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Global Food Trends Give Pecans a Boost

Over the years, global food trends have become increasingly popular among consumers—and for good reason. Global food trends open the door to exciting and unusual flavors, and ingredients and cooking techniques from around the world. Many of these trends are associated with health and wellness benefits, like plant-based cuisine or dishes highlighting nutrient-dense “superfoods” such as berries or squashes, and some even foster sustainability practices. Often, they promote a more inclusive and diverse food culture, allowing people to experience an exotic cuisine without ever leaving the country. Furthermore, interest from media outlets and social channels has made it easier for global food trends to accelerate, since they can be quickly discovered, shared and adopted by a large number of people.

For pecans, global food trends have been a boon to the industry, as pecan’s unique taste and meaty texture provide the perfect palette for a wide variety of foods and flavors. Below are the top three global food trends where pecans are prominently featured.

1. Pecans Have International Appeal

A welcome ingredient all over the world, pecans can effortlessly fit into almost any cuisine. Consequently, they can be found in all types of dishes throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and Africa. Although most known in sweet desserts like cookies, cakes, candies and pies, pecans have also made their mark in many savory dishes like soups, salads, noodle dishes, rice, and breadings for meat, seafood and chicken.

We can find many examples by simply traveling around the world. In Europe, we can find Italian pecan biscotti and pecan Gorgonzola salad; French pecan tarte and pecan goat cheese crostini. You’ll also find Mediterranean chicken pecan feta salad, pecan Turkish baklava, German pecan-crusted chicken schnitzel, pecan apple cake, and pecan honey granola.

Over in Asia, Chinese pecan-crusted shrimp or chicken is a favorite, while Japanese people prefer pecan mochi (mochi is a traditional Japanese rice cake that is often filled with sweet or savory fillings), pecan teriyaki chicken, and pecan soba noodles. Other pecan dishes you’ll find in Asia include Thai pecan coconut rice pudding or Malaysian butter pecan cake, a vanilla cake filled with chopped pecans and a layer of caramel.  

In South America, a type of sugary peanut-pecan brittle is popular as is a chocolate truffle made with pecans, sweetened condensed milk, and cocoa powder. On the savory side, South Americans enjoy pecans in meat empanadas and rich, creamy corn or potato soup.

Pecans often appear in pies and nut tarts in Australia and South Africa. They are also often used as a breading in pecan-crusted roasted lamb.

2. Fusion Cuisine is Still Growing

Pecans have also found success and consumer interest in fusion cuisine. Fusion cuisine is a style of cooking that combines elements of different culinary traditions or techniques to create new and innovative dishes. Over the last few decades, fusion cuisine has become a staple on restaurant menus and, thanks to the pandemic, has recently gained popularity with home cooks as well. Driven by changing consumer tastes and preferences, fusion cuisine continues to evolve, change, and grow. Popular pecan fusion dishes include:

  • Pecan-Crusted Tofu: This dish combines Japanese and Southern cuisine by using pecans to coat tofu before pan-frying it. The result is a crispy and nutty crust that pairs well with the tofu’s soft texture.
  • Pecan-Crusted Salmon Sushi Roll: Here pecans coat the outside of a salmon sushi roll. The nutty flavor and crunchy texture of the pecans provide a unique contrast to the softness of the sushi rice and salmon.
  • Pecan Pesto Pasta: This Italian-inspired dish replaces pine nuts with pecans to create the base for a pesto sauce, which is then tossed with cooked pasta.
  • Pecan Kimchi Fried Rice: In this Korean-inspired dish, pecan butter pairs with the spicy and sour flavor of kimchi in a fried rice dish. In addition to texture, from the chopped nuts, pecans provide a depth of flavor, while the kimchi adds a tangy and spicy kick.
  • Pecan Coconut Curry: Indian and Caribbean flavors blend together with pecans and coconut milk to create an unusual tofu-based vegan curry.

3. Pecans Go “Glocal”

Our third trend is a relative newcomer on the global food scene. “Glocal” cuisine emphasizes local ingredients and flavors while incorporating global influences. Unlike fusion cuisine which seeks to create unique, innovative dishes, “glocal” cuisine simply swaps out local ingredients in traditional foods. Motivated by environmental concerns and the desire to support local products, the glocal trend appeals to consumers who still want to enjoy the excitement of global spices and cuisines but with hometown ingredients. Locally grown pecans are ideally suited for this glocal food trend. Trendy pecan-focused glocal dishes include:

  • Pecan and Harissa Braised Lamb: The rich, meaty flavor of lamb is cooked with the bold flavors of North African cuisine. The lamb is braised with harissa, a spicy paste made from chili peppers and other spices, and then topped with a pecan gremolata.
  • Pecan and Miso Glazed Eggplant: Sweet and nutty pecans pair perfectly with the umami flavor of miso paste in a glazed eggplant dish. The eggplant is sliced and then glazed with a mixture of pecan butter, miso paste, and other ingredients, creating a boost of flavor and richness.
  • Ramen Noodles with Spicy Pecan Sauce and Chili Crisps: Japanese Ramen noodles are tossed with a creamy, smooth pecan butter sauce and topped with colorful, crunchy vegetables, toasted pecans, and spicy chili crisps.
  • Pecan and Gochujang Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Here the earthy flavor of roasted brussels sprouts pair with the spicy flavors of Korean cuisine. The sprouts are tossed with gochujang (a Korean chili paste), roasted until crispy and golden brown, then sprinkled with toasted pecans.
  • Pecan, Dates and Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower: Known for its health-promoting properties turmeric is mixed with cumin, olive oil, and other spices to create a paste which is used to coat the cauliflower. Once coated the cauliflower is combined with dates and chopped pecan and roasted until tender and golden brown.
  • Pecan and Za’atar Crusted Halibut: This dish combines the delicate flavor of halibut with the bold flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine. The fish is coated in a mixture of pecans, za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend), and other seasonings, and then pan-fried until crispy and golden brown.

These three global food trends prominently feature pecans and allow pecan’s unique flavor, versatility, and texture to truly shine. A boon to our industry, these trends also provide growers and industry members another path to connecting with consumers and selling more pecans.

For more information on pecans, including additional recipes, healthy tips, and nutrition facts visit the National Pecan Sheller Association’s website.

Author Photo

Diane Welland

Diane Welland MS, RD, is the Director of Nutrition Communications at the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA). NPSA supports and promotes the interests of pecan shellers and the global industry to assure the quality, safety, and integrity of pecan products worldwide.