If you want to upset a Southerner, refer to winter’s tasty nut as a pee-can. In the South, it is pronounced pah-Kahn. You’ll find pecan orchards throughout Mississippi with most farms near the Gulf Coast and the Delta. According to the Mississippi Pecan Growers, our state harvests and markets 2 million to 4 million pounds of pecans per year. But, you don’t have to live on a farm to make memories of picking pecans off the ground before the squirrels find them. Many Mississippi backyards have pecan trees for their summer shade and delicious fall treat.
Squirrels aren’t the only ones who benefit from pecans. The pecan comes packed with fiber, wholesome fats, and 19 vitamins, and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins, and zinc. A one-ounce serving of pecans, approximately 20 halves, contains nearly 200 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 10 percent of the recommended Daily Value for fiber. Pecans have a fat content of over 70%, which is the highest among all the nuts. Because of the caloric density and total fat content, enjoy pecans as part of a balanced diet.
Don’t let the high-fat content scare you away from savoring pecans responsibility. Pecans are considered heart-healthy and can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and prevent some forms of cancer due to their high healthy fat content. Nearly 60 percent of the fats in pecans are monounsaturated, and another 30 percent are polyunsaturated. Both types of fat help protect the heart and the mind. Recent research also found that pecans rank highest among all nuts in antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans have the potential to strengthen your immune system, too.
Traditionally, pecan servings come from pies and pastries. The unnecessary calories and added sugars found in desserts overshadow any health benefits. While pecan pie has its place, think past sweets and incorporate more raw pecans into your diet. Pecans come in several forms, such as whole, halves, pieces, granules, and meals. Their rich buttery flavor makes them a perfect pairing for both savory and sweet foods. Enjoy raw pecans by sprinkling some over salads or into wraps. Top off your oatmeal or Greek yogurt with a spoonful of pecan pieces. Add pecans to homemade whole wheat pancakes, waffles, or muffin batter. Try pecan butter for a different twist to PB&J.
This fall and winter, be good to your heart and mind and opt for pecans in unexpected places.
Roasted Cinnamon Pecans
These lightly buttered, cinnamon roll-inspired pecans are satisfying without the guilt.
- 1/2 pound pecans
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon stevia, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roast pecans for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Melt butter in a saucepan large enough to hold pecans after roasting.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients and set aside.
- Toss hot roasted pecans in a saucepan with the melted mixture and stir to coat.
- Let cool and serve slightly warm or cooled. Refrigerate leftover pecans.
Healthier Pecan Pie Bars
A healthier twist to the traditional pecan pie.
- 1 store-bought pie crust
- 1 stick butter
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ⅔ cup sugar or sugar substitute
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp milk
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350. Bring refrigerated crust to room temperature. Roll out to line the bottom of an 8×11 baking dish. Bake crust for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let crust cool completely.
- In a saucepan, heat butter, sugar (or sugar substitute), maple syrup, and vanilla until boiling (about 3-4 minutes), stirring constantly.
- Once boiling, continue to stir but let bubble for one minute and then turn off the heat.
- Stir in milk and pecans. Mix well.
- Pour pecan mixture over cooled crust and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool and then refrigerate for several hours or overnight before cutting.