Discover the 20 most popular types of nuts that you can eat. This is your ultimate nut guide where we explain where they grow, nutrition facts, include images and more. Nice nut chart included.
I’m nuts about nuts. I eat them daily. My favorite is the cashew, but peanuts are also a favorite. Yes, I know, peanuts are technically a legume, but we’ve included here because it’s often considered a nut.
For our casual readers looking for a healthy snack alternative, you might be asking “What exactly is a nut?”. Nuts are actually fruits! They evolved a hard shell to protect the seed that’s inside. As we said before, our list also includes other things like legumes but most of our selections are nuts.
I’m also wild about various nut butters including peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter and tahini and sunflower butter. We cook with these butters as well as eat it with apples or on bread.
This extensive nut article includes photos of their growing environment, illustrated chart and nutrition facts charts. Here we go…
A. Types of Edible Nuts (and some seeds)
Cashews are grown primarily in the wet and dry tropics. They are mainly grown in Brazil, Vietnam, India, Africa, and South East Asia. Cashew nuts grow on trees as part of the cashew fruit. It should be noted that cashews require special care to prepare for eating. The outermost shell of the cashew is full of a caustic liquid that cause severe burns if placed in direct contact with the skin. There are multiple ways to extract the tasty nut without getting the juice on you. Cashews can be frozen and then separated from the shell with gloves. They can also be roasted on oil to separate the nut from the shell. Cashews are used in a variety of ways, due to their utility as an antioxidant. They are also rich in magnesium, which helps with joint flexibility. Cashews are commonly used as an accent in Chinese dishes (such as cashew chicken and stir-fry), chicken salad, and an addition to a chocolatey dessert.
Peanuts are grown in warm climates such as Asia, North America, South America, Africa, and Australia. The peanut actually grows below ground, contrary to popular belief. The plant flowers above ground, and the peanuts grow under the soil. To prepare peanuts for consumption, they should be harvested and washed, and left to dry in the sun. They can be shelled at the time of harvesting, or the shell left on to be shelled later. Once they are shelled, they are ready to eat! Some people prefer roasting them or boiling them and adding seasoning for flavor. The peanut is a staple in the diets of many people and has many uses. One of the most well-known uses of peanuts is peanut butter, which has multiple uses, such as: peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Reese’s peanut butter cup. Peanuts are commonly used in their whole form in baked goods (such as chocolate-covered peanuts), granola, trail mix, and Chinese dishes (peanut chicken, General Tso’s chicken).
3. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are primarily grown in Hawaii and Australia, but can also be found in Latin America, Africa, and Asia in warm areas only. They grow in large bushy trees that may take 5 years to begin producing nuts. In terms of preparation, macadamia nuts should be shelled within 24 hours of harvest to prevent mildew. Macadamia nuts are a good source of vitamin A, protein, and iron, among other minerals. One of the most famous recipes is for macadamia nut cookies. It is also used in granola, fudge, muffins, or in macadamia nut crusted chicken.
Hazelnuts are commonly grown in North America, Europe, and Asia. They are a very hardy plant, and typically grow in medium-sized bushy trees. Once the nuts are picked, they need to begin drying out within 24 hours of harvest. They can be kept for months with the shells left on, but if shelled for human consumption should be used within a few weeks. Regarding uses of hazelnuts, they are rich in monounsaturated oil as well as vitamins and minerals. Hazelnuts are commonly used in conjunction with chocolate to make desserts, such as chocolate truffles and Nutella. They are also commonly used in coffee flavoring, and can be used in savory dishes to accompany meat, such as sausage.
Pecans grow in south-central North America in Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico, as well as in Mexico. Pecans grow on trees, frequently in orchards or groves. The plants can take 7 to 10 years to begin producing an abundance of pecans. Pecans are frequently harvested by shaking the trees or gathering the nuts from the ground. The pecans will need to be dried for at least two weeks in their shells. Many people prefer to shell them and roast them as well. Pecans contain monounsaturated fats and are antioxidants. One of the most famous dishes using pecans is pecan pie. Pecans are also an essential ingredient in chocolate turtle candies, candied pecans, chicken salad, and as an accent to a chicken or beef dish.
Learn more about the different types of pecans here.
The majority of the world’s almonds are grown in California, United States. They can also be found in Spain and Italy. Almonds are grown on trees similarly to pecans. While you can eat an almond fresh from the tree, its best to let them dry out for at least two weeks first to maximize flavor and minimize mold on the almond. After this they can be shelled and eaten. Almonds are also high in monounsaturated fats, protein, and vitamins. They are useful in dishes such as: almond-crusted chicken, in salads, and in cereals.
