Cashew nuts are a nutritional, delicious addition to a number of recipes and snacks. While you may think of a cashew as the kidney-shaped nut, they are sold as cashew pieces when the nut does not manage to stay whole. Just because they aren’t the same shape as a whole cashew doesn’t make these pieces any less useful! Any recipes that call for breaking, grinding, or pureeing cashews are a great use for these pieces, and they act as a great garnish for dishes that need a little extra crunch. Don’t let the pieces of cashew nuts go to waste when you can repurpose them!
What Are Cashew Pieces?
Many people don’t know that cashews themselves are already “pieces” of the original form- the cashew apple. Though they are called nuts, cashews are actually seeds that form as an extension of the cashew apple fruit. Rather than forming inside like most seeds, cashews hang from the bottom of cashew apples. They are surrounded by a two-layer shell that contains a substance called phenolic resin “urushiol” – the same substance found in poison oak and poison ivy. Before being sold, any cashews you can buy have been shelled in such a way that this toxin is removed and they are safe to consume. This is true of whole cashews, which come to you already shelled and cooked for safety measures.
However, not every cashew makes it through these processes whole, which is where pieces come in. You may see cashews sold whole, or even halved, which are precise shapes. Cashew pieces can be any shape or size as they result from natural pressure and movement on the whole cashews. These pieces have undergone the same process as whole cashews and contain the same nutrients and delicious taste- just in smaller form!
When to Use Cashew Pieces
In reality, cashew pieces can be a substitute for cashews in any situation. However, there may be times you prefer the look of a whole or half cashew, like when they are used as garnish on a baked good or set out as a cocktail party snack. But when this isn’t necessary, you can look to cashew pieces for your culinary needs. Some popular uses for cashews, pieces or not, are below for inspiration.
Cashews are commonly used in a variety of Asian and Indian dishes, particularly stir fry. The nut toasts well, and the heat brings out some extra flavor. They add a crunch to dishes that may be filled with mostly softer textures like noodles and cooked vegetables, but a whole cashew may be bigger than you’d prefer in a single bite. Adding pieces of cashew to your stir fry adds new flavor and texture without any prep work!
You will often see dairy substitutes that contain cashews as the main ingredient, whether it is cream cheese, milk, mayonnaise, or frosting. If you are avoiding dairy or eggs, cashews can be a great way to keep eating some of these foods you love. The first step in many of these recipes involves soaking the cashews until they are soft enough to blend, which means it doesn’t matter what shape they are in to begin with. In fact, cashew pieces are smaller and will usually soften quicker than their whole counterparts.
Cashews add a crunch in many cases, and this can be a great way to add texture to dips. One popular recipe is to mix crushed cashews with a salty cheese, like feta, and a combination of herbs and spices. Since the nuts will be ground up anyway, beginning with cashew pieces here gives you a head start. In Mexican cuisine, cashews are added to a number of dishes, including salsas, which benefit from the texture of cashew pieces.
While you may think of walnuts or almonds as the top choice for baked goods, cashews are also a great choice to add a little crunch to your dessert. Not only can cashew pieces be mixed into cookies or brownies, but they can also be added as a garnish or crust after the fact. The less common nut can make your dish stand out from the crowd while still maintaining the classic taste of nuts in your treats.
One of the great things about trail mix is that there is no set recipe- you can throw in just about anything, sweet or salty, and be on the go. Cashews are a common addition to a trail mix, and while they can be whole, in this case, cashew pieces will do just as well.
Benefits of Adding Cashew Pieces to Your Diet
Cashew nuts themselves have a range of benefits that make them a healthy snack choice, either in a dish, as a substitute, or as a snack. With cashew pieces, it becomes even easier to take part in the health benefits of cashews as you can add them to meals in small, even unnoticeable ways. In some cases, the cashew pieces can be a substitute for less healthy choices like dairy-based products.
One of the main ways that cashews are known to improve health is their contribution to overall heart health. Unlike some other nuts, cashews contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can decrease both LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Reducing these levels helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attack.
In addition, cashews are a great source of magnesium, which plays a part in enzymatic reactions, including the metabolism of food and synthesis of fatty acids and protein. Deficiencies in magnesium are linked to heart disease, as well as a number of other conditions. High magnesium intake is shown to be associated with a lower risk of coronary artery calcification and abdominal artery calcification.
Another area of health where cashews are beneficial is bone health, as the nut is high in copper, which many foods aren’t. When a person isn’t getting enough copper in their diet, there is an association with lower bone mineral density and osteoporosis. Additionally, copper helps maintain collagen and elastin in the body, which allows us to replace damaged tissue and maintain structural integrity. Copper works with calcium to aid bone formation and improve the health of bones over time.
Many nuts are considered a part of a healthy diet or used as a snack for weight management, and cashews are no exception. Because of their low fat level and nutritional benefits, cashews can be used as a snack or ingredient for those hoping to manage their diet.
Whether you choose to eat cashews as part of a meal, baked into a cookie, or by the fistful, cashew pieces are a great way to get all your nutrients without sacrificing flavor. Enjoy our organic, fair-trade, non-GMO, gluten-free cashew pieces today!