Hundreds of Entries Show There Is More to Pecans than “Meets the Pie”

If you can imagine it, pecans belong in it, at least as far as recipes are concerned. It seems that pecans are not just for desserts anymore, or the holidays, for that matter! In fact, pecans can be used to enhance the appeal and taste of just about any recipe. Of course, pecans are excellent in pies, cookies and cakes, but their versatility does not end there – as proven by the hundreds of entries received in the first-ever “I Can Use Pecans in THAT?” recipe contest. From salads and main entrees, to soups, appetizers and side dishes, pecans can be a key ingredient in a variety of unique and delectable dishes.

“Some people may think that consumers and food professionals only associate pecans with desserts or the holidays, but the winning pecan recipes show this not to be true – people should think about using pecans all year long,” says Sue Taylor, M.S., R.D., a dietitian with the National Pecan Shellers Association. “These recipes showcase the versatility and unique flavor of pecans,” Taylor adds. “Pecans are not only good for you, but they are a great addition to just about any dish.”

To celebrate the unforgettable taste, sweet crunch and incredible versatility of pecans, the National Pecan Shellers Association’s “I Can Use Pecans in THAT?” recipe contest searched for recipes from kids (under 16), adults (over 16) and food professionals alike. The goal? To find some of the nuttiest and tastiest pecan recipes. The winning entries were judged on creativity, originality, palatability and uniqueness – characteristics that reach well beyond the traditional pecan pie or fruitcake.

During April’s National Pecan Month, consumers are encouraged to try these winning pecan recipes, as well as experiment with pecans in some of their own recipes, notes Taylor. Loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and more than 19 vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins, pecans pack a powerful health punch. Pecans are naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free, and one serving provides about 10 percent of the government’s recommended Daily Values for zinc and fiber.


Nutty Pecan Chicken Tepees
Dakota McDaniels, Age 6, Colfax, IL

3 ounces cream cheese
3 Tbsp. butter
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 8-ounce can cooked chicken
3 cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
18 thin pretzel sticks for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan, melt cream cheese and butter over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Add pecans, onion, chicken and mix well. Remove from heat. Divide crescent rolls into 6 “squares.” (Two triangles with their seams pressed together make one square.) Place heaping spoonful of chicken mixture into middle of each square. Fold corners in an upward motion towards the middle and seal so they form a “point” (like a tepee). Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown.

After removing the tepees from the oven, garnish each with 3 pretzel sticks placed vertically in the center to form the tepee frame. Serves 6.

Honey and Pecan Nut Nachos
Tai-Tien Chan, Age 14, Albany, CA

4 Tbsp. honey
4 soft taco size flour tortillas
½ tsp. chili powder
½ cup finely chopped pecans

Spread honey over one side of each tortilla; sprinkle chili powder over the honey. Top with pecans. Cut each tortilla into 8 pieces. Place on an lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 5-6 minutes or until the edges of each chip are light brown. Cool. Makes 32.


Pecan Four Cheese Pizza
Kerri Levine, Longwood, FL

1-12″ prepared pizza crust
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
3 Tbsp. goat cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened
½ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place pizza crust on cookie sheet. In frying pan, heat oil. Add onions and cook slowly until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Mix the goat and cream cheese together and spread on crust; spread the cooked onions over the cheese. Sprinkle the feta and mozzarella cheeses over the onions; top with the pecan pieces. Bake for about 5 minutes or until cheeses melt. Sprinkle parsley over top before serving. Cut into 6 wedges to serve. Serves 2 – 3.

Pacific Rim Pecan Crusted Turkey Cutlets
Margee Berry, White Salmon, WA

¼ cup Oriental hoisin sauce (available in the Oriental section of the grocery store)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. liquid hot sauce
¼ tsp. ground ginger
2 cups finely ground pecans
6 turkey cutlets
12 ounces ramen noodles

Preheat broiler and grease broiler rack. In a shallow bowl, mix together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, hot sauce and ginger. Place pecans on wax paper. Dip each turkey cutlet into the Oriental liquid mixture and then into the pecans, pressing so the pecans stick. Place on broiler-pan rack. Broil 6 inches from heat, 3-4 minutes per side. While cutlets are cooking, transfer remaining liquid mixture to a saucepan and bring to boil. Lower heat and keep liquid warm over low heat. Cook the ramen noodles without the seasoning pack according to package directions. To serve, place ramen noodles onto six dinner plates, then top with a cutlet and drizzle with warmed sauce. Serves 6.


Pecan Risotto with Caramelized Onions and Smoked Gouda Cheese
Karla V. Boetel, Student, The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup Arborio rice
2 quarts chicken stock, heated
¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat saucepan on medium heat and add butter and oil. Add onion and slowly caramelize the onion, stirring constantly until medium brown. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in rice and sauté 1 minute. Add 2 cups of stock and stir constantly. Add stock ½ cup at a time stirring constantly until rice has absorbed the liquid. Continue stirring and adding stock until rice is tender but firm and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes. Add toasted pecans, parsley, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with grilled chicken, fish or roasted meat. Serves 8 as a side dish.

Pecan and Gorgonzola-Coated Grapes
Jan Risher, Former Food TV Show Host, Lafayette, LA

1 cup finely chopped pecans
6 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (can also use Cambozola)
4 ounces cream cheese
20 seedless red grapes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. On a cookie sheet, spread out the chopped pecans and toast for five minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Using a wooden spoon (or electric mixer), cream together the Gorgonzola and cream cheeses.

Put one tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the palm of your hand; imbed one grape in this mixture, shaping the mixture around the grape to coat. Then roll the covered grape in the finely chopped pecans before placing on a serving tray. Chill for 30 minutes until coating is firm. If grapes are large, use a sharp knife to cut into halves. Serves 5.