14 Whole Foods That Start With N

Looking for an extensive list of foods that start with the letter N? 

Look no further, we’ve got you covered!

Browse this list of 14 foods that start with N to get some new cooking inspiration, learn more about where each food comes from, and understand the health benefits of each food.

Let’s dive in!

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Clear plastic cups full of nance fruit

1. Nance fruit

Nance fruit is a small, spherical fruit produced by an evergreen tree (Byrsonima crassifolia) native to Central and South America (1). 

The peel of the fruit ranges in color from yellow to red when ripe, and the pulp is white or cream with a pit in the center (1).

It has a unique flavor that has been described as slightly sweet or acidic, with a bitter, soapy or cheese-like aftertaste (1, 2, 3)

Nance fruit is particularly high in fiber and vitamin C, with 8 grams (29% DV) and 104 mg (116% DV) per cup, respectively (4, 5).

In the United States, nance fruit is typically sold frozen or canned in syrup and can be found online or at markets that sell Latin or Caribbean foods (1).

Frozen nance fruit can be blended into a pulp and used to flavor yogurt, smoothies, beverages, and frozen desserts (ice cream and sherbet). 

Whole head of napa cabbage on white background

2. Napa cabbage

Napa cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. Pekinensis) is a type of cruciferous leafy green vegetable that is very popular in China and other Asian countries (6). 

It is large and oblong with thin, firmly packed, crinkly leaves and a white stalk. The outer leaves are bright green, while the inner leaves are a pale yellow color.

Similar to green cabbage, napa has a crisp texture and mild taste and gets softer and sweeter when cooked.

Napa cabbage can be eaten raw in salads and slaws, added to stir fries and soups, or used to fill egg rolls and dumplings.

It is also the main ingredient used to make kimchi, a spicy cabbage dish that is fermented by lactic acid bacteria, which are naturally present on napa cabbage leaves (6, 7, 8). 

Most grocery stores carry whole napa cabbage (in the produce section), but you can also find it at some Asian food markets.

One whole naranjilla fruit (lulo) and one cut in half to show the orange flesh and small yellow seeds

3. Naranjilla

Naranjilla (also called lulo) is a fruit native to the Andes mountains in South America and is very popular in Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia (9, 10).

In Spanish, naranjilla means “little orange” because this fruit is small (1-3 inches) and has fuzzy, bright orange skin that is typically peeled off and discarded (11).

It is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family and has juicy, yellow-green flesh that looks similar to the inside of a tomato (11).

Naranjilla has a very tart, acidic flavor that has been compared to a cross between pineapple, lemon, and rhubarb.

Fresh naranjilla can be difficult to find in the United States, but naranjilla pulp or puree is available online and at certain Latin food markets. 

The pulp can be used to make jams and jellies, smoothies, flavored drinks, and frozen desserts, like ice cream and sherbet.

Large patch of edible nasturtium plants with red and yellow flowers

4. Nasturtium

Nasturtium is the common name for Tropaeolum majus, a plant that produces bright red, orange, or yellow edible flowers (12, 13).

It shouldn’t be confused with Nasturtium officinale, the scientific name for watercress, a leafy green vegetable (14).

The flowers are a good source of anthocyanins (a type of antioxidant) and are especially high in vitamin C and zinc (13).

Edible flower blends that include nasturtium can be found in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores. Another option is to grow your own.

Sprinkle nasturtium flowers over salads and other dishes, use them to decorate cakes and cookies, or freeze them into ice cubes and add to beverages.

The leaves and stems have a peppery flavor and can be blended into pesto or added to salads and sandwiches.

When pickled, the seeds and immature flower buds are sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s caper,” because they have a similar flavor.

Scoop of fermented natto in a white bowl with raw soybeans sprinkled around

5. Natto

Natto is a traditional Japanese food consisting of cooked soybeans that have been fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto, a spore-forming bacteria with potential health benefits (15).

In the past, it was made by wrapping boiled soybeans in rice straw, which naturally hosts B. subtilis, but starter cultures are more commonly used today (15, 16).

