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It recently occurred to me that the Spanish nuez can be translated to English as both "walnut" and "pecan." Is the same word really used for both types of nuts? How would you specify which nut you're talking about when the difference is important (say, in a recipe)?

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The generic term for nuts is frutos secos at least in Spain, then walnut is nuez and pecan is pacana as you have been told. – DeStrangis Jan 22 '13 at 10:27
up vote 9 down vote accepted

At least in Colombia one usually would say nuez, generically, if the context doesn't require the specific kind of nut; in the case of a recipe (or in any other context in which the difference matters) we, of course, have (and use) different names:

  • Pacana (pecan):

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  • Nuez (walnut):

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  • Nuez del Brasil (Brazil nut):

enter image description here

  • Avellana (hazelnut):

enter image description here

And perhaps more that I cannot remember right now.

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I believe the proper/full name for a walnut is "nuez de nogal". – Flimzy Sep 25 '12 at 3:48
@Flimzy the proper name changes; in some regions of Spain it is called nuez de Castilla, for example. – Gonzalo Medina Sep 25 '12 at 13:10
More or less the same in Argentina. – leonbloy Nov 22 '13 at 20:19
In Argentina, Brazil nuts or cashews are known as castañas de Cajú. It's more common to see pecans being just called nueces pecan instead of pacanas, either because of ignorance or because it sounds more fashionable. – JMVanPelt Oct 2 '15 at 4:56

In Mexico

  • nuez china is pecan
  • nuez de Castilla is walnut
  • nuez de la India is cashew
  • nuez moscada is nutmeg

Hope it helps.

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In México I've never heard "nuez china" for pecan - just "nuez". Also, walnut is "nuez de Castilla". Cashew is "nuez de la India". Nutmeg is "nuez moscada", no capitalization. – arturomp Aug 4 '14 at 23:58
I'm with @amp on all points and made some edits to this effect. I left nuez china as is although I've never heard it either; I think I've heard pecán/pecanes. – Michael Wolf Aug 22 '14 at 21:47
Iam from Mexico too and I've never thouth that pecans and wallnuts were different, It is obvious that they are different but in my region we only say "nuez" for both, "nuez de la india" for "Brasil nut" and "avellana" for hazelnut and "nuez moscada" for nutmeg but this one is only in Podwer. – Jaime Aug 25 '14 at 0:04
@JaimeCruzTriana Another comment says that Brazil nuts are called "nuez de Brasil." I can't recall ever seeing them (or, more likely, paying attention to them (I mean yuck, worst nut ever!)) here in the DF. Nuez de la India is something else. They're called cashews in English, but, just to keep things confusing, their origin is indeed Brazil. – Michael Wolf Aug 25 '14 at 18:31

PECANS: never heard of it as Nuez China, but it could be a regionalism. A friend that has a bakery orders them in Mexico as Nuez Pecana.

WALNUTS: Nuez de Castilla, but I've always referred to them as just "nuez" I just learned that in Peru is called Nuez de Nogal, makes sense since in Mexico we have a dish called Chiles en Nogada, The Nogada is made with walnuts! Makes Perfect Sense!

NUTMEG: Nuez Moscada, in Mexico is really hard to find in it's natural shape, often found in powder in the spice aisle.

CASHEWS: Nuez de la India

ALMONDS: Almendras


HAZELNUT: Avellanas


PEANUTS: Cacahuates/Maníes

MACADAMIAS: Nuez de Macadamia

PINE NUTS: Piñones

BRAZILIAN NUT: (Brace yourself) I knew them as "Talón de negro" which literally means "Black man's heel". Obviously it is very politically incorrect, so I'm guessing we just take the literal translation "Nuez de Brasil".

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I would add that in spain cashews are also known as ANACARDOS. And the pecan are sold as NUEZ DE PECAN or NUEZ PECAN – xerido Oct 2 '15 at 11:57

@jrdioko One must differentiate between the general case and the particular cases. @Gonzalo Medina has already pointed you several particular cases, but I'd like to address the general case.

The English word "nut" refers to all oily seeds produced by some wood trees and palm trees. It is the same for the Spanish word "nuez". When you refer to a particular case, you qualify the word making it narrower in meaning. In some cases you have a different word to refer to that particular case, e.g., "hazelnut/avellana". But your original premise is incorrect. "Nuez" does not mean "walnut" nor "pecan" nor it is a synonym of both either.

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Interesting, I'd asked because WordReference lists the translation of "nut" as fruto seco and nuez as meaning either "walnut" or "pecan." – jrdioko Sep 24 '12 at 16:37
@jrdioko Never believe anything you read in a random site on the Internet :-). WordReference is particularly bad when it comes to anything different to the English language in my experience. BTW, «fruto seco» is the educated term in peninsular Spanish; don't expect a contemporaneous native speaker from Spain to use that term naturally. – vorbote Sep 25 '12 at 16:50
Well to be fair it's not a "random site on the Internet," it's an online version of the Concise Oxford Spanish Dictionary by Oxford University Press. But still, thanks for the clarification :) – jrdioko Sep 25 '12 at 19:56
@jrdioko I am familiar with the site and the history of that particular dictionary. To make things short, it started as a great project for 7 years, then it was sold off to OUP where all the original linguists and lexicographers were fired and "reshaped by the staff to fit the editorial policy", read butchered, and made into a flop. If you really want to own a great English-Spanish dictionary, I can't praise enough the Appleton-Cuyas'; it is bit long in the tooth and probably out-of-print, but I always find myself coming back to my old copy. – vorbote Sep 29 '12 at 14:18
@jrdioko Here is the story:… BTW, I personally have always found the definitions too off-the-mark. The emphasis on localisms ans rejection of the general consensus makes it almost useless for translation work; they just didn't think using the RAE's as a guideline was necessary. – vorbote Oct 5 '12 at 11:50

In the spanish of Peru, a walnut is known as a Nuez de Nogal and a pecan is known as a Pecana. Brazil nuts are Castanas (the n should have a cidilla) , peanuts which are originally from there are Mani or Manies. So your recipe would call for Nogales or Pecanas.

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