytonutrients, specifically flavonoids (10 mg per ounce), at levels comparable to some superfruits. Pecans also contain gamma-tocopherols, a form of vitamin E (7 mg per ounce). On top of all that, pecans have a naturally sweet and rich, buttery taste that many chefs and food experts prefer.

How did the pecan get its name?

The word “pecan” is derived from a Native American word of Algonquian origin that means “a nut too hard to crack by hand.” The botanical name of the pecan tree is Carya illinoinensis, which refers to the nuts traveling to the far, unsettled frontier of present-day Illinois during the American Revolution.

Where are pecans grown?

America’s native nut is primarily grown in 15 U.S. states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Growers and shellers from each of these pecan-growing states are participating in the American Pecan Council.

How many pecans are grown each year?

The United States produces more than 300 million pounds of pecans annually, which is about 80 percent of the world’s pecan supply. In the last few years pecan farmers have been planting thousands of additional acres of pecan orchards, so production is steadily increasing.

Which state produces the most pecans?

Historically, Georgia has been the top pecan-producing state, followed by New Mexico and Texas.

When are pecans harvested?

Pecans are typically harvested between October and December, depending on the region and variety of pecan. Fortunately, American Pecans are available year-round, so they’re always in season.

Are there different types of pecans?

There are more than 500 different types of pecans, although the majority of pecans grown in the United States are focused on a few dozen varieties, including Western, Desirable, Stuart, Burkett, Wichita and native pecans.  As a salute to the pecan’s history as an indigenous nut, many pecan varieties, or cultivars, are named after Native Americans, such as Cheyenne, Sioux, Apache, Osage, Pawnee, Mohawk, Kiowa and Choctaw.

You won’t typically see the pecan variety on the label of a package of pecans, but you will notice the various sizes and colors – which are the main differences among shelled pecan varieties.  Some pecans are a brighter, golden brown, while others are more amber.   Pecan halves also vary in size, ranging from “mammoth” to “small topper.” U.S. grade standards for nuts are voluntary, so you may see “Fancy” on the label of shelled nuts, which is the highest quality awarded based on golden color, full-bodied, and solid kernel structure.

Are pecans genetically modified?

No. American Pecans are not genetically modified. All of the pecan varieties grown in the U.S. have been developed through conventional breeding methods, such as tree grafting. The improved varieties are all derived from the native pecan, which grew naturally in North America millions of years ago. None of the U.S.-grown pecans contain GMOs, and the American Pecan Council does not anticipate production of genetically modified pecans in the near future.

What are wild pecans?

Wild pecans are the indigenous pecans that grow naturally in groves, often near rivers and creeks. Native or wild pecans make up about 30 percent of the U.S. pecan crop, compared to the newer varieties or cultivars of pecans that have been planted in orchards. Typically, you will not find wild pecans identified on the label, however, some brands do specify “natives” or “wild-harvested.” If you do not see wild American Pecans where you shop, you can order online.

Where can I buy pecans?

Pecans are widely available in supermarkets, natural food stores and other retailers where nuts are sold. They’re especially abundant in grocery stores during pecan harvest and the holiday season – from October to December. However, you can easily buy pecans all year long. If you cannot find the types of pecans you are looking for where you shop, let the store manager know about your request. Or you can always check online, where many different types of pecans are sold.

What are the various forms of pecans available?

Like most nuts, pecans are available shelled and unshelled. Shelled pecans come as halves or pieces, raw or roasted (oil and dry roasted), and salted or unsalted. You can also find glazed and flavored varieties of pecans in bags, single-serve pouches and resealable canisters. Additionally, you can purchase a variety of pecan-based products, such as:

Pecan butter: Like peanut butter and other nut butters, this is a ground paste of pecans that can be used on toast, for sandwiches and in many delicious recipes.
Pecan meal: Pecan meal is ground to the consistency of corn meal and can be used to coat fish or batter chicken, sprinkled on salads or added to baked goods.
Pecan flour: Ground finer than meal, pecan flour is a gluten-free and grain-free option for baking.
Pecan oil: A slightly nutty oil that can be used in salad dressings, drizzled on vegetables or tossed in pasta and whole-grain dishes.
Pecan milk: If you can’t find pecan milk where other nut milks are sold, it’s easy to make your own at home.

Are organic pecans available?

Yes. Some brands of pecans are organically grown and carry the USDA-certified organic seal. If you cannot find organic pecans in your area, you can easily order online.

How do I choose the best pecans?

When buying packaged pecans, look for a freshness date on the label. If you can see the kernels, they should be plump, golden brown and uniform in size. If you’re buying shelled pecans in bulk, be sure they look crisp and fresh, as opposed to limp or rubbery. When selecting pecans in the shell, avoid damaged or cracked shells. Each nut should feel heavy, and the kernel should not rattle when shaken, which may indicate that it’s withered and dry.

What is the best way to store pecans?

To protect the pecan’s rich oils and buttery taste, do not store shelled pecans at room temperature. For the best quality, always keep your shelled pecans in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for about nine months in an airtight container, and up to two years in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer. Pecans can be thawed and frozen repeatedly during the two-year freezing period without loss of flavor or texture. You do not need to thaw pecans before using them in recipes. However, it’s best to let frozen pecans reach room temperature if you want to grind them for pecan meal. For in-shell pecans, you can store them in a dry, cool place for up to a year.

How do pecans fit into dietary guidelines?

A healthy eating pattern for a 2,000-calorie diet should include 4 ounces of nuts and seeds per week, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Pecans and other nuts are part of the Protein Foods Group. A 1-ounce serving of pecans is the equivalent to 2-ounces in the Protein Group. Because pecans offer protein, along with heart-healthy unsaturated fats, dietary guidelines recommend using nuts and other plant proteins instead of meat or poultry at least a couple times per week. To meet sodium recommendations, the guidelines recommend unsalted nuts. Check out our health and nutrition section to learn more about the pecan’s positive nutrition story.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” One serving of pecans (1-ounce or about 19 halves) contains 18 grams of unsaturated fat and only 2 grams of saturated fat.

What happens to all the pecan shells?

Some may consider pecan shells “waste,” but there are many beneficial ways to make use of these hard cases—and the pecan industry is putting the shells to good use. At home, you can use pecan shells to add a smoked, fruity flavor when grilling or smoking meats. Or crush the shells into smaller pieces to create mulch for your garden, as the shells help retain the moisture in the soil. Pecan shells can also be used as an active ingredient in a compost bin.

The pecan industry is exploring ways to use pecan shells for renewable energy. In many parts of the country, pecan shells are being converted into an inexpensive source for biofuel. The ability to repurpose pecan shells not only reduces waste, but also provides a flexible, practical and eco-friendly resource.

Are pecans gluten free?

Indeed they are. Pecans are a naturally gluten-free food. However, if you need to restrict gluten, be sure to check package labels for flavored pecans or products made with pecans to be sure no gluten-containing ingredients were added. Pecan flour is a gluten-free, grain-free flour that can be used for gluten-free baking.

Does heating impact the nutrient content of pecans?

No. The nutrient profile is not significantly changed by roasting or toasting pecans for a short period of time, as the nutrients and bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, will remain intact. There’s also very little difference between raw and oil roasted pecans. Oil roasted pecans contain just 7 calories and 1 gram of fat more per ounce compared to raw pecans.

Other than pie, what are additional ways to enjoy pecans?

There are too many ways to count. Don’t just think of pecans for pie, pralines and other desserts. This nutrient-dense nut makes for a great snack right out of the bag, or toasted and combined with dried fruits and savory spices. It’s easy to make your own trail mixes and granola blends with pecans, too. You can also add pecans to your morning oatmeal, yogurt parfait, smoothies, quick breads, salads and whole-grain power bowls. Or use chopped pecans or pecan meal to coat fish, pork tenderloin or chicken for incredible entrees. Be sure to visit our recipe section and discover dozens of delicious pecan-based dishes, from superb salads and sides to magnificent main courses, and of course, delectable desserts. You can also share your tried and true pecan recipes with us and have them featured on our site.

Remember, there’s no “can’t” when cooking with pecans!

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