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Are Cashews a Nut?

Posted on May 28th, 2022
Is Cashews a Nut Blog

Written By Sam Henselijn

There’s no doubt that cashews are an extremely popular type of nut. But are cashews a nut? The simple answer is no. More interesting will be that our focus today is on the complete story.

Definition of nut and edible nut

By definition, a nut is a fruit consisting of a hard outer shell that is there to protect a – most likely edible – kernel. So, while in a botanical context, the word “nut” implies that the shell doesn’t open to release the seed, for the general public and those in the culinary world, that definition is only semantics.

Cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, and pistachios, for example, are all commonly referred to as just “nuts” or “edible nuts,” even if, botanically, some of them may not be classified as such.

Controversy over whether cashews are nuts

Cashews are not nuts. Several researchers have linked cashews to seeds and legumes. However, the botanically correct name would be “drupe”. So what exactly are drupes, and why does Cashew fall into that category? In this article, you are going to find the answers.

Cashew fruit vs. cashew nut kernel

Cashews originate from a tropical tree known as Anacardium Occidentale. The cashew tree produces a juicy stalk with a pear-like shape, popularly called the apple tree. However, this part of the tree is not the fruit.

The fruit of the cashew tree is a smaller structure with a kidney-like shape under the cashew apple. This structure is known as a drupe. Inside the drupe, you will find the consumable seed known as the cashew nut. So, the edible part of cashews is known as a drupe seed because of the plant’s structural formation.

Are cashews legumes? Are Cashews a nut?

People usually confuse cashews with legumes, although they are drupe seeds. Legumes also produce consumable seeds. However, they typically grow with other seeds in one pod. The pod splits after some time as the plant matures. This will end up freeing the seeds inside the pod. Some popular legumes are peas and beans.

However, peanuts are a perfect example of a legume that people consider a nut. Also, cashews can easily split from the middle like peanuts. However, Cashews grow inside a hard shell within a drupe, and legumes grow inside a pod. Because of this, cashews are not part of legumes.

Cashew-roasted-salted-pile Cashew

Classification of cashew nut as a tree nut

Tree nuts are fruits that grow on trees. From a botanist perspective, all nuts are tree nuts. However, not all tree nuts are nuts. This may be confusing. To better understand, nuts are pods with hard shells that contain both the seed and the fruits of a plant. Some famous examples of nuts include acorns, hazelnuts, and chestnuts.

Drupes, on the other hand, are fruits with hard outer shells covering the seeds. Drupes consist of three layers. The outer layer is the exocarp, the juicy middle layer is the mesocarp, and the hard woody layer that encloses the cashew seed is the endocarp. Some common examples of drupes are mangoes, peaches, cashews, pistachios, almonds, and coconuts.

And most of these drupes are also tree nuts, including cashews. So, Yes! Cashews are tree nuts.

Comparison with other nuts

Interestingly, numerous of the famous nuts are not genuinely nuts, too. Just like cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and pistachios are also drupes. Shockingly, America’s most beloved nut – the peanut – is actually considered a legume!

Brazil nuts, on the other hand, are neither legumes nor drupes. According to the New York Botanical Garden, they are also not considered nuts because 10 to 25 grow inside one pod. So technically, a Brazil nut is really a seed rather than a nut.

Another curious case, pine nuts are not technically nuts or even tree nuts. According to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, people with a tree nut allergy may not be allergic to pine nuts and vice versa since, botanically, they belong to different classifications.

Description of cashew tree and its parts

The cashew tree grows in tropical areas with a yearly rainfall of 400 to 4000 mm, 1 to 13ft. They also grow from sea level to a maximum height of 1000 mm, 40ft.

A cashew is composed of the cashew apple, the pseudo fruit, and the cashew nut, which is actually a fruit (see Cashew Fruit 101), which includes the nut shell and kernel.

Cashew production in different regions

Cashews originate from the North of Brazil. Numerous countries cultivate cashews today, including Vietnam, Guinea-Bissau, Brazil, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, and other Southeast Asia and East and West African countries. Some countries, including Australia and South Africa, are also increasingly cultivating cashews.

Currently, India is the largest producer of Cashews with 170,000 to 195,000 metric tons yearly, Côte d’Ivoire comes second with 149,000 metric tons of annual production, and Vietnam is in the third position with 82,000 metric tons annually.

History of cashew cultivation and trade

Cashews are native to South America, particularly Brazil.

Cashew-roasted-salted-zoomed-in Cashew

Colonists also introduced it to India and Africa. Presently, these regions have the most significant cashew production in the world.

Since they’re so widely appreciated and are becoming more popular in Western diets, there is now a massive export of cashew kernels to Europe and North America.

Cashew nut nutrition

Nutritional value of raw and roasted cashews

So which is healthier, raw cashews or roasted cashews? Simply put, raw nuts have more nutrients than the roasted variety since they don’t go through the roasting process. But if you love the flavor and crunch of a roasted cashew, don’t worry! When it comes to nutrition, both are still excellent choices.

Important nutrients and vitamins

Cashews, much like many other nuts, are a great source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties. They’re also rich in vitamin E and fiber, as well as several minerals, particularly magnesium and zinc. The delicious nut is also full of vitamins C and B and is a superb source of protein.

Tip: See the article “Healthy Snacks for Getting Vitamins and Minerals”. Learn more about nuts, vitamins, and minerals.

Heart health

Cashews are also fantastic for your heart health! They contain properties that can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They’re also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce your risk of developing some diseases.