Pistachios are grown in the West in the United States in the states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. They can also be found in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Italy, and Syria. Pistachios grow on small trees in desert-like sand. While pistachios can be eaten raw and washed, many people prefer to roast them and salt them for consumption. Pistachios are used in famous dishes such as spumoni, baklava, kulfi, pistachio ice cream, and pistachio salad. They are also high in protein, fiber, and vitamins.
8. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are grown in South America, specifically in Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. They grow on large trees in the Amazon rainforests. Brazil Nuts can be eaten raw or blanched, however have an extremely hard shell that needs cracked to get to the edible seed. Brazil nuts are a great source of vitamins, including selenium, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, and iron. They can be used in macaroons, cookies, brazil nut milk, vegan brazil nut cheese, and as an accent in salads.
Walnuts are grown mainly in China, the United States, Iran, Turkey, Mexico, and the Ukraine. They are a stone fruit that grows on large trees. Walnuts can be eaten raw after they are thoroughly sprayed down with a pressure washer and dried. At this point the walnuts can be shelled and eaten raw, or roasted and seasoned.
Walnuts are rich in antioxidants and Omega-3s. They can be found in walnut butter, khoresh, brownies, dessert mix-ins, and as a garnish for both sweet and savory dishes.
Chestnuts are found primarily in China, the United States, South Korea, Italy, Greece, and South America. These types of nuts are grown on trees or shrubs. While the nuts can be eaten at harvest, they are somewhat bland. They are best if stored in the refrigerator for a few days to change the starches to sugars. Chestnuts can be eaten raw if peeled, or can be roasted to prepare for consumption. They can also be candied, boiled, steamed, deep-fried, or grilled. Chestnuts are high in carbohydrates, as opposed to oils as is found with most nuts. They are used in desserts such as cakes and pies, but can also be used as a thickener for soups and sauces.
11. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds come from a sunflower, a flower native to North America. They can also be found in the Ukraine and Russia. When the sunflower seeds are ready to harvest, allow the seeds up to 4 days to dry out and fall off of the sunflower head. They can then shelled and eaten as is, or they can be roasted.
Sunflower seeds are frequently eaten as a stand-alone snack. They can also be added to salads or as yogurt topping.
12. Kola Nuts
Kola nuts are the fruit of the kola tree, which is native to rainforest climates, especially in Africa. The kola trees are about 20 meters high, and the kola seeds develop inside of the kola fruit. Kola nuts contain caffeine, and are used as a flavoring agent in beverages. It is frequently chewed in West African cultures for the caffeine and flavor.
13. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are found in the pumpkin plant in China, India, Ukraine, the United States, Egypt, and Mexico. Pumpkin plants are an edible plant, similar to squash, that are also grown for livestock food or to be ornamental. To prepare pumpkin seeds for eating, they first need to be gathered from the pumpkin meat and washed off. They can be eaten raw or roasted. Pumpkin seeds are frequently consumed as a snack. They are high in fats, and commonly used in butter and oils. Pumpkin seeds are also commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
Flaxseeds come from the flax plant, which is a flowering plant that reaches about 2 feet tall. It is commonly found in Canada, Russia, and Europe. To prepare flaxseeds for consumption, they need to be washed thoroughly and dried. While it is possible to eat them raw and whole, they are easier digested if they are ground up. Flaxseeds are commonly made into oils. They are commonly known for their health benefits, are a frequently an integrated ingredient in diet plans for weight loss. It is also commonly used in rice dishes and curry in India.
Cacao seeds come from an evergreen tree. They grow in the lowland rain forests in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in western Africa and tropical areas of Asia. The seeds are referred to as cocoa beans. The cocoa bean pods are harvested when ripe, and the damp seeds extracted after drying for 10 days. They are then fermented and dried additionally before they are ready for consumption. The cocoa beans are not generally eaten as a stand alone snack, however, and are instead used in other recipes, such as used in chocolate products as well as cosmetic products.
16. Cedar Nuts (a type of pine nut)
Cedar nuts are the nuts of the Siberian cedar pine tree and are hence a type of pine nut. They are grown in Siberia and the Russian Far East. These types of nuts are able to be eaten raw or roasted. Cedar nuts are good for the immune system, and high in fats, protein, and other vitamins. Regarding recipes, these nuts are generally eaten plain, but can be incorporated into salads and savory beef dishes.
17. Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are produced in Europe, North America and Korea. They are produced by multiple species of pine trees, providing some small variations in taste. Many of these nuts come from the stone pine tree. To prepare pine nuts for consumption, they are usually dried out and roasted. They are sometimes eaten raw for their buttery taste. Pine nuts can be eaten as a snack, or added to meat dishes, fish, salads, and baked into bread. They are commonly used in trail mix as well.
