Understanding Nut Classifications

News | Aug 25, 2021
understanding nut classifications


If you love nuts for their delicious, earthly flavor and culinary versatility, you might be interested to learn there are many different “nut” classifications.  Many people consider “nuts” to be a catch all term, but there are actually quite a few differences when you look closer.

Serious Eats explains, “A true nut, botanically speaking, is a hard-shelled pod that contains both the fruit and seed of the plant, where the fruit does not open to release the seed to the world. Some examples of botanical nuts are chestnuts, hazelnuts, and acorns.”

Tree nuts are grown above ground on fruit-bearing trees and can also be called seeds.  Almonds, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, pecans, pine nuts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews are all considered tree nuts.  They are basically the opposite of fruits, because the part you eat is on the inside once you break through the hard outer shell.  With fruits, you eat the outside, not the inner seed.

Peanuts are different because they are grown in a pod in the ground, and are therefore classified as a legume.  Other examples of legumes are peas, lentils, and beans.

Interestingly, drupes are another classification and some tree nuts fall into this category as well.  “A drupe is a type of fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell (what we sometimes call a pit) with a seed inside. Some examples of drupes are peaches, plums, and cherries—but walnuts, almonds, and pecans are also drupes. They’re just drupes in which we eat the seed inside the pit instead of the fruit!”  Cashews are also considered drupes because they are the seeds that grow underneath cashew apples.

As you might conclude, all these classifications can be quite complicated, but also interesting.  Check out our sources below to learn more and grow your knowledge about nuts!


“What’s the Difference Between Tree Nuts and Peanuts?”, The Produce Nerd
“What Are Tree Nuts?”, Lil Mixins
“10 Best Legumes to Eat”, Dr. Axe
“Nuts vs Drupes: What’s the Difference?, Serious Eats 
“What are hickory Nuts”, Nutrition Advance
“Are Cashews Nuts”, Healthline


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