Skip to content

Pecans vs. Walnuts: Taste, Nutrition & Uses For These Popular Nuts

Caroline Dweck
Author: Expert reviewer:
Updated on May 17, 2023
Caroline Dweck
By Caroline Dweck
mbg Contributor
Caroline Dweck Mizrahi is a freelance writer and certified IIN health coach. A plant-based vegan for as long as she can remember, she has written health, beauty, and wellness articles for a dozen+ online publications including, The Beet, THE/THIRTY, and The Bump.
Lauren Torrisi-Gorra, M.S., RD
Expert review by
Lauren Torrisi-Gorra, M.S., RD
Registered Dietitian
Lauren Torrisi-Gorra, MS, RD is a registered dietitian, chef, and writer with a love of science and passion for helping people create life-long healthy habits. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Studies from Fordham University, a Grand Diplôme in Culinary Arts from the French Culinary Institute, and master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics from New York University.
Last updated on May 17, 2023
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Nuts are nature’s perfect stand-alone snack. They satisfy your appetite, keep you from reaching for the unhealthy stuff, and really pack in some serious benefits.

While all nuts are great sources of antioxidants such as polyphenols and vitamin E, different ones are also associated with different long-term health perks. Pecans and walnuts are two of the most popular nuts out there—but does one win out over the other nutritionally? Let's get cracking on the pecans vs. walnuts matchup.

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Pecans vs. walnuts at a glance

Walnuts and pecans are both good sources of healthy fats1, fiber2, and essential nutrients such as magnesium and potassium. When it comes to taste, texture, and nutrient profile, there are a few differences between them:

  • Taste: Starting with their taste; walnuts are mild, almost tangy, while pecans are known for a naturally sweet, buttery flavor.
  • Appearance: As for appearance; pecans have elongated shells in a dark brown color and walnuts are round-shaped and light brown colored. No surprise, the brain-boosting nuts actually look like “little brains.”
  • Price: While both nuts are primarily grown in the US, walnuts tend to be a bit more expensive but they also have a longer shelf-life.
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Walnut benefits & nutrition

Once dubbed the “royal nut” during the Byzantine era, walnuts truly live up to their name. An ounce of walnuts3 (about a handful) contains the following, according to the USDA:

  • Calories: 185
  • Fat: 18.5g
  • Saturated fat: 1.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.9g
  • Fiber: 1.9g
  • Protein: 4.3g
  • Cholesterol: 0g
  • Sodium: 0.6mg
  • Calcium: 27.8mg
  • Magnesium: 44.8mg
  • Iron: 0.8mg
  • Potassium: 125mg
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Over the years, more and more studies on walnuts' health benefits4 have emerged showing that they are a key component of cardiovascular health5. They can help fight oxidative damage in the body, as well as lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol6, and raise the “good” HDL.

Walnuts are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids7, containing alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is crucial to brain function. Just a single serving of walnuts meets the recommended daily omega intake8.

“Walnuts are one of my top recommended nut picks to add to any diet due to the high-quality protein, essential plant-based omega 3 content, and culinary versatility since it works well in a variety of cuisines,” says dietitian Huma Chaudry, R.D.

Their high amount of antioxidants (more than any other tree nut9) is particularly concentrated in the papery skin of walnuts.

“Enjoying just a serving of raw walnuts can be an easy way to take in the full effectiveness of the antioxidants present in walnuts,” says Chaudry.

Eating walnuts can also support your gut health, says nutritionist Amanda Sauceda, MS, RDN. “There is some emerging research10 on how walnuts could show improvements in the good bacteria in your gut microbiome, which is connected to so many different areas of your body," she says.


Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Introducing them into your diet can help improve cardiovascular health, gut health, metabolism, and more.

Pecan benefits & nutrition

Pecans also pack a punch in their smooth, nutty shells. According to the USDA, an ounce of pecans11 contains the following:

  • Calories: 196
  • Fat: 20g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.9g
  • Fiber: 2.7g
  • Protein: 2.6g
  • Cholesterol: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Calcium: 19.8mg
  • Magnesium: 34.3mg
  • Iron: 0.7 mg
  • Potassium: 116mg
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Pecans also contain a range of essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium. A recent study suggests that the antioxidants such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and tannins contained in pecans may help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's5

Pecans contain a higher amount of monounsaturated fats, which is crucial to the human body for balancing cholesterol levels and maintaining good cardiovascular health. This type of fat can help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease5.

