20 Most Popular Types Of Nuts Explained

Nuts are clouded in controversy. A high-fat content often leaves eaters wondering, "are they healthy or not?" while the dangers of nuts as allergens and choking hazards bring some to wonder if nuts should be forbidden in certain situations. Plus, to make matters more confusing, many foods long considered to be nuts are, in fact, seeds, legumes, or fruits (via McGill). You could say that nuts are misunderstood.

However, once you get past their hard shells, nuts are brimming with nutrients and a range of flavors you'll want to add to your culinary repertoire. They might be small, but nuts are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids (via BBC Good Food). Thanks to their nutritional profile, nuts are believed to assist with weight management, heart function, and gut health, as well as decrease cholesterol, inflammation, and the risk of certain chronic conditions, according to Healthline.

On top of these impressive health benefits, it's hard to think of a more convenient snack that will fill you up in a handful. (And a handful or two at most is generally considered to be a suitable portion size, registered dietitian Kathy McManus tells Harvard Health Publishing.) While anyone with a nut allergy needs to be vigilant with their consumption due to cross-contamination, for the most part, nuts are suitable for most diets. Enjoy nuts as a salty snack, incorporate them into your baking, or sprinkle them as garnish.

1. Peanuts

You would think that having the word nut in their name would make peanuts an obvious member of the category. However, according to the American Peanut Council (APC), they are technically legumes. Nonetheless, in practice, peanuts are treated as a nut — possibly the first one you encountered as a child. On top of this double identity, Healthline indicates that peanuts are classified as oilseeds since they are made of about 50% fat. This characteristic means that a large proportion of peanuts are used to make peanut oil worldwide. 

Fats aside, peanuts are an impressive source of plant protein with around 25 grams per 100 grams, topping all other nuts and making them an excellent option for vegetarians, according to the APC. As for micronutrients, APC lists biotin, niacin, magnesium, copper, and vitamin E among the top contenders. In turn, these minerals promote bone, heart, and brain health. Plus, you'll get plenty of antioxidants and healthy plant compounds as you snack on this ubiquitous nut, Healthline says.

While raw peanuts have an array of remarkable attributes, keep in mind that every additional processing step may interfere with some of the benefits. If you love slathering your breakfast toast with Skippy peanut butter, replacing it with a product that only contains nuts (and salt, if desired) is an excellent way to reduce unnecessary vegetable oils and additives, per Spoon University

2. Walnuts

Although you'll need equipment to crack them open, walnuts are worth the extra step. According to Britannica, the part that we eat is actually a seed, but technicalities aside, it's consumed as a nut. There's something telling about a walnut's brainlike appearance, and indeed, it's the ideal brain food. In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers reported that polyunsaturated fats and polyphenols in walnuts are associated with enhanced brain health, decreased oxidation and inflammation, and improved function with age.

That's not all: Walnuts are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid, which is associated with decreased cardiovascular disease, per Verywell Fit. The outlet notes that walnuts are a great way to satiate your hunger while filling up on nutritious elements due to their protein and fiber content. As long as you're not overdoing it (they are high in fat and calories, after all), walnuts can even be a welcome part of a weight-management plan, writes NDTV.

Pre-shelled walnuts are a good option if you want to regularly enjoy them without the fuss. This makes it much simpler to throw walnuts into baked goods and eliminates the need to carry around a nutcracker when you want a snack. Surprisingly, walnuts are a delicious meat alternative for plant-based diets; simply roast, grind, and season before sautéeing them to make a taco filling or "meat" balls, as recommended by California Walnuts.

3. Black Walnuts

Black walnuts are less known than their common counterpart, the English walnut (via Almanac). Nonetheless, the contents are still edible. Being native to North America, you might very well have a tree in your backyard. Per their name, the shells are black and will instantly stain your fingers. Garden Guides recommends soaking your fingers with lemon juice and rubbing them together for a few minutes to eliminate the dye. Color aside, black walnuts are larger than English ones and have a round green husk. Once you crack your way through the hull, you'll find the hard black shell that contains the good bits — leave them to dry for a few weeks before going further, per NPR.

It's no easy feat to extract them, and Almanac suggests using a hammer perpendicular to the shell's seam and removing the insides with pliers. You'll need to be resourceful, but once you get to the center, it's best to let the walnut dry for a day or so. NPR describes the robust flavor as being "un-walnut," adding that it has an earthy, bittersweet, oily character. The oil contains a hefty serving of heart-healthy alpha-linoleic acids, so you can rest assured you're getting a serving of beneficial fats. It certainly takes some effort to reach the heart of this tough nut, but once you taste a classic black walnut cake (which many Midwestern states stake claim to, as noted by NPR), you'll understand the fuss.

