Difference between Pecans and Walnuts

Updated on October 26, 2016

How well do you know your nuts? We keep hearing how great they are, how many antioxidants they contain and how they make great snack alternatives to processed and sweetened treats. But are they all the same? Is a bag of assorted nuts the same thing as eating specific types? Surely, not all nuts are created equal. So let us begin by finding out the difference between two of them, starting with pecans and walnuts.


Pecan nuts with and without their shells

Pecans are a species of hickory, part of the Juglandaceae family, originating from Mexico. Although there are specific to the southern and southeastern regions of the U.S., pecans are cultivated as crop nuts in other regions of the world. They grow on the pecan tree and are considered drupes. A drupe is a fruit with a single stone or pit as the only seed. Pecans are oblong in shape, and their shells are dark brown and very hard to crack.

The taste of pecans is delicious and buttery, giving a rich flavor to the desserts it is added to. As far as their nutritional value is concerned, they contain many nutrients, minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and Vitamins E and B-6 along with some others from the B complex. 100g of pecans is about 690 Calories. They are a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and phenolic antioxidants. People with nut allergies should avoid eating pecans.


Walnuts are part of the Juglandaceae family. They are drupes, and they are grown around the world with China being the lead producer. Walnuts grow on the walnut tree. They are produced inside of green husks and have a hard shell that needs to be cracked open to reveal the meat inside. Their shape is round and their shells are light brown and easy to crack.

Walnuts can be eaten in desserts or as snacks. They are rich in omega-3 fats and omega-6 fatty acid. They are 8 to 14 percent fat, and 100g of walnuts are about 650 Calories. They are a great source of manganese and Vitamins B and E.

These nuts are not as flavored as others in their family, but they are consistent and crunchy, making all desserts seem more filling. Some of them may seem a bit bitter, and they are oily. They can be eaten as they are, broken to bits or smashed into a powder.

Pecans vs Walnuts

So what is the difference between pecans and walnuts?

Both pecans and walnuts are part of the same family of Juglandaceae. They are both drupes and grow on trees. Pecans are native to the southern and southeastern regions of the U.S., whereas walnuts grow worldwide.

Pecans have dark brown shells, whereas walnuts have light brown shells. Pecans are also oblong, while walnuts are round. They differ in taste, with pecans being sweet and flavored and walnuts being a bit bitter. Walnuts are oily, while pecans are drier. They both contain a lot of antioxidants, minerals and Vitamins E and B.

Although there are recipes which carry the name of one of these nuts, like pecan pie, in other desserts as snacks and breakfast cereals, they are completely interchangeable and choosing one over the other is a matter of preference and price accessibility depending on the region you are trying to buy them from – walnuts are more expensive than pecans in the U.S. due to the accessibility of the product on the local market. Things are reversed when it comes to the European market, where walnuts are more abundant than pecans.

Comparison Chart

Part of the Juglandaceae FamilyPart of the Juglandaceae Family
Originated in Mexico, specific to the southern and southeastern parts of the U.S.Grown all over the world
Are drupesAre drupes
Grow inside dark brown shells, are oblong and very hard to crackGrow inside light brown shells, are round and easier to crack
They taste sweet and are flavoredThey tend to be bitter and are filling
The kernel is a bit drierThe kernel is oily
100g is 690 Calories100g is 650 Calories
A great source of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acidsA great source of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids
Eaten in desserts, for breakfast and as snacksEaten in desserts, for breakfast and as snacks
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