Pecans are brown-skinned, crinkly nuts with a distinctive sweet, rich buttery flavor and a crisp, slightly crumbly texture. They are sold whole (in the shell or shelled) and in halves or pieces.
The seeds of the pecan are edible, with a rich, buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts, but also in some savory dishes. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional southern U.S. recipe. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy, most often associated with New Orleans.
The pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America, in Mexico from Coahuila south to Jalisco and Veracruz, in the United States in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and South Carolina.
“Pecan” is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack.
To toast pecans:
Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) oven. Toast, shaking the sheet occasionally, until the nuts just begin to change color and are fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
To chop pecans:
Spread the pecans on a work surface and, using a chef’s knife, chop with a rocking motion. Or, chop the nuts in a food processor fitted with the metal blade; do not overprocess or the nuts will turn into a paste.
For other nut varieties, see almonds, Brazil nuts, candlenuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts.