Pecans pack a nutritional punch, containing protein, fiber and more antioxidants than any other tree nut, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Those antioxidants round up free radicals that can damage healthy tissues and help prevent hard plaque from forming in your soft, flexible arteries protecting both brain and heart health.
One serving of pecans—about 18 halves—clocks in at about 200 calories and 21 grams fat, only 1.8 grams of which is saturated. That heart healthy unsaturated fat can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and with it, your risk of heart attack and stroke.
But enough about how healthy they are, let’s talk taste. Pecans are great any time, any way, but they work especially well in desserts because of their deliciously buttery yet rich flavor. Try these 10 healthy dessert recipes that feature the almighty pecan.
1. Buttery Cinnamon Pecans
(Recipe from Shape.com)
Pecans are a must-have when making cinnamon rolls, but this recipe for candied pecans gives you all the flavor of your favorite sweet rolls without the carb-heavy rolls. Enjoy these alone as a satisfying dessert, or add to salads, yogurts or your morning oats for a sweet surprise.
2. Homemade Maple Pecan Popcorn
(Recipe from Shape.com)
Popcorn is a great source of whole grains and by keeping the sugar in check, this recipe is healthier and lower calorie than traditional caramel corn. Add other fun and healthy mix-ins like peanut butter chips, shaved coconut or roasted chickpeas to shake things up.
3. Pecan Maple Breakfast Cookies
(Recipe from 100DaysOfRealFood.com)
You can enjoy these sweet little treats any time of day, but they’re so nutritious they make a great part of a well balanced breakfast. Whole wheat flour instead of processed white adds filling fiber while applesauce pulls double duty by adding sweetness and moisture, making these “cookies” guilt-free.
4. Baked Apples
(Recipe from Greatist.com)
Comfort food at its finest, this lightened up version of baked apples still delivers on taste with a blend of soft sweetness and crisp tartness. This is a great recipe to use up extra apples about to turn.
5. Pecan Pie “Larabars”
(Recipe from MyWholeFoodLife.com)
Pecan pie is one of Larabar’s most popular flavors and now you can make it at home. They only take minutes to make and are no bake, making them the perfect summer baking project when it’s too hot to turn on the oven.
6. Oven Baked Cinnamon Pecan Almond Butter Banana Boats
(Recipe from SweetTreatsMore.com)
A lot of people slice bananas, add their favorite toppings and freeze them, but have you ever thought of baking them instead? The result is a creamy, melty nutrient-packed dessert everyone will rave about. Make sure you have extra napkins ready!
7. Three-Ingredient Energy Bars
(Recipe from TheKitchn.com)
Only three ingredients? Doesn’t get much simpler than that! Oh, wait, it does. You don’t have to cook these either. Dust off your food processor, and blend dried fruits, nuts and pitted dates together to form these extra-sweet bars everyone will love.
8. Cranberry Pecan Banana Bread
(Recipe from PeasOfCake.net)
Banana bread is usually reserved for breakfast, but toss in a few chocolate chips, and you’ve got dessert for weeks. Banana bread famously freezes well, so make tiny loaves or mini muffins and stock your freezer full. Then pull out, pop under the broiler for a few minutes, and it’ll taste just like the first time you pulled it out of the oven. Leave out the cranberries for a more traditional version.
9. Banana Pecan Cookies
(Recipe from JoyBauer.com)
If you’re looking for more of a traditional cookie over a “breakfast cookie” try this cookie recipe from The Today Show’s Joy Bauer; it uses banana in place of most of the fat and sugar, without sacrificing that cookie texture.
10. Slow Cooker Sticky Pecan Buns
(Recipe from AmysHealthyBaking.com)
Save time and effort by letting your slow cooker do the baking. It’s hard to healthy-up sticky buns, but this is as close as you’ll get. We say, when dessert is this good, sometimes you just have to treat yourself!