What is the difference between Nuts and Seeds?

What are legumes

What is a seed and what is a nut and are they nuts? They can also be drupes or even legumes. The differences often remain vague, so below is an extensive answer about the difference between seeds and nuts.

What is the difference between nuts and seeds? 

  1. The difference is in the natural packaging of the seed.
  2. Nuts grow in a woody or stony shell and contain only 1 seed and seeds have no wood or stony shell.
  3. Nuts only grow on 4 types of trees, seeds grow on any other plant/shrub or tree.
  4. All nuts are seeds but not all seeds are nuts.

This article describes in detail what is a nut and what is a seed and what their differences are and you will find out that many nuts are called nuts but fall under different categories.

Nuts and seeds, along with oatmeal, are the basic ingredients for granola. You can read all about this in our blog ‘ How to make granola? ‘.

Is There a Difference Between Seeds And Nuts?

When you walk past a nut shop and smell the wonderful scents, you know ‘This is a nut shop’. But is that really the case? There are more things in there than nuts. Surprising huh?

Did you know that there are only 4 kinds of nuts and that we only eat 2 kinds of them?

The Dutch encyclopedia says the following about nuts:

In botany, a nut is a non-dehiscent, single-seeded, single achene with a lignified pericarp.

Which Nuts Are There?

The only real 4 notes are:

  • The sweet chestnut,
  • The Acorn
  • The hazelnut and
  • The beechnut

Then the question remains: What then should we call the other ‘notes’? Those ‘other’ nuts are called seeds, drupes or legumes.

Which Seeds Are There?

The Dutch encyclopedia says about seeds:

Seeds are small grains of a plant from which a new same plant can grow.

Seeds are for example: 

  • pistachio ‘nut’,
  • Brazil nut
  • poppy seed,
  • Pecan
  • Cashew nut

With ‘naked’ seeds the ovules are free, with covered seeds there are 1 or more ovules in the ovary. Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. There are just as many seeds as there are shrubs/flowers/plants or trees.

What Difference between Nuts and Seeds?

  • Nuts are called nuts because they have a hard shell that does not open. They have a wooden or stony shell, which contains only 1 achene (nut).
  • Seeds and seeds are small grains of a plant that are not in a hard shell. When ripe, some seeds may burst, others simply blow.

Similarities between Seeds and Nuts 

Despite the difference between these 2, there are also similarities. No matter how the seeds and nuts are packaged, there is a seed in it or it is a seed. One packed in a woody casing, the other unwrapped or packed in a soft environment.

We now have an overview of the differences and the similarities. Other questions now arise. For instance:

What Are Stone Fruits?

Nuts that turn out to be drupes:

According to the Dutch encyclopedia:

A drupe is a fleshy fruit whose inner wall consists of a stony wall. In the wick (the “stone”) is the actual seed.

Examples of this are:

  • the cherry pit,
  • the plum kernel and
  • the walnut
  • Coconut
  • Almond

The coconut does not have a fleshy fruit but a fibrous one and therefore it is also classified among the drupes.

Peanut a Legume?

Then there’s another ‘nut’ which is a legume:

The peanut!

Definition of the legume according to the Dutch encyclopedia:

Legumes: A legume is an elongated fruit with a row of peas or beans.

Examples of this are:

  • The peanut
  • peas
  • capuchins

Even though we think the peanut is a nut, we eat it by hand, but it really is a legume. Crazy idea hey, snacking on legumes. The peanut falls under the heading ‘beans’. The peanuts are in a shell that usually contains several legumes. The plant produces flowers, when these have finished flowering, the flower stem bends and grows into the soil. The flowers then become the legumes, underground, as we know them when we still have to shell the peanuts, when they are dried.

Conclusion about Seeds and Nuts

It remains a confusing thing, nuts, seeds and stone fruits or legumes.

This is because all categories also have or are something to do with seeds.

  • Nuts are packaged seeds in a woody or stony shell
  • Peanuts, are legumes, which are also a seed. Packed in a protective case.
  • Stone fruit kernels are seeds packed in a kernel.

Hopefully, I have been able to clarify this confusing matter and we will call the animal by its correct name. Although I can imagine that you will not spontaneously shout: I’ll grab the legumes! You take the stone fruits!

The only nice exclamation is: I’ll take the nuts! Enjoy your meal.


Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of Foodstrend.com, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on Foodstrend.com's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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