Pecans Vs Walnuts In Baking [Carrot Cake, Banana Bread, And More]

Pecans and walnuts play a secondary role in many baked goods. From banana bread and carrot cake to cookies and brownies, there are dozens of recipes where these nuts can add a delicious crunch. But does that mean you could always swap pecans for walnuts in your baked goods? If you're thinking about changing pecans for walnuts (or vice versa), you should check out our research on this topic.

Typically, pecans and walnuts are interchangeable in baked recipes. However, pecans tend to have sweeter notes, and walnuts lean on the bitter side. Pecans' delicate flavors often clash with savory bread recipes, while walnuts won't provide as much natural sweetness.

Although pecans and walnuts are similar, they have distinctive properties every baker should know. If you don't consider the defining features of walnuts versus pecans, you may not fully enjoy your baked recipes.

Comparison between pecans and walnuts, Pecans Vs Walnuts In Baking [Carrot Cake, Banana Bread, And More]

Can I Use Pecans Instead Of Walnuts When Baking? 

In most baked recipes, you can swap pecans for walnuts. While there are a few exceptions, pecans and walnuts are often listed as "interchangeable" on big-name baking sites. Even Betty Crocker says walnuts are a valid substitution for pecans, so you know they're the real deal.

Variety of nuts

When switching pecans for walnuts, you need to consider the top factor is taste. Try to envision how swapping between these nuts will change the flavor of whatever recipe you're preparing.

Most people describe pecans as having a sweeter taste and a softer texture. Walnuts, by contrast, are chewier, crunchier, and can have a savory flavor. Also, it's not unheard of for walnuts to have bitter notes.

Speaking of bitterness, we should note a crucial distinction between English walnuts and black walnuts. Of these two, black walnuts are way more bitter.

You'll have a more difficult time interchanging pecans for black walnuts. However, you won't have issues swapping the more common English walnuts for pecans in most cases.

Is Banana Bread Better With Walnuts Or Pecans?

Sliced fresh baked banana bread with ingredients to bake it including walnuts and sliced fresh raw sweet bananas

Walnuts are more common in banana bread recipes, but that doesn't mean you can't use pecans. Most foodies say they prefer the "bite" walnuts provide, but the sweetness of pecans blends in nicely with banana bread.

If you're curious how to make traditional banana bread with walnuts, check out this video:

For those who'd prefer experimenting with pecans, try this recipe:

Can You Swap Pecans For Walnuts In Carrot Cake?

Walnuts are the "standard" choice when baking a carrot cake-like banana bread. However, it's OK to use pecans if you don't have (or like) walnuts. You could even add walnuts and pecans to your carrot cake batter.

Watch the tutorial below for tips on baking a pecan-filled carrot cake:

Could People Use Pecans Instead Of Walnuts In Brownies? 

Chocolate brownie with walnuts and cup of coffee

Many people prefer using walnuts in brownies, especially if you're using dark chocolate. The natural bitterness in the walnuts seems to compliment cocoa powder.

Others who love bitter flavors recommend trying black walnuts in brownie recipes. Keep in mind that black walnuts will create a more intense & not-so-sweet flavor experience.

While walnuts are preferred in brownie recipes, pecans are also acceptable. Just keep in mind the pecans will add more sweetness to this dessert.

Please check out this video for inspiration on making nut-filled brownies:

While we're on chocolate, please read our post on "How To Freeze Chocolate Truffles" to learn how to add pecans to this recipe.

Are Pecans Or Walnuts Better In Cookies?

Interestingly, many bakers don't prefer using walnuts or pecans in most cookie styles. Some argue peanuts work best in drop cookies and pine nuts are best in sliced cookies.

However, that doesn't mean you can't experiment with walnuts or pecans in cookie recipes. As long as you don't mind these nuts' extra crunch and flavors, pecans and walnuts should work well in classic cookies like an oatmeal raisin.

For instance, check out this recipe to see how to add pecans or walnuts to your oatmeal raisin cookies:

Can You Substitute Walnuts For Pecans In Pecan Pie?

