Pecans are a staple across the South and Midwest. Their mild, buttery flavor is especially at home in desserts, but pecans also can add a wonderful crunch to savory dishes. We’ve rounded up our favorite pecan recipes.
Ask a southerner about pecans and they will immediately think of pecan pie. This sugar bomb of a dessert is a thing of beauty, with bronzed pecans topping a rich, toffee-like filling. Almost as iconic are pecan bars—a rich, chewy crust with a thinner layer of pecan topping. For a fun twist, try our pecan pie-ice cream pie. To make it, a pressed crust made with ground pecans is filled with pecan-vanilla ice cream.
Bite-sized pecans are a great snack on their own, but a good coating takes them to the next level. The key is to balanced sweet and savory—our glazed pecans with sugar and vanilla have the tang of sour cream, our brown-sugar candied pecans get a hit of olive oil and balsamic and a pinch of sea salt, and our spiced pecans have a smoky blend of cayenne and paprika along with brown sugar.
Pecans aren’t limited to sweet dishes. For a satisfying fall salad, pair mesclun with goat cheese, pecans, dried cranberries, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Pureed pecans are useful for adding body to sauces. Try using them to enrich a brown butter sauce to spoon over pan-seared trout.
Find all of these dishes and more in our collection of our favorite pecan recipes.
This hummingbird cake honors the legacy of the Southern cook Edna Lewis. Matt Taylor-Gross This trail mix uses three kinds of nuts (cashews, pecans, Marcona almonds), two kinds of dried fruit (apricots, figs), cacao nibs, and a flurry of spices (cinnamon, cumin, and more). Barbecue sauce and bacon glazed with maple syrup add an irresistible savory-sweet tang to the snack. Romulo Yanes Traeger’s Bakery in Demopolis, Alabama first popularized these soft spice cookies, which are named for their hard cinnamon glaze that glistens like a glossy turtle shell. Farideh Sadeghin The recipe for these crisp, spicy crackers is adapted from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2013). Ingalls Photography Contributor Jamie Feldmar gave us this recipe for cinnamon and pecan-laced coffee cake; the original came from her grandmother’s neighbor, and has been passed down through the women in her family. With a tender texture thanks to sour cream in the batter, it will stay moist for several days after baking, making it a great make-ahead dessert or breakfast. Farideh Sadeghin This recipe is based on one in Emma Rylander Lane’s Some Good Things to Eat (self-published, 1898). Todd Coleman This striking Southern dessert, with its three rose-water infused layers and Italian meringue frosting studded with pecans, raisins, dried figs, and candied orange peel, seems born for elegant tea parties. Andre Baranowski At the bar Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky, chicken livers are flambéed with bourbon and smeared on grilled bread with a smoky-sweet pecan garnish. Ingalls Photography This sweet potato casserole is an especially festive, over-the-top take on the Thanksgiving classic, topped with a crisp pecan crumble and dotted with marshmallows. Todd Coleman Pecans are mixed into the crust and the vanilla ice cream, ensuring each bite is filled with buttery, sweet nuts. Maxime Iattoni This twist on traditional pecan pie provides a snack-able ending to any holiday feast. Todd Coleman Three types of sugar sweeten this recipe for sticky buns swirled with cinnamon and drizzled with pecan sauce. Ingalls Photography Use up leftover pumpkin or squash puree in a sweet, spiced ice cream. Anna Stockwell Puréed pecans enrich a butter sauce for pan-seared filets of trout. Ingalls Photography Coated with a sour cream-based glaze and baked in the oven, pecans become a toasty, sweet snack. Penny De Los Santos This recipe is from Food Editor Ben Mims, and was adapted from an old Southern Living recipe. The combination of salty nuts, sweet, buttery shortbread, and dark chocolate will have anyone hooked. Noah Fecks This recipe is perfect for making several dough logs at the beginning of the holiday season and freezing them; slice off and bake as needed for last minute guests, cookie exchanges, and hostess gifts. Noah Fecks Packed with coconut and pecans and covered in cream cheese frosting, this cake is a specialty of Georgia home cook Cile Ellis. Landon Nordeman Walnuts may be substituted for pecans in these soft, rich, and chewy cookies. Farideh Sadeghin This dreamy chocolate pie is a customer favorite at the Country Dove restaurant in Elk City, Oklahoma. James Roper Mesclun—a combination of slightly bitter baby greens and other greens like mizuna, arugula, and oak leaf—became all the rage in restaurants during the 1990s, eventually making its way onto supermarket produce shelves across the United States. This recipe incorporates other popular ingredients—goat cheese, pecans, dried cranberries—all dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. Get the recipe for Mesclun Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette » Farideh Sadeghin This muesli is a flavorful take on the original raw-cereal mixture developed in Switzerland by Maximilian Bircher-Benner in the early 20th century. Matt Taylor-Gross Potato chips give this treat from Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill restaurant unexpected salt and crunch. Helen Rosner Bite-size and buttery, cumin and cayenne-spiced pecans glazed in dark brown sugar are the perfect smoky, spicy-sweet snack. Penny De Los Santos A combination of balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and brown sugar turns pecans into a toasty, addictive snack that’s perfect for nibbling alongside apéritifs. Penny De Los Santos Little truffles pack a big punch, rich with chocolate and the smoky vanilla notes of whiskey with an added kick from bourbon-soaked pecans. Noah Fecks Crumbly powdered sugar coated cookies made with chopped pecans are often served at Southern weddings. This recipe, from Georgia home cook Tweet Moore, first appeared in our November 2013 issue with Wendell Brock’s story Southern Belle. Landon Nordeman Pecans, chicken livers, and vegetables add layers of flavor to wild rice in this recipe from Food Editor Ben Mims. Ingalls Photography Spices including cardamom, star anise, and ginger jazz up a morning oatmeal. Mix the dry ingredients ahead of time for an easier camp-side breakfast. Andre Baranowski Bananas and pecans come together in an exceptionally moist quick-bread from food editor Ben Mim’s mom—it’s irresistible at any time of day. Todd Coleman This breakfast treat is a decadent update of the classic cinnamon bun: the chocolate-hazelnut addition of Nutella makes for a gooey finish. Maxime Iattoni This pecan pie’s toffee-like interior and beautiful bronze top layer of halved pecans takes the first prize. James Roper