Back to March 2023

The Pecan: Arkansas’s Food of the Year

A man in a cowboy hat and button down work shirt sorts inshell and shelled pecans in a wooden pallet.

The Nut House in Keo, Arkansas on December 12, 2022. (Photo by Will Newton/ADPHT)

In 2016, the Division of Arkansas Heritage (DAH), a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, launched the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, a program created to serve the story of the state’s unique foods, legendary restaurants, remarkable cooks, influential food entrepreneurs, and culturally significant festivals and events. The program has grown to do much more than that in the last seven years, recognizing many special flavors and foods that make up Arkansas’s culinary heritage. Since its inception, a Food of the Year has been added to the program. This selection marks a special place in the state’s food culture and is generally a consumable food produced, grown, or manufactured in The Natural State. 

Some of the pecan-centric snacks and dishes featured at the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame event in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Division of Arkansas Heritage)

On Jan. 30, 2023, DAH announced its 2023 Food of the Year: the pecan. As part of that event, Dr. David Ware, the Director of DAH’s Arkansas State Archives, Arkansas’s State Historian, and a member of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee, enthusiastically presented the following remarks regarding the pecan with a twinkle in his eye. 

“In 2009, the 87th Arkansas General Assembly designated Carya illinoinensis, also known as the pecan, as the official nut of Arkansas. Act 638 of March 27, 2009, specifically noted that it did not grant protected status to the pecan, thus ensuring that the nut might be both harvested and consumed. This means Arkansans can enjoy their Food of the Year as pecan pie (the traditional kind at Miss Anna’s in Fort Smith or a fried version at Skinny J’s in Jonesboro) or spiced pecans (like at Little Rock’s Capital Bar & Grill) or as possum pie crust (particularly from PattiCakes Bakery in Conway) or in the rich and glorious Hummingbird Cake at Sheba’s Family Restaurant in Hope.” 

Highlighting the pecan’s American heritage, Ware shared the history of the pecan and the many uses of pecan wood, and spotlighted the fact that the nut continues to be held in popular esteem and agricultural production.

Nog Off at Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock

“Our neighbors to the southwest honor the pecan both as their official tree and as the state’s official health nut. And there is a method in this moniker,” Ware stated. “Besides their various uses and beloved flavor, pecans have a high concentration of vitamin A, which protects teeth, eyes, and bones. Just a handful a day can lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. They also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and a serving—just one ounce of pecans—provides one-tenth of the daily recommended adult dosage of fiber. Pecans are also rich in antioxidants, those substances that inhibit the deterioration of stored food products.” 

Ware continued to honor the Division of Arkansas Heritage’s 2023 Food of the Year by recognizing the difficulties growers face when harvesting native pecans and acknowledging the pecan’s hardiness. Like many states in the Pecan Belt, pecan trees can be found across Arkansas in almost any corner of the state. 

To learn more about the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, including the past Arkansas Foods of the Year, visit

Author Photo

Division of Arkansas Heritage

The Division of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Learn more about DAH's work on its website here.