A pecan substitute is often needed if you cannot find pecans due to the season, if they’re too expensive to use, or if you or your guests have a tree nut allergy. Alternatives to pecans aren’t difficult to find, and most of them will make your recipe taste just as good as it would with real pecans.
What Are Pecans?
Pecans are tree nuts that are native to North America. They are packed with nutrients and have a glossy oval-shaped outer shell. When you break open the shell, you’ll often find the nut broken into halves, closely resembling the shape of a walnut.
Common Uses for Pecans
- Baked goods – pecans are often used in bread recipes, included in pies, and added to various confectionary treats.
- Salads – adding a handful of pecans to your green salad or even coleslaw is a great way to get some extra nutrients in and a great crunch.
- Oil – although it is uncommon, pecan nuts can be pressed to create pecan oil.
- Pecan milk – a plant-based milk alternative that can be made from pecan nuts.
- Pecan butter – an alternative to peanut butter and for easy addition to smoothies or dressings.
How to Choose a Substitute for Pecan
- Keep allergies in mind – if you need a substitute for pecans due to an allergy, you might want to stay away from all tree nuts and opt for peanuts or seeds.
- Taste preferences – many substitutes will do the job, but their flavor might be completely different from pecans.
- Price – pecans are expensive, so if you’re opting for a cheaper alternative, you won’t always find the best substitute is much cheaper, but there are some budget-friendly options out there.
15 Best Pecan Substitute Options
Walnuts are the best substitute for pecans due to their similar taste, texture, and appearance. In fact, walnuts might even be cheaper than pecans, depending on where you live. Mind Body Green compares the two nuts to see the difference in nutritional value.
If you’re making a rich dessert or pecan pie, try substituting it with hazelnuts. The earthy taste of hazelnuts pairs very well with sweet additives like chocolate and honey. Try making these Pecan cranberry balls with hazelnuts and blueberries by Lively Table.
3. Brazil Nuts
Although they are a bit milder in taste but still earthy, Brazil nuts are a substitution for pecan nuts that you can use in a 1:1 ratio. They contain Selenium, so don’t eat too much of them, but find out how they can contribute to your health over at Healthline.
4. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are often described as mild and buttery, making them ideal to use in recipes that are sweet or savory. Wild Wild Whisk made a macadamia nut pie, a twist on the classic pecan nut pie.
Cashews work well in most recipes that call for pecans, so use them as a 1:1 replacement. Foodstruck shows you a comparison between the two.
If you cannot consume or serve tree nuts due to allergies, you might be able to use unsalted peanuts as a 1:1 substitute for pecans since they’re legumes, not nuts. Food Insight explains how peanuts differ from tree nuts such as pecans.
7. Pili Nuts
Pili nuts are not easy to come by, but if you do get the opportunity to use them as an alternative to pecans, they make for a very convincing replacement. Healthify Me explains the health benefits of Pili nuts.
8. Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are expensive to use as a 1:1 substitute in a pecan recipe, but they do add a lot of health benefits to your diet, and they work well in savory dishes or sprinkled in salads. WebMD supplies a lot of information of the health benefits of pine nuts.
Whilst pistachios are not a great substitute in sweet baked goods, they pair well with sweet things where you’d like a salty twist or in most savory dishes. Soupersage compares the nutritional value of pistachios to pecans.
10. Pecan Oil
If you need the flavor of pecans in your recipe but you don’t want to use actual pecans, using pecan oil will help you achieve the desired flavor profile. Be sure to adjust your fat ratios in the recipe when using pecan oil, or use La Tourangelle’s recipe for pecan oil pancakes instead.
11. Sunflower Seeds
If you need a nutty crunch in your dish but want to use a peanut- and tree-nut-free recipe, using sunflower seeds might work just as well. They are ideal to use in savory dishes, but Midwest Living has a great sunflower seed pie recipe that is just as satisfying as a slice of pecan pie.
12. Pumpkin Seeds
Soupersage notes that if you’re looking for an alternative to pecans that are lower in calories, you can pumpkin seeds with about 55% fewer calories. This means it’s ideal to replace the pecans in your cookies, salads, and roasted squash recipes with some pumpkin seeds.
13. Pecan Flour
You can easily use pecan flour in place of pecan nut pieces, but the texture might be very different than what you are used to. The good news is pecan flour can replace some all-purpose flour, making these pecan pie cookies from Food Faith Fitness paleo and gluten-free.
14. Chia Seeds
If you’re looking for a replacement to crust meats in, like a tenderloin, smaller seeds like chia seeds work well. Try McCormick’s tenderloin-crusted chia seeds recipe.
15. Pecan Butter
To achieve a pecan taste in a recipe, you can use pecan butter instead of actual pecan pieces. You’d have to adjust the other ingredients in your recipe to get the same desired consistency.This Healthy Kitchen uses pecan butter in some vegan-friendly cookies.
Tips for Pecan Substitution
- Choose what suits your taste – choose a replacement for pecans that you enjoy already.
- Consider allergies – if someone has a nut allergy, check to see if they can eat peanuts or seeds before you substitute them for pecans.
- Adjust your recipe slightly – if you use a smaller seed or nut, you might need more or less wet ingredients in your recipe.
Pecan Substitute FAQ
What Nuts Are Related to Pecans?
Pecans are in the walnut family and are closely related to hickory nuts, black walnuts, and English walnuts.
What Is a Good Non-nut Substitute for Pecans if You Have Nut Allergies?
The best substitution for someone with a peanut or tree nut allergy is seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Are Pecans as Healthy as Walnuts?
Both pecans and walnuts are healthy tree nut options. Walnuts have slightly more omega-3 fatty acids and iron than pecans, but pecans have slightly more fiber and mono- and polyunsaturated fats.