Pecan pie on the wooden table

Although we said pecans and walnuts were interchangeable, it's impossible to bake a pecan pie without pecans! OK, you could bake a pie with walnuts…but then it wouldn't be a pecan pie!

The taste of pecan pie differs significantly from a walnut pie. As we've already mentioned, pecans are naturally sweet with a delicate floral flavor. Walnuts, however, are buttery, savory, and bitter.

So, if you want to make a pecan pie and you're short on pecans, you won't fool anyone if you try to sub with walnuts. However, you could look up a traditional walnut pie recipe for a different dessert experience.

Here's a quick & easy tutorial on how to make a homemade pecan pie:

Are There Different Measurements When Substituting Walnuts For Pecans?

Luckily, you don't have to worry about complex conversions when switching from walnuts to pecans. As long as you chop your nuts to a similar size, you can use the exact posted measurements on your recipe.

Please remember to chop your pecans or walnuts to the recommended size for the best results.

How Long Do You Toast Walnuts Versus Pecans?

Woman filling a glass jar with homemade granola

To toast walnuts or pecans for snacking or recipes, they need about 7-12 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Choosing when to take your pecans or walnuts out of the oven depends on how toasty you like them. People who want a "mild toast" should check after about seven minutes, but those who want a more intense flavor should set the timer for 12 minutes.

Please find out more tips about how to properly toast nuts on this guide:

Are Pecans Healthier Than Walnuts? 

Pecan nuts make heart on turquoise table

Both pecans and walnuts are healthy additions to a well-balanced diet. Plenty of studies shows that both nuts have many healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamins.

A recent report out of Tufts University found that pecans helped improve heart health in obese patients. Research published on Harvard Medical School's site suggested walnuts help lower bad cholesterol.

While both of these nuts classify as "superfoods," there are subtle differences in their nutritional profiles. For instance, most tests suggest walnuts have more omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and B vitamins.

By contrast, pecans have fewer carbs and more antioxidants. Many nutritionists also believe pecans are a better source of dietary fiber versus walnuts.

Despite these tiny differences, it's safe to say that pecans and walnuts have many health benefits.

Are Pecans Better Than Walnuts In Keto Recipes? 

Keto word made from ketogenic food

You should load up on pecans if you're joining the trendy keto community. According to many nutritionists, pecans are the most "keto-friendly" nut.

Why are keto fans so in love with pecans? Low carbs and high fat.

This doesn't mean walnuts are "bad" for people on keto, but they aren't as impressive as pecans. You'll be taking in more carbs with walnuts, which could hamper your ketosis goals.

So, anyone serious about keto should use pecans for most of their baking and reserve chopped walnuts for light garnishes.

Are Pecans Easier To Crack Than Walnuts?

It's best to use a nutcracker to open hard-shell pecans and English walnuts. These nuts aren't difficult to crack if you have a nutcracker.

See these nutcrackers on Amazon here.

If you're trying to crack black walnuts, you'll need a hammer or a specially-designed nutcracker. Black walnuts are the most difficult nut to crack, even with a standard nutcracker.

See this nutcracker on Amazon.

You can find more information on cracking pecans, walnuts, and other nuts on our other post, "What Nuts Do You Crack With A Nutcracker?"

Are Pecans More Expensive Than Walnuts? 

Generally, pecans and walnuts have comparable prices. It all depends on what brands are available in your supermarket and the law of "supply vs. demand."

Macadamia nuts are the only variety that's consistently more expensive than the competition.

Mix-And-Match Pecans And Walnuts In Future Recipes!

Pecans and walnuts don't have the same texture or flavor, but they're similar enough for most recipes. If you use these nuts as complementary ingredients, you'll probably get away with mixing them in baked goods.

Many people also enjoy adding half pecans and half walnuts to many recipes above. Honestly, it all depends on how you respond to the unique flavors of walnuts versus pecans.

When in doubt, please go with the option that best suits your taste preferences and dietary goals.

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