4. Hazelnuts

For many people, their first introduction to hazelnuts might have been through Nutella (and per MasterClass, 25% of hazelnuts worldwide are used to make Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates). While a rich, creamy spread and unctuous chocolates are some of the products that can be made with the tree nut, that's far from all.

MasterClass explains that hazelnuts grow in a husk that must be cracked open to get to the good stuff. Once you unearth the nuts, you can eat them raw or roasted for a bite-sized snack, grind them into butter (move over peanut butter!), or make flour for baking. More so, when they are roasted, hazelnuts have a sweet and mild flavor that is equally delicious sprinkled into brownie batter or over a salad.

According to SFGate, whether you eat them raw or roasted, you're looking at a similar nutritional profile. High in fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats, these tasty kernels are an obvious nut to include in your diet. You'll get a hearty dose of vitamin E, thiamin, manganese, and copper in every serving (via Verywell Fit).

5. Cashews

Britannica explains that the Brazilian cashew fruit has a hard appendage containing a seed which we refer to as the nut. Botany aside, cashews are nutritionally similar to other nuts, explains Healthline. However, it's not quite as easy as hammering out the seed, and cashews require a bit more coaxing to shed their shells. For starters, the shell contains a resin that is poisonous and can easily burn skin, according to Britannica. The outlet explains that to access the seed, the entire fruit is roasted causing the shell to crack open, burning the toxic residue in turn. Thankfully, unless you're harvesting your own cashews, they've already been appropriately processed and arrive safely for consumption.

Much like other popular nuts, cashews have an array of health benefits when eaten in moderation. In 2019, Current Developments in Nutrition published a study indicating that eating cashews were related to a decrease in blood pressure. Additionally, Healthline reports there may be improvements in heart health, cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and weight maintenance. The outlet points to the high levels of unsaturated fats, fiber, protein, and copper as being partly responsible for these benefits.

For the healthiest outcome, skip heavily salted cashews with plenty of extra oil and opt for cashews with minimal added ingredients. Even better, buy plain cashews and roast and season them yourself for an extra delicious snack.

6. Pecans

There's more to pecans than pecan pie, and they're certainly worth adding to your repertoire. According to Healthline, pecans are a filling food, as these large nuts contain around 200 calories and 20 grams of fat in a 1-ounce portion.

Nonetheless, in moderation, Healthline reports that pecans are an excellent source of copper which assists in nerve function and immunity. Thiamin and zinc are also found in fair amounts, adding to their overall immune-boosting properties. Per the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA), you'll find over 19 vitamins and minerals contained in each pecan, making them an excellent complement to any diet. Consider that a study in the National Library of Medicine found their nutrition profile to have a hearty dose of cell-protecting antioxidants, and you'll understand why pecans are a must.

Per the NPSA, the nut is packed with proteins and fibers, making it a suitable component in a weight management program. However, as registered dietitian Carolyn O'Neil remarks, "It's a handful, not a can full." The American Heart Association is on board, describing pecans as a "standout nut" due to their heart-healthy fats, high-fiber content, and various micronutrients. Add them to baked goods, snack on them raw or roasted, or use them as garnish — you can't go wrong.

7. Brazil nuts

If you're wondering whether these are simply called nuts in Brazil, they're actually named after their state of origin, Pará, per Britannica. The tree nut grows deep in the heart of the Amazon, encased in a hard shell that holds the edible seed (another instance of false nut advertising). Brazil nuts are larger than average and have a rich, creamy texture that makes them undeniably satisfying.

Thanks to their dense nature, portion control may be easier to moderate, which is essential due to their remarkably high level of selenium. According to The Healthy, a single nut contains around 175% of your recommended daily allowance. Registered dietitian Deborah Malkoff-Cohen tells the outlet that three nuts per day should be your limit to prevent toxicity. She explains that selenium is essential in supporting proper thyroid function, which in turn regulates hormone production associated with metabolism, body temperature, and growth. Additionally, BBC Good Food notes that selenium deficiencies are related to mood disorders, so if you're feeling low, a nut a day might help enhance your well-being.

Apart from the overwhelming selenium levels, BBC Good Food indicates that you'll find essential polyphenols with antioxidant characteristics that decrease inflammation. Pair them with dark chocolate for a nutritious (tasty) snack, grind them into pesto, or crush them up into your granola. The rich buttery consistency is an easy favorite for nut lovers everywhere.