Cashew allergy and tree nut allergy

Cashew allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to the proteins found in the nuts, causing allergy symptoms. Tree nuts, in general, are among the most common foods to cause severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis.


Cashew allergy symptoms include:

  • Skin reactions like hives, itchiness, and redness
  • Face or throat swelling
  • Stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory symptoms
  • Drops in blood pressure

Precautions and treatment

If a person is diagnosed with a tree nut allergy, the best thing to do is avoid it altogether, even if they haven’t observed severe symptoms before.

For mild symptoms, antihistamines can be a solution if taken immediately after a reaction. However, first time or severe allergic reactions, it is recommended to seek emergency treatment or a medical professional.

Culinary uses of cashew nuts

People worldwide also use cashews in numerous culinary applications, including snacks, main dishes, and desserts. Some applications are stir-fries, nut butter, trail mix, and granola. This versatile nut can be used in different delicious forms, including raw, roasted, unsalted, and salted. Enjoy our selection of roasted and salted cashews and even chocolate-covered. Cashews are a popular and healthy snack worldwide.

Cashew nut butter and cashew milk

Cashew butter and cashew milk are becoming increasingly popular among those with dietary restrictions. But besides that, it’s also just delicious, versatile, and, better yet – healthy. Cashew butter, compared to other nut butters, is lower in protein than peanut butter but makes up for it in other nutrients, like iron, copper, and phosphorus.

Use of cashew nuts in vegan and vegetarian diets

Since they’re so meaty and easy to blend, cashews are common to make numerous dairy replacements such as sour cream, cashew milk, cashew-based cheese sauces, etc.

Other uses of cashew tree and cashew apple

Historical use of cashews in medicinal applications

Historically, cashews have been used to treat various health conditions, including stomach and intestinal issues. In some parts of the world, the fruit is also applied directly to the skin as a skin stimulant or to heal ulcers, warts, and corns. The whole plant is utilized, with the barks and leaves often used to treat diarrhea and colic.

Use of cashew tree wood

Cashew wood is only found in a few countries and is known for its hardness and longevity. This hardwood is naturally resistant to rot caused by insects and water. Typical uses include Veneer, plywood, furniture, and utility lumber. The wood also makes an excellent charcoal and fuel.

Final Cashew Details

In this article, the question “Are cashews a nut?” has been broadly answered, as well as many other topics of interest, including their botanic classification, culinary uses, health benefits, and other curiosities. The bottom line is cashews are incredibly versatile and an excellent addition to most people’s diets. So whatever form of cashew it may be, raw, roasted, or cooked, for medicinal purposes and its other uses, you can now say you have a more complete understanding of the ever-popular cashew!

Is a cashew considered a nut?

Botanically speaking, a cashew is not a true nut. The cashew nut is the seed of the cashew apple, which grows on the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale). The cashew seed is attached to the bottom of the apple, and the whole structure is often called the “cashew nut.” However, from a botanical standpoint, the true fruit of the cashew tree is the cashew apple, and the seed is a drupe.
In culinary terms, cashews are commonly grouped with nuts due to their similar uses and characteristics, even though they technically belong to the seed category.

Can someone with a nut allergy eat cashews?

Cashews are classified as tree nuts, and individuals with tree nut allergies may be allergic to cashews. It’s important to note that tree nut allergies can vary, and someone allergic to one type of tree nut may not be allergic to others. However, cross-reactivity between different tree nuts is possible, and caution is advised.

Are cashews a fruit or legume?

Cashews are classified as seeds and are specifically considered drupe seeds. The cashew tree produces a fruit called the cashew apple, and the cashew nut is the seed that grows at the bottom of this fruit. While cashews are often associated with nuts, botanically they are seeds and more specifically drupe seeds. They are not considered true nuts.

What is a drupe?

A drupe is a type of fruit that has a hard outer shell, known as the endocarp, which encloses a seed. Cashews fall into this category because they grow on a cashew apple as a smaller, kidney-shaped structure called a drupe. Inside this drupe is the edible seed we know as the cashew nut.

What makes cashews unique among other nuts and seeds?

Cashews are unique because they grow from the bottom of the cashew apple, a pseudo-fruit of the cashew tree, making them a drupe seed. Unlike legumes, which grow in pods and split open to release the seeds, cashews develop within a hard shell inside the drupe, differentiating them from legumes and other nut types.

How are cashews cultivated and where?

Originally from the north of Brazil, cashews are now cultivated in various countries, including India, Vietnam, and several nations in Southeast Asia and East and West Africa. India is the largest producer, followed by Côte d’Ivoire and Vietnam. The cashew tree thrives in tropical climates with annual rainfall ranging from 400 to 4000 mm, which is 1 to 13 ft.

What are the nutritional benefits of cashews?

Cashews are a great source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and are rich in vitamins E, C, and B. They also contain several minerals, particularly magnesium and zinc. Cashews can contribute to heart health by helping to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Can cashews cause allergies?

Yes, cashews can cause allergic reactions similar to other tree nuts. Symptoms may include skin reactions, swelling, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. People with known tree nut allergies should avoid cashews unless they’ve been cleared by an allergy test.

What are some culinary uses of cashews?

Cashews are versatile in the culinary world, used in snacks, main dishes, and desserts. They can be eaten raw, roasted, or used to make cashew butter and cashew milk. Cashews are also a popular ingredient in vegan and vegetarian diets for making dairy alternatives like cheese sauces and sour cream.

Sam Henselijn Author’s Biography – Meet L’Orenta Nuts CEO

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