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A comparison of fatty acid and sensory profiles of raw and roasted pecan cultivars.

Murley, T., B. Kelly, J. Adhikari, W. Reid, K. Koppel, 2020. A comparison of fatty acid and sensory profiles of raw and roasted pecan cultivars. J Food Sci. 85(9):2665-2672.

Five fatty acids comprise the bulk of the lipid content in pecans: palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid. Understanding the profiles of these fatty acids and how they relate to sensory characteristics may offer an explanation for flavor and flavor defects that may exist in certain cultivars of pecans. The objective of this study was to examine and compare fatty acid profiles of three cultivars of pecans (Major, Lakota, and Chetopa), over two crop years, under raw and roasted preparation methods, and understand the fatty acids association with sensory attributes. Percentages of palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids to total fatty acid content were determined using gas chromatography, and sensory profiles were generated using descriptive sensory analysis. Similar trends were seen across samples, with oleic acid comprising the majority of the total fatty acids and linolenic acid comprising the smallest percentage. There were significant differences in fatty acid content among cultivars and between pecans in the first and second crop year. Few associations were found between the fatty acids and sensory attributes, which suggest that combinations of the fatty acids contribute to certain pleasant or undesirable flavor attributes in the pecans. Subtle differences in fatty acid composition may lead to variation in flavor and flavor intensity or draw attention to or from certain attributes during consumption. Differences in crop year indicated that fatty acid content and therefore flavor are variable year to year. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: This study will help understand how fatty acid content of pecans varies from year to year. This should be taken into account when manufacturing products with pecans as the nutritional content of the product may change as the result.