8. Pistachios

There's something particularly gratifying about shelling pistachios one by one and popping the sweet, earthy nuts into your mouth. Whether you buy them roasted, raw, salted, or plain, pistachios are a nut worthy of royalty according to Queen of Sheba from the Hebrew Bible (via American Pistachio Growers). In case you needed another reason to view them highly, per Tastemade, it's said that Adam brought pistachios to the Garden of Eden in the Bible's Book of Genesis. An impressive 9,000-year history aside, the pistachio is another testament to the nutritious qualities of nuts.

If you like snacks that seemingly never end, you'll appreciate that a 1-ounce serving will provide you with 49 kernels to munch on, according to Livestrong. Additionally, pistachios are lower in calories and fat compared to many other nuts, with 160 calories and 13 grams of fat per serving, writes Healthline. You'll get a healthy dose of protein, fiber, high levels of copper, vitamin B1, and B6. Per Self, the nut's characteristic green and purple color come from its rich antioxidant properties, which may assist with eye health and decrease cancer and heart disease risk.

Even if they didn't have so many health benefits, their delicious flavor makes pistachios a prized ingredient no matter how you eat them. Savor a scoop of pistachio gelato, grind your own pesto or nut butter, or try your hand at making delightfully sticky baklava.

9. Pine nuts

Although you might be most familiar with pine nuts from pesto, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the delicious seeds (yes, the small tear-dropped nut is actually a seed). Per their name, they're found in pine cones growing from one of the 20 or so varieties of trees with edible seeds, HuffPost explains. However, it's no easy feat to harvest them, and two layers of shells must be removed by hand. HuffPost adds that the pine cone's long maturation period means harvesting occurs every 18 months. These facts explain why creamy pine nuts are among the most expensive nuts on the market (per Money Inc).

While pesto recipes often call for a pricey portion of pine nuts, these tiny seeds add plenty of flavors simply toasted and used sparingly. Moderation is a good idea because aside from bankrupting you, overeating pine nuts can cause temporary alterations in taste, making everything bitter and metallic, per HuffPost. According to The New York Times, the Greeks and Romans were apparently fond of pine nuts for their purported aphrodisiac qualities.

Nutritionally, they're high in polyunsaturated fats and calories and contain an array of minerals and vitamins, notably zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, vitamins E and K, per Verywell Fit. Additionally, the outlet praises pine nuts for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which benefit heart health — worth the splurge!

10. Candle nuts

Candlenuts aren't meant for snacking on raw, but instead, they're used in cooking — or fashioned into candles to burn, per their name. They're native to Southeast Asia and are found across the South Pacific; they're also Hawaii's official tree (via Culinary Lore). The outlet adds that the nuts are related to macadamias, which isn't surprising when looking at their similar appearance. Although The Epicentre reports that candlenuts have traditionally been considered to have healing properties, it's important to know how to use them to avoid ill effects.

As it turns out, candlenuts are toxic when raw and must be cooked to eliminate the compounds, according to The Epicentre. In any case, there's nothing impressive about their flavor when raw. When they're roasted, however, a pleasant nutty taste makes them a perfect complement to a number of dishes. Once you start cooking with them, it's easy to see why candlenuts are a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine. The Epicentre explains that the nuts are ground up and mixed with other ingredients as a thickener, or small slices are roasted and sprinkled over dishes as a garnish. For example, you might find them in a Malaysian satay dish or a traditional Hawaiian poke.

11. Macadamias

The more familiar relative of candlenuts, macadamias, are small round tree nuts native to Australia and commercially grown primarily in Hawaii, according to Greatist. Although they're not as common as peanuts or almonds (and they're far more expensive), macadamias have a deliciously rich and creamy quality that will make you eager for more.

Suppose you're looking for plant-based healthy fats. In that case, the BBC Good Food indicates that they have the highest proportion of monounsaturated fats of any nut, contributing to heart health and stable cholesterol levels. As for micronutrients, Greatist writes that you'll get a hearty dose of manganese, copper, thiamine, and magnesium, which assist with energy, bone health, nervous system function, and immunity. Plus, they're packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which protect against cancer and neural health, as BBC explains.

Countless health benefits aside, macadamias are really tasty! Whether you enjoy them raw or toasted, the crunchy exterior conceals a decadently smooth and subtly sweet interior. In moderation — they are particularly nutritionally dense — these are excellent snacking nuts. For extra flavor, Fine Dining Lovers recommends coating them in your favorite spices before roasting them in the oven at 400 degrees for just under 10 minutes. The source adds that macadamias are a great ingredient for making a vegan cheese substitute.