Natto has a pungent smell with an earthy, cheese-like flavor and a slimy, stringy texture that results from poly-γ-glutamate and other compounds formed during the fermentation process (15).

It is one of the best sources of MK-7, a form of vitamin K that plays a role in bone formation and may protect against fractures when consumed regularly (17).

You can find natto online or at many Asian food markets.

It is typically served with freshly steamed white rice and seasoned with soy sauce or mustard and a variety of other toppings, such as chives, green onion, seaweed, raw egg yolk, and bonito flakes (dried fish).

Close up of uncooked navy beans in a brown bowl

6. Navy bean

Navy beans are a small, white, oval-shaped variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) that get their name from the fact that they were primarily served to sailors in the United States Navy during the 19th century (18). 

One cup of cooked navy beans provides 15 grams of protein, 19 grams (68% DV) of fiber, 255 mcg (64% DV) of folate, 262 mg (21% DV) of phosphorus, and 708 mg (15% DV) of potassium (5, 19).

Eating navy beans on a regular basis may improve cardiovascular health by lowering total and LDL cholesterol, possibly due to their high soluble fiber content (20).

There is also evidence from animal studies showing that navy beans strengthen the intestinal barrier and increase levels of healthy bacteria in the gut (21, 22, 23).

You can purchase dried or canned navy beans at grocery stores, the bulk bins at health food stores, or online.

Use navy beans to make traditional baked beans, white bean dip, and slow-cooked ham and beans, or add them to salads and soups (like white chicken chili).

One whole nectarine and one cross-section with the seed on white background

7. Nectarine

Nectarines are a subspecies of peach that have smooth skin due to a genetic variation that prevents the fuzzy coating (found on peaches) from forming (24, 25).

White nectarines are slightly sweeter and higher in vitamin C, while yellow nectarines are a bit more tart and contain 10 times more carotenoids (health-promoting phytochemicals) (26, 27).

Both types are particularly high in gallic acid, a polyphenol with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be helpful for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease (28, 29). 

Nectarines are in season during the summer, from May to August, when they can be found at most grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Fresh nectarines can be enjoyed as a snack with cottage cheese or yogurt, added to salads, or mixed with peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and red onion to make salsa. 

They can also be used in desserts, such as pie and cobbler, and tend to hold their shape better than peaches when baked. 

Freshly cut sprigs of nettle in a wicker basket and sitting on a burlap cloth next to scissors

8. Nettles

Nettles are a leafy herb native to Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America that are commonly used both as a vegetable and a dietary supplement (30).

The most popular type is stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), named after the plant’s sharp, needle-like hairs (called trichomes) that reside on the underside of the leaves (30).

These trichomes can pierce the skin and inject chemicals, including formic acid (the main component of bee venom), which cause a painful itching and burning sensation that lasts up to 12 hours (30).

To avoid being stung, always wear gloves while harvesting stinging nettle, and make sure to cook thoroughly, because heat helps destroy the trichomes.

One cup (89 grams) of cooked stinging nettle provides 6 grams (21% DV) of fiber, 428 mg (33% DV) of calcium, and 444 mcg (370% DV) of vitamin K (31).

Stinging nettle is typically only sold at health food stores in the form of herbal tea, but you can also find it at some farmer’s markets or forage for your own.

Fresh nettles taste similar to spinach (but milder and without the strong iron flavor) and can be sautéed with oil and garlic or used in lasagna, risottos, soups, and egg casseroles.

Pile of fresh New Zealand spinach on a white background

9. New Zealand spinach

New Zealand spinach (also called Warrigal greens or tetragon) is a leafy green vegetable native to New Zealand. Despite its name, it is not related to true spinach.

It has fuzzy, triangular, almost succulent-like leaves that shrink significantly when cooked and taste similar to spinach.

One cup (180 grams) of cooked New Zealand spinach provides an impressive 526 mcg (438% DV) of vitamin K, a nutrient needed for proper blood clotting (32, 33).

Like true spinach, it also contains high levels of oxalate (or oxalic acid), a naturally occurring compound that can impair mineral absorption and increase the risk for kidney stones (34, 35, 36, 37).