When enjoyed regularly, pecans are a good choice if you're trying to lose weight, as they contain fiber, are low in carbohydrates, and have a low glycemic index2.


Pecans contain vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, vitamin E, iron, and magnesium. They've been studied for their positive effects on cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar.

Is one healthier?

Fat18.5 grams20 grams
Saturated fat1.7 grams1.8 grams
Carbohydrates3.9 grams3.9 grams
Fiber1.9 grams2.7 grams
Protein4.3 grams2.6 grams
Cholesterol00 grams
Sodium0.6 milligrams0
Calcium27.8 milligrams19.8 milligrams
Magnesium44.8 milligrams34.3 milligrams
Iron0.8 milligrams0.7 milligrams
Potassium125 milligrams116 milligrams
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Both pecans and walnuts are nutritious, but they have slightly different nutrient profiles. While pecans are higher in fat and calories, walnuts are higher in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

When it comes to choosing between the two, one tree nut isn’t “healthier” than the other. It all depends on your personal goals and taste preference. 

“Both nuts can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet promoting satiety, heart health, and antioxidants,” says Chaudhry. “For example, if you are looking to manage diabetes, pecans may be a better option since they have more fiber to keep you full longer and can help stabilize your blood sugars,” she adds.

For weight management or heart disease, walnuts can be a great option since they contain fewer calories and more protein, Chaudhry adds. "[They] are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of plant-based omega-3, an essential fatty acid known to improve cholesterol levels,” she says.

Sauceda also notes that more research studies have looked at walnuts than pecans. "This doesn’t mean that walnuts are superior; just that there is more research,” she adds.

All in all, both pecans and walnuts make excellent additions to your diet. Whichever one you enjoy, do so in moderation to avoid bloating or unwanted weight gain.


Walnuts and peanuts are both healthy and have unique strengths. Walnuts are a great option if you are vegan or vegetarian and looking to boost your intake of protein and omega-3s. Pecans tend to be better for weight loss since they have more fiber and can help stabilize blood sugar.

When to use each

Given that pecans and walnust are both healthy, is there a time you should reach for one type of nut over the other? Here's what our experts have to say:

For roasting: Either 

Roasting adds a whole other dimension to both nuts. Even a light roast in the oven or on the stove brings out distinct flavors in each. Try roasting with some spices for a savory snack that makes a delicious crumb coating for chicken or adds a finishing touch to a cheese board. 

For topping salads: Walnuts

The perfect salad isn’t complete without a little bit of crunch. While both nuts work well in salads, walnuts may be a better choice due to their higher protein and fiber content, keeping you full for longer.

For baked goods: Either

This one is a tie! Both pecans and walnuts will make your favorite sweets extra irresistible. Walnuts amp up fudgy brownies and crispy chocolate chip cookies, while pecans add the perfect crunch to homemade granola and energy bars.  

For snacking: Either 

Again, it's personal preference for this one, as both nuts are great for an on-the-go snack. Calorie-dense, portable, long-lasting, and delicious, they’re perfect for throwing in your purse or car for plant-based snacking throughout the day. 

For nut butters: Walnuts

While pecans can be delicious in nut butter too, walnuts have a slight edge here. Due to their higher fat content and flakey, buttery flavor, walnuts make a great base for homemade nut butter that tastes decadent spread on toast, slathered on bananas, or enjoyed straight from the spoon. 


Ready to start adding more pecans and walnuts to your routine? Here are a few easy recipes to get you started.



Frequently Asked Questions

Which nut is healthier: pecan or walnut?

One isn't necessarily healthier than the other. Both nuts have heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat, but pecans have a higher amount of fiber, while walnuts clock in more protein.

Can I substitute pecans for walnuts?

Yes. Although there can be slight texture and taste differences, walnuts and pecans can be used interchangeably in recipes, says Chaudhry. "Walnuts and pecans are best used interchangeably in dessert recipes while walnuts suit savory dishes more," she adds.

Can you be allergic to walnuts and not pecans?

Since both nuts are from the same tree nut family, Juglandaceae, generally, individuals that are allergic to walnuts are also likely to be allergic to pecans, and those that can tolerate them are fine with both. However, it is possible to be allergic to one and not the other.

The takeaway

While walnuts are richer in protein and essential amino acids such as omega-3, pecans are slightly higher in dietary fiber, contain less sodium, and have a lower glycemic index. Whether you’re a die-hard health nut (no pun intended) or just starting to introduce more plant proteins into your diet, both walnuts and pecans are great options.