April is National Pecan Month so it’s time to shine the light on a nut that is very maligned and misunderstood. See, most people associate pecans (and pecan recipes) with pecan pie. While there are healthy versions of this pie that are delicious, most people seem to stick with the pie recipe that insists on using vast quantities of corn syrup. (If this is you, please know that there are tasty alternatives that don’t use corn syrup or that only use very little!)
Health Benefits of Pecans
Now, pecans themselves are actually incredibly good for you. According to the National Pecan Sheller’s Association, research conducted over the past decade “has confirmed that pecans can be a healthy addition to your diet.” The benefits are wide ranging; eating pecans protects the mind because a handful of pecans a day “may delay the progression of age-related motor neuron degeneration.”
Furthermore, “vitamin E — a natural antioxidant found in pecans — may provide a key element to neurological protection shown in the study. Antioxidants are nutrients found in foods that help protect against cell damage, and studies have shown, can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease.”
There are other benefits of eating pecans, including heart health and disease prevention, decreasing the risk of cancer and coronary heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. Read more here.
Sweet and Savory Pecan Recipes
Pecans are incredibly versatile; you can use them in many different kinds of ways. So go beyond the usual pecan pie and try sweet and savory pecan recipes. For instance, how about candied nuts? I love candied nuts because they’re very moreish, and they’re very easy to make. Simply toss the nuts in melted butter, sugar, and spices (such as cinnamon and all spice) and then store in airtight containers to snack on. This slow cooker recipe for candied nuts is one of my favorites!
You can start your day with pecans using this cranberry, pecan, and orange muffin recipe that is bursting with goodness, or you can treat yourself to this healthy pecan pie baked oatmeal recipe that can be made ahead and enjoyed all week long. Another fantastic breakfast inspiration is caramel pecan sticky buns. Make them the previous day and stash them to consume the next morning. Or try making them on weekends when the mornings are lazy and the minutes roll into themselves. Of course, you could throw caution to the winds and indulge yourself in this glorious French-toasted angel food cake recipe, complete with lashings of caramel sauce!
Cookies are another perennial favorite and pecans are a versatile ingredient no matter what type of cookie you’re craving. Do you want macarons? These spiced pecan macarons with caramelized apple buttercream have you covered. Craving some biscotti to go with your morning coffee? This chocolate pecan biscotti recipe exists for a reason. Or maybe you want some frosted cookies to give as a gift? Don’t fret, these brown sugar pecan cookies both look and taste scrumptious.
I know I said I wouldn’t bring up pecan pie, but I’m not sure this one counts; the hand pies are made differently, with flaky pastry that stays crisp all through the baking process. I’ve made this recipe (I substituted liquid glucose for the corn syrup) and it’s delicious. Serve it piping hot with vanilla bean ice cream. Or you could go for these addictive pecan pie bars; be warned — they are very addictive (as the blogger herself describes) and it will be impossible to stop with just one two three.
Where there’s pie, cake can’t be far behind. I’m very fond of this cranberry-pecan coffee cake because it’s perfect with a cup of tea or coffee, and is just the right amount of denseness. If you’re craving something a little more indulgent, then I highly recommend this buttered pecan caramel cake. I made it for a friend’s birthday once and there was nothing left of it at the end of the night. It’s bound to make you highly popular.
Finally, it wouldn’t be right to end this post without a reference to candy. Pecan nuts lend themselves to candy because they are absolutely delicious enrobed in sugar or fudge or even in caramel or nougat. They are so very versatile that way. You could make these pumpkin pecan truffles or go international with this maple pecan baklava. This butter pecan fudge is for those days when you can’t get enough sugar, as are these indulgent caramel nougat pecan rolls.
What do you do to get your pecan fix? What are your favorite pecan recipes? Let us know in the comments below!
Awanthi Vardaraj lives and writes in the port city of Chennai, in the south of India, where she runs her own small artisanal bakery and keeps a garden full of jasmine plants and herbs that she still cannot name. As a freelance writer, she mostly focuses on food, feminism, travel, mental health, and poverty. She also nurtures a deep love for the Oxford comma and the semicolon. Visit her website at www.awanthi.com and follow her on Twitter at AwanthiVardaraj.