Think outside the pecan pie: Try these 10 creative Southern pecan recipes
The proper pronunciation of the nut often depends on what side of the Mason-Dixon you were born. Whether you say “puh-kahn” or “pee-kan," there’s no debate that pecans are a mainstay of Southern cuisine. After all, about a third of the nation’s pecans come from Georgia, where a typical annual harvest yields enough to make about 176 million pecan pies.
Classic pecan pie is perhaps the most favorite expression of the inherently sweet nut. Still, people are beginning to think outside of the pie tin. In Mississippi, for example, pecans have a cameo in craft beer.
Here are 10 far-from-ordinary pecan recipes running the gamut from sweet to savory, all worth preparing in your own kitchen, whether you’re prepping cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres or simply in the mood for an ultra-decadent dessert.
Bacon-wrapped dates with romesco
While this dish has its roots as a Spanish tapa, the ingredients are purely Southern. Crusty bread acts as a thickener for the romesco sauce, and olive oil gives it a glossy sheen. In a traditional romesco, walnuts are a key player. Here, we've blended in pecans instead for a dish that makes sense on any Southern appetizer table. Get the recipe
Sonoma Jack cheese fritters
Who doesn’t like fried cheese? And that’s exactly what this appetizer is; mostly fried cheese, with just enough stylized hush-puppy batter to hold it all together. The addition of toasted pecans adds crunch and a hint of roasted, nutty sweetness. Serve these fritters with spicy or sweet red pepper jelly. Get the recipe
Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie Baklava
Inspired by the pie named after that famous horse race at Churchill Downs, this dessert takes all the elements of a chocolate pecan pie but reimagines it in the form of Greek baklava with plenty of flaky phyllo dough. When hosting a crowd, you can serve the individual baklava squares on cupcake wrappers. Get the recipe
Summer stone fruit salad
While peaches may rule the South, other varieties of stone fruit can be a tasty late summer alternative. Stone fruits work almost interchangeably in salads, with only slight differences in sweetness and acidity. For this salad, choose sweeter black plums over the more tart red varieties. Pungent blue cheese acts as a salty counterpoint to the sweet fruit, and the fragrant nuttiness of toasted pecans adds depth to the salad.
Upside-Down Apple Pecan Pie
This clever recipe combines two of our favorite pies in one. The original recipe, by Elizabeth Deer, was a winner of the North Carolina Consumer Apple Recipe contest in 2004. Southern Kitchen reader Joann Conway upped the molasses flavor by using all brown sugar and added more butter to the base. Home-mixed apple pie spice also helped to build flavor, while a lighter touch with the pecans makes for an elegant presentation. Get the recipe
Bourbon-Pecan Cranberry Sauce
Many people default to using canned cranberry sauce come Thanksgiving, but making it from scratch is very easy and far tastier — especially when you mix in Southern bourbon and pecans. Those pecans bring crunch and nuttiness to the usually just tangy-sweet sauce and make the dish as Southern as can be. Get the recipe
Fire-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
Forget marshmallows. There’s no better topping for brown butter, charcoal roasted sweet potatoes than crisp, nutty pecans. This recipe is more than your typical Thanksgiving side dish; those nuts bring additional depth and texture to the dish — don’t leave them out. Get the recipe
Popular around Charleston, the Huguenot torte takes its name from the French Protestants who settled in the Charleston area in the 17th century. Pecans and sugar make up a significant part of the batter, and the whole dessert gets a nice pop from the tart Granny Smith apples. You can bake this in a glass baking dish, but we love the rustic feel of a cast iron skillet. Get the recipe
Lady Baltimore Cake
Said to have originated in the early 20th century at Lady Baltimore’s Tea Room in Charleston, South Carolina, Lady Baltimore cake is a white cake filled with a mixture of dried fruit and pecans, then frosted with a meringue-like icing. It’s a labor of love, which is why many people around Charleston enjoy it as a wedding cake. It works equally well as a dessert for any festive occasion, be it Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Roasted and Spiced Pecans
Dead-simple to make, with ingredients you probably already have in the pantry, these are a perfect snack to whip up to keep guests occupied. The crispy, salty-spicy-sweet combination makes them surprisingly hard to stop eating (not to mention, they pair perfectly with a cold beer).
1 pound pecan halves
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Spread the pecans out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the hot oven. This part requires a watchful eye because pecans are quick to burn. Before they’re completely toasted, remove the sheet from the oven and top with a few tablespoons of butter. Return to oven to melt butter and continue toasting. Stir to evenly coat nuts.
Remove from oven when toasted and place on brown grocery bags to drain. Season the nuts with the salt and spices while they’re still warm. The brown bag absorbs the butter in the least messy way possible.