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Definition: Brazil nut from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Gigantic South American tree; also its seed, which is rich in oil and highly nutritious. The seeds (nuts) are enclosed in a hard outer casing, each fruit containing 10–20 seeds arranged like the segments of an orange. The timber of the tree is also valuable. (Bertholletia excelsa, family Lecythidaceae.)

Summary Article: Brazil Nuts
From The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

Native to South America, the brazil nut is the seed of a tall tree that grows in the Amazon rainforest and can live for over 500 years. The tree has not been successfully cultivated commercially, and the nuts are gathered mainly from the wild in Brazil and Bolivia for export. The creamy-white, waxy-textured nuts have a mild, sweet flavor.


Brazil nuts are harvested during the rainy season (December to March). If buying them unshelled, look for heavy nuts that do not rattle in their shells when you shake them.


Because of their high polyunsaturated fat content, shelled brazil nuts can quickly become rancid. If you are going to eat them soon after purchasing, you can keep them in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. Alternatively, store in an airtight, plastic container in the fridge for 6 months or in the freezer for up to a year. Nuts in their shell can be stored in a cool, dry place for 2 months.


Brazil nuts are hard to shell, so if you want whole nuts, buy them already shelled. Being rich in fat, they make a delicious snack as well as a good addition to stuffings, cookies, cakes, and confectionery.

Flavor pairings

Bananas, dried fruits, chocolate, toffee, maple syrup.

Classic recipes

Chocolate-coated brazil nuts; brazil nut cake.

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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