Boiling or steaming oxalate-rich vegetables reduces the oxalate content by up to 87% and 53%, respectively (38, 39).

In the United States, New Zealand spinach is very difficult to find, but it can be grown from seed and harvested in the summer or fall.

Although they can be eaten raw, most people prefer to cook the leaves by boiling or sautéeing and adding to egg casseroles, lasagnas, and soups.

Black nigella seeds in a small wooden bowl with spoon and a small jar of black cumin oil

10. Nigella seed

Nigella seeds (also called black cumin or black seed) are small and black, and have a slightly bitter flavor with notes of oregano, onion, and black pepper.

They are harvested from the fruit of the Nigella sativa plant and used as a spice throughout the world, especially in North Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East (40, 41). 

These seeds have been used medicinally for centuries and may have anti-cancer properties due their high concentration of a phytochemical called thymoquinone (40).

You can find nigella seeds at some grocery stores, specialty spice shops and international food markets, where they may be labeled as “kalonji” (40).

They are great for sprinkling on baked goods or mixing into bread dough, and are often used to season Indian naan bread and other flatbreads.

Pile of nopales at a farmers market in San Francisco, CA.

11. Nopales

Nopales (pronounced “no-PAHL-ays”) are the flat, paddle-shaped pads of the prickly pear cactus. 

Prickly pear is native to Mexico and parts of Central America where it flourishes in the wild, and nopales are a popular food source there (42).

They have a mild, slightly tart flavor that many people enjoy — like green beans with a hint of lemon — and a crisp texture that turns somewhat slimy when cooked.

Nopales are high in fiber, potassium, and calcium, and they may help balance blood sugars in people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome (43, 44, 45)

They have to be peeled to remove their pointy spines before they can be eaten, which is easily accomplished by scraping them with a knife or vegetable peeler. 

Nopales can be eaten raw in salads and salsas, or cooked and served as a side dish with tomatoes and onions.

Look for nopales at your local supermarket or Latino market. They’re typically sold fresh, but may also be available canned or frozen.

Nori sheets on a white background

12. Nori

Nori is the Japanese name for dried sheets of pressed seaweed, made from a species of red algae called Porphyra that turns green when toasted (46).

It is commonly used to make sushi rolls and furikake, a Japanese condiment consisting of ground nori, bonito (dried fish) flakes, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt.

Like other seaweeds, nori is a rich source of iodine, a nutrient needed for proper thyroid functioning. One sheet (2.5 grams) provides 53 mcg (35% DV) (47, 48, 49).

It is also one of the few vegan sources of vitamin B12, with 1.4 mcg (58% DV) per 2.5 gram sheet (5, 49).

You can find nori (typically sold in sheets) in the Asian section at some grocery stores, at Asian food markets, or online.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can use nori to make your own sushi. You’ll also need sushi rice, rice vinegar, a rice paddle, and a bamboo rolling mat along with ingredients to fill the sushi roll.

Nori can also be brushed with oil and baked to make nori chips (for snacking), or used as a garnish for soups, rice and pasta dishes (such as ramen), and salads.

Whole nutmeg in the shell next to a wooden bowl and spoon of ground nutmeg

13. Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a spice that comes from the seeds of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia (50).

It has a warm, nutty, and slightly sweet flavor that can be quite intense, especially when freshly grated from whole seeds.

The nutmeg seed is surrounded by a spongy, red membrane that is processed separately to produce mace, another spice known for its use in self-defense sprays (51).

Nutmeg is very high in antioxidants and beneficial compounds, but you might be surprised to learn that it can also be highly toxic in large quantities (50, 51).

You can buy nutmeg in the spice aisle at grocery stores, or online from high-quality spice shops like Penzey’s.

Use this comforting spice in fall desserts like pumpkin bread and apple crisp, or add it to butternut squash soup and other savory dishes for a more complex flavor.

Yellow Organic Nutritional Yeast in a small wooden bowl

14. Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast (“nooch” for short) is a form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same species of yeast that includes Baker’s yeast and Brewer’s yeast. 

It is inