Whether you call 'em PEE-can or PAH-kahn, they are one of the most sought after nuts around the globe and one of my favorites for their flavor! A cousin of the walnut, pecans are the only major tree nut native to North America. People love pecans for their versatility: They add a sweet, nutty goodness to breads and cereals, stuffing and spreads, salads and side dishes, entrees and desserts. At the same time, they bring a lot of nutrition to the table. I grew up in West Texas cracking these nuts while climbing trees and they always bring back fond and tasty memories!
Pecans contain healthy, monounsaturated fats like oleic acid, as well as antioxidants that support heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol, HDL. Packed with fiber, pecans support healthy digestion and colon health. Some research shows that diets consisting of pecans and other healthy nuts can support a healthy body weight and even help people lose weight. Pecans are a good source of vitamins and minerals that support overall health, including B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese, vitamins E and A, zinc, iron, and folate.
When buying pecans, fresh is best and organic is even better! Look for pecans in the bulk foods section at a busy grocery store that has consistent turnover. Store your beloved pecans in an airtight package away from heat, preferably in the fridge to retain nutrient content.
Pecan Nut Butter
It's sweet. It's nutty. And it's oh so good for you! If you haven't yet tried pecan nut butter, you have to give it a whirl.
The key to exceptional nut butter is the quality of the nut.
Choose the fresh nuts stored in bulk and rotated frequently. Refrigerated, organic nuts are ideal. Toasted pecans blended with a food processor turn out scrumptiously smooth with maple undertones, without any added oil. A pinch of salt and a dash of cinnamon enrich the flavor. Try it on your favorite breakfast bread or whole grain crackers, or spread pecan butter over sliced apples and bananas.
Recipe yields 1 cup.
8 ounces (about 2 cups) high quality pecans, either whole or in pieces
Sea salt, to taste
Dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
Pour the pecans into a large skillet and toast, stirring often, over low-medium heat until fragrant (don't let them burn!). This will take about 4 to 8 minutes.
Pour the toasted pecans into a food processor or high-speed blender and let them cool for several minutes. Then blend the pecans, pausing often to scrape down the sides with a spatula. The mixture will be crumbly at first, but will eventually blend into super-creamy goodness. Be careful not to let the mixture get too hot, which seems to cause oil separation. You might have to stop and let the mixture/machine cool down for a bit just to be safe. The amount of blending time required depends on your machine- an older food processor might take ten to fifteen minutes to turn the pecans into pecan butter, while fancy Blendtec or Vitamix blenders can turn it into butter in a minute or two!
Add a pinch of sea salt and/or an optional dash of cinnamon. Blend again, taste, and add more salt or cinnamon if needed.
Pour into a small jar, seal it with a lid, and store it in the refrigerator for good measure. This pecan butter will keep well, refrigerated, for up to one month.