12. Kola nuts

You might assume there's no way that Coca-Cola stems from anything natural, but in fact, the original recipe contained extracts from the kola nut (and cocaine ... ), per BBC. Nowadays, the soda uses synthetic flavorings, but the West African nut paved the way for the now world-famous taste. The outlet explains that kola nuts naturally contain caffeine, theobromine (also found in chocolate), sugar, and other stimulants. It's no surprise that the nut is praised locally for its numerous properties. Laborers consume it as an energy boost, healers use it, and it is a symbolic element in many sacred ceremonies, according to Greatist.

While research on the various health claims remains fairly limited, there's no denying its central role in several West African countries. If you can hunt down the nut, try chewing on the fleshy meat. When kola nuts are dried, Tastylicious describes the flavor as milder, slightly sweet, and reminiscent of nutmeg. However, in the U.S., you'll come across the extract more easily, which can be used to make your own cola beverage. Just keep in mind that the caffeine content is no joke, and it's best not to overdo it.

13. Almonds

According to World Atlas, almonds are the second most popular nut worldwide. As such, they're readily available across the U.S. What we consume as the nut is actually a fruit from the almond tree (via BBC Good Food). You'll find it in dozens of formats in the supermarket: raw, roasted, salted, flavored, slivered, blanched, ground, or turned into milk or butter. Indeed, almonds are chameleons in the kitchen, and they can enhance a basic salad, cookie recipe, savory dish, or jelly sandwich.

Nutritionally, they're packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and protein, making them a nourishing snack that promotes weight management, per BBC. Registered dietitian nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix tells Taste of Home that almonds are loaded with fiber. The publication also lists them as full of vitamin E, phosphorus, and calcium. Well worth your snacking quota! If you're dealing with high cholesterol, the source adds that almonds are ideal for decreasing bad cholesterol levels. Keep in mind there will be variations in the nutritional profile depending on how you consume them. For example, Healthline reports that antioxidants are mainly found in their brown skin, meaning blanched almonds are less beneficial.

14. Marcona almonds

If you're already a fan of almonds, wait until you try the Marcona variety from coastal Spain. Often referred to as the queen of almonds, per Bon Appétit, this variety is rounder and slightly plumper than your typical California almond. And while the flavor is on another level, the two are pretty similar nutritionally, according to Livestrong. You might need to do some digging around to find them in the U.S., but in native Spain, Marcona almonds make regular appearances in the tapas scene.

You can compare their flavor to a cross between macadamias and regular almonds, and indeed, the rich buttery nuts have a mild sweetness that makes them incredibly tempting. Typically, they're sold lightly fried and salted, creating a pleasant contrast of flavors. Marconas are the ultimate snacking almond, but they're just as delicious sprinkled over a salad or vegetables. Meanwhile, in Spain, they're also used to make marzipan or nougat desserts, per Chowhound. Even though they're more expensive than California almonds, Marconas are well worth the extra cost if you can find them.

15. Pili nuts

You might not find pili nuts in every supermarket, but anyone looking to expand their palate should make an effort to source them. According to Vogue, the creamy nuts originate from tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Whole, they are encased in an edible fruit with a peel that bears an uncanny resemblance to a tiny avocado (via Shape). EatingWell describes them as similar to cashews and macadamia nuts, whereas Vogue notes a hint of sunflower seeds and a "buttery texture evocative of plant-based foie gras" when roasted. They're perfect as a filling snack, mixed into baked goods or oatmeal, or sprinkled over greens for an added boost.

Compared to other nuts, pilis are fairly dense with 23 grams of fat and 200 calories in a 1-ounce serving, per the USDA. Nonetheless, you won't want to miss out on the hefty magnesium content, B vitamins, and copper. Vegans or vegetarians would do well to include pilis in their diets, as they are one of few plant sources that contain all of the amino acids the body uses as protein building blocks, according to Verywell Fit. The outlet also adds that you won't find a nut with fewer carbohydrates, making pilis ideal for low-carb or keto diets.

16. Chestnuts

Chestnuts are certainly larger than most nuts, and that's only the start of their unique features. FoodPrint describes chestnut meat as sweet with a floury texture that sets them apart from crunchier nuts. We have the Romans to thank for these unctuous nuts, as BBC reports that they planted the trees throughout Europe, consuming them as fuel while they conquered land. Nowadays, the outlet remarks that roasted chestnuts are sold in seasonal open-air: the perfect heartwarming snack.

