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Pecans: Good for you, but go beyond pies

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Pecan snack mix

April is National Pecan Month. For many people, pecans mean just one thing. Pecan pie.

But did you know?

  • Pecans are a heart-healthy food that can help to lower cholesterol.
  • Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, fiber and protein, and are naturally sodium free.
  • Pecans contain more antioxidants than any other nut.

By the numbers, 1 ounce of pecans (19 halves) has 196 calories, 20 grams of fat, 2.7 grams of fiber and 2.6 grams of protein.

Pecans are the only nut indigenous to North America, and culturally speaking, have long been a Southern comfort food.

chicken salad sandwich with pecans

Cranberry Chicken Salad

Chicken salad restaurants are a thing in the South. They often use pecans and fruit in chicken salad recipes. One such favorite is chicken salad with pecans and grapes.

Here’s another chicken salad recipe, this one combining pecans – that Southern favorite – with Wisconsin cranberries. Mayonnaise and yogurt help create a light, tangy dressing.

Prep time: 15 minutes. Makes 8 servings (¾ cup).


⅓ cup plain whole-milk yogurt

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chopped scallions

3 tablespoons dill pickle relish

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

4 cups shredded cooked chicken breast

¾ cup sweetened dried cranberries

½ cup chopped pecans, toasted (see Pro tip below)

⅓ cup finely chopped celery

⅓ cup finely chopped carrot


Stir yogurt, mayonnaise, scallions, relish, mustard, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Fold in chicken, cranberries, pecans, celery and carrot. Stir to coat.

Serve open-faced on toast or scoop it on top of fresh salad greens.

Pro tip: For the best flavor, toast nuts and seeds before using in a recipe. To toast small nuts, chopped nuts and seeds, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Nutritional information per serving: 267 calories; 13 g fat; 64 mg cholesterol; 458 mg sodium; 15 g carbohydrates; 2 g dietary fiber; 23 g protein; 12 g sugars; 10 mg niacin equivalents; 2 g saturated fat; 982 IU vitamin A.

Source: Eating Well

Chocolate Cherry Pecan Snack Mix

Here’s another mashup combining a Southern favorite – chocolate-glazed pecans – with a Wisconsin ingredient, this time dried tart cherries.

Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes.


1½ cup pecan halves

1 large egg white

¼ cup light brown sugar

1½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon water

1 cup dried tart cherries

1 cup small pretzels

¾ cup yogurt-covered raisins


Whisk together egg white, brown sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt until well blended. Add about 1 tablespoon water to thin mixture slightly. Fold in pecan halves until well coated. Spread mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture is well set. Stir pecan mixture several times during baking. Allow pecans to cool completely and transfer to a bowl. Mix in dried cherries, pretzels, and yogurt-covered raisins.

Nutrition information: 110 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 140 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 1 g protein.

Source: American Pecan Council

Grilled Chicken with Red Pepper-Pecan Romesco Sauce

Romesco sauce, a roasted tomato sauce that originated in the Catalonia region of Spain, often uses roasted red peppers to add a hint of sweetness. In this recipe, the peppers and tomato are roasted on the grill with the chicken, then blended with other ingredients to make the sauce.

Prep time: 30 minutes. Makes 4 servings (3 ounces chicken and 1/3 cup sauce).


2 medium red bell peppers

1 medium tomato

1 pound chicken cutlets

¾ teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided

½ cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Chopped scallions for garnish


Heat grill to medium-high. Grill bell peppers and tomato, turning occasionally, until blistered all over and charred in spots, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Grill the chicken, flipping occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165 degrees F, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Remove and discard skin and seeds from peppers and tomato. Place peppers and tomato in a blender and add pecans, garlic, oil, vinegar, crushed red pepper and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Puree on high until well combined, about 1 minute. Serve chicken with the sauce and topped with scallions, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 308 calories; 25.2 g protein; 7.6 g carbohydrates; 3.2 g dietary fiber; 3.9 g sugars; 19.7 g fat; 2.6 g saturated fat; 62.7 mg cholesterol; 2253 IU vitamin A; 81.9 mg vitamin C; 42.1 mcg folate; 35.6 mg calcium; 1.6 mg iron; 50.6 mg magnesium; 470.9 mg potassium; 496 mg sodium.

Source: Eating Well

Published: Thursday, April 1, 2021
Author: Jeff Ash