An acorn is an edible nut produced by Oak trees in America, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. In order to make an acorn edible, they need to be first treated for tannic acid, which is bitter and can be toxic to humans. This is often done in a repeated drying and boiling process. They can also be roasted. Acorns are commonly used in porridge, acorn flatbread, and acorn flour honey cake.
Believe it or not, a coconut is classified as a nut as well (as well as a fruit). They are a tropical nut produced by palm trees. Palm trees grow in the United States in California, and they thrive in the Caribbean, South and Central America, and Mexico. They can be prepared raw straight off from the tree, or can be baked or fried. Coconuts are rich is nutrients and good for the diet. Some common uses include coconut milk, coconut oil, and use in desserts and as a topping for ice cream or yogurt.
20. Ginkgo nuts
Ginkgo nuts are the product of the ginkgo tree, which is commonly found in Asian countries. The ginkgo nuts are harvested from within the ginkgo fruit. These nuts need to be boiled before consumption. These nuts are commonly used in Asian cuisine, such as congee, and other dishes commonly served at Chinese New Year. It is important to watch levels of ginkgo nut consumption, however, as very high levels can be toxic over a long period of consumption.
B. Great nut options for different uses
Nuts that Work for Pesto
Pesto is traditionally a recipe that combines basil, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. However, many people choose to craft their pesto using a variety of nuts. These pesto recipe options are quick and easy pasta sauce options.
These delicious pesto variations can be made using many types of nuts – many of which are easily accessible at a grocery store. These types of nuts (and sometimes a combination) can be used in pesto if first toasted and cooled before grinding.
- Almonds – soak overnight to remove the skins of the nuts.
- Walnuts – soak overnight for a creamier consistency.
- Macadamia Nuts – these are buttery but can be pricey, like pine nuts.
- Brazil Nuts – the Brazil Nut is meaty, rich, and buttery.
Consider these nuts as well for a unique pesto creation –
- Unsalted, Raw, or Roasted Cashew Nuts.
Great Nuts For Salads
The many varieties of nuts provide a great addition to any salad, adding nutrition, texture, and flavor. Each type of nut offers a unique nutritional profile, texture, and taste – so give some of these a try in your next salad creation –
- Almonds – are low in fat and high in protein that can be used raw or roasted.
- Macadamia Nuts – these nuts complement tropical flavors.
- Pecans – try these rich and buttery nuts raw, roasted, or candied and are a great addition to a spinach salad.
- Cashews – these light nuts contain protein and fiber with a slight crunch and are often thinly sliced in slaws with an Asian flair.
- Pistachio Nuts – a smooth textured nut that is high in potassium and Vitamin B; as they age, they become sweeter and harder.
- Peanuts – are a good source of protein and Vitamin E and pair well with Asian-style salads and the sweetness of an orange slice.
- Walnuts – high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Crunchy but melts in your mouth when toasted. Goes well with pears or apples in a salad.
- Pine Nuts
Nuts For Charcuterie
A Charcuterie Board seeks to creatively balance seasonal flavors with a variety of ingredients. Nuts add crunch to the Charcuterie and often include these nuts –
- Marcona Almonds – these almonds offer amazing taste and nutrition.
- Pecans – the natural sweetness goes well with the saltiness of the cheese and meats.
- Walnuts – With their high oil content, walnuts are a perfect addition for charcuterie with blue cheese or other sharp flavors.
- Cashews – try air roasting them with rosemary for a unique addition.
Nuts For Baking
Baking with nuts adds texture and flavor to a variety of baked goods. In general, raw nuts result in better-baked goods and a finished product –
- For General Baking Needs
- Pecans add a rich flavor and can add crunch when baked. Pecans are a favorite pie filling or are often used when baking muffins.
- Almonds are considered among the most versatile type of nuts. They are often ground to make gluten-free flour.
- Pine Nuts (a.k.a. – Pignolias) – are earthy and soft, which makes them a perfect baking addition.
- For Sweet Bread Loaves – like Banana Bread or Cinnamon Nut Loaf –
- Macadamia (aka Queensland) Nuts
- Cookies – cookies and nuts are a marriage of flavor. These nuts are a great addition to various cookie recipes – cashews, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, toasted pine nuts, almonds, or pistachio nuts, to name a few.
Nuts For Roasting
Roasting nuts brings out the flavor and fragrance. A dry oven (and a pinch of salt) provides consistent direct heat and offers evenly heated and roasted nuts.
The time it takes to roast a nut is worth the effort. The time they take to cook is usually evident because their signature fragrance is highlighted when the nuts release essential oils. Note that –
- Lighter Nuts (Walnuts, Pecans & Pistachios) take six to eight minutes.
- Denser Nuts (Hazelnuts, Almonds & Macadamia Nuts) take eight to ten minutes.
Nuts For Granola
Homemade granola is delicious and easy to make. Most nuts offer healthy (high in fiber and protein) tasty additions to traditional granola recipes. When it comes to granola, most people create delectable and nutritious options using –
- Raw or Roasted Pecans.
- Raw or Roasted Walnuts.
- Raw or Roasted Almonds.
- Slivered Almonds.
Nuts For Ice Cream
Ice cream is more than a food; it is an experience. For many, the more toppings that sit atop this frosty treat, the better. With ice cream, most nuts work well with this favorite frozen treat –
- Raw, Wet, Roasted, or Candied
- Candied Walnuts
- Pine Nuts
- Macadamia Nut Pieces
- Slivered Almonds
- Black Walnuts
Are nuts good for you? Are they bad for you?
Nuts are very good for you. In fact, there are a multitude of health benefits you can enjoy from eating them. They are naturally low in carbs and high in good fats like omega-3 and omega-6 which can greatly improve heart health and increase LDL (good cholesterol) levels.
They are also full of antioxidants which help to fight free radicals in the body that can lead to cell damage and ultimately disease. Additionally, they are packed with valuable nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, iron and potassium.
The only way they would be bad for you is if you don’t eat them in moderation since they are calorie-dense, or if you are allergic to them which can be potentially serious.
Are nuts fattening?
Nuts do have fat. But it is the good and natural kind of fat your body needs, called monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. And when eaten in moderation, they have actually been proven to help with weight loss. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18716179)
It was recently discovered that we don’t actually absorb all of the calories from the nuts because they are more difficult for the body to break down. This, coupled with the fact that they keep you satisfied longer because of their high amounts of fiber and protein, prevents them from being fattening or contributing to weight gain.
Are nuts protein? Which ones are highest in protein?
Nuts are a high-protein food, and they are an important part of a vegetarian or vegan diet for that reason. However, protein is made up of non-essential and essential amino acids, and nuts only provide the non-essential ones. You can count on 27 grams of protein in about one cup of nuts. For comparison, one cup of chopped chicken breast contains about 43 grams of protein.
The five nuts that are highest in protein are:
- Brazil Nuts
Are nuts carbs?
While nuts do contain some carbs, they are not considered a carb-rich food. In fact, they are often recommended for people who are attempting to follow a low-carb diet. One ounce of nuts contains only about five grams of carbs, whereas a slice of white bread contains about 15 grams.
Are nuts fruit?
Scientifically, nuts are often referred to as a fruit with a single seed, a protective husk and a hard shell. In other words, they are the dry seeds of fruit. There are certain nuts that are more widely referred to as fruits, though, including acorns, chestnuts and hazelnuts.
Are nuts seeds?
The complicated truth here is that most nuts are actually seeds, but not vice versa. Seeds are considered an edible plant enclosed in a protective shell. While nuts stay in their shells until provoked open, seeds generally open on their own and leave the shell. So the term “nut” implies that the shell will not automatically open and release the seed.
For an easier way to distinguish between the two, most of the nuts that you would refer to as “tree nuts”, like almonds, brazil nuts and cashews, are actually classified as seeds.
Can nuts go bad?
Because of their oil content, nuts certainly can go bad. However, they do have an incredibly long shelf life compared to other natural foods. They can be kept in a pantry for up to six months past their “best by” date and in the fridge for up to a year.
If you’re not sure if your nuts have gone bad, the easiest way to tell is to smell them. They will have a very specific and rancid or sour smell.
What nuts are in pesto?
The most common and classic type of nut to use for pesto is pine nuts. It usually consists of pine nuts, a lot of fresh basil, oil, parmesan cheese and garlic.
But pine nuts can be expensive, so it is easy to find recipes that use different nuts for pesto like walnuts or almonds. Since the flavors of these nuts are slightly different, you can tweak the pesto recipe with more complementary ingredients like parsley instead of basil.
Which nuts are high in iron?
When it comes to iron, pistachios are the champion. They have 14mg per 100g. That is almost an entire day’s worth of iron for an adult. Considering anemia (chronic iron deficiency) is the single most common blood condition in the world, consuming foods that are high in iron is paramount and can help to prevent varying levels of iron deficiency.
It’s important to note that vegetarians won’t get any iron from meat, so it is vital for them to include other sources of iron, like nuts, in their diet on a daily basis.
D. Chart: 12 Interesting Facts About Nuts
E. Interesting Facts About Seeds