While you can buy roasted and peeled chestnuts in packages, there's nothing quite like roasting them yourself ... on an open fire. If you opt for this classic method, be sure to score the shells to avoid an explosive mess, per BBC. Otherwise, boil, steam, or grind them into flour for baking. Their subtle sweetness and remarkable consistency make chestnuts a versatile addition in the kitchen. FoodPrint suggests adding them to stuffing, soup, salad, cake, or candying them as an easy treat.

Given their starchy texture, it's no surprise that chestnuts are nutritionally unlike most nuts. Per Healthline, they're very low in fat and, conversely, high in complex carbohydrates (sorry, keto followers). Additionally, they contain a number of micronutrients and are the only nut to have vitamin C.

17. Ginkgo nuts

Unless you're harvesting them yourself, your experience with ginkgo nuts should be free of the smelly fruit that encases them. Per Serious Eats, expect pungent cheese-like aromas from the flesh, which it turns out is also slightly toxic. The site mentions that ginkgo nut itself varies widely depending on whether you consume it fresh or dried. Fresh, the texture is softer and there may still be some residual odors from the fruit, whereas dried ginkgo becomes tender and bittersweet. Or, as GQ describes, "a hyper-umami version of well-seasoned popcorn."

All the same, tread with caution, as aside from a raunchy smell, according to Serious Eats, the pulp contains a compound that can cause rashes or blisters. To be safe, you're best off consuming packaged ginkgo nuts that have been processed to eat. Enjoy them roasted and salted for a flavorful and unique snack. According to Livestrong, the little nuts are high in antioxidants. In fact, the leaf extract is regularly consumed as a supplement. Unlike most nuts, ginkgos are very low in fat and instead boast high levels of carbohydrates, namely from fiber (via Eat This Much).

18. Coconuts

Coconut shows up in dozens of cuisines worldwide, and it's no surprise given its heavenly flavor. Per the Library of Congress, coconuts have a fluid identity and are simultaneously considered a fruit, seed, and nut depending on the context. If you ask the FDA, they are a tree nut and are consequently listed among the major allergens, much to the frustration of many allergen organizations and the Coconut Coalition, according to Food Safety News.

Labels aside, coconuts are the perfect way to infuse your diet with tropical flavors. Whether you cook with the oil, shredded flesh, or milk, sip on the water, or eat chunks of it fresh, you won't want to skip coconut. The mildly sweet and nutty flavor is suitable for a wide range of dishes, whether it stars in a creamy curry or toasted to garnish banana bread. According to Healthline, regardless of how you prepare it, coconut is loaded with saturated fats, protein, fiber, manganese, copper, and iron. Its nutritional profile makes it a satiating element in any recipe, though keep in mind that moderation is best due to the high fat and calorie content.

19. Acorns

Depending on where you live, your garden and streets may be littered with acorns in the fall. As it turns out, they're also edible (although Healthline recommends soaking or boiling them to eliminate some of the bitter tannins). The outlet notes that the nut contains fewer calories than most, boasts plenty of fiber, and contains average fat and protein levels. Not bad for something that is seemingly scattered all over the place. Plus, Healthline writes that these small nuts are packed with manganese, vitamin A, and antioxidants, making them an all-around healthy option to add to your diet.

Almanac describes the flavor as rich and nutty, so the only remaining question is how do you prepare them? If you're harvesting them yourself, the outlet recommends first cracking the nuts to remove the shell, discarding any with signs of mold. Next, let them soak, changing the water a few times to eliminate the bitter, astringent tannins. Let them dry completely, and then roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Enjoy them as a snack or grind them into flour for baking. Who knew squirrels were on the right track?

20. Palm nuts

Although you might be more familiar with palm oil or hearts, palm nuts are an important component of the former. According to Soups Junction, palm nuts are the seed of the palm fruit and are processed to make palm oil and palm kernel oil. The outlet notes that palm nuts are native to Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, and the Gambia) and have eventually found their way to certain Southeast Asian countries.

Although Soups Junction writes that a large proportion of the palm nut harvest is used to make oil, a traditional West African soup — mbanga — is primarily made with palm nuts (via Taste Atlas). Typically, the nut pulp is pounded into a paste and mixed with protein such as smoked fish, per African Bites. Meanwhile, the oil is used in many culinary preparations, beauty products, and in soap, per Global Foodbook. Soups Junction writes that many manufactured food products such as bread, cookies, and cakes use aromatic palm oil to enhance the overall flavor. Soups Junction also mentions that, nutritionally, the nuts contain heart-healthy fats, plenty of antioxidants, and high levels of vitamins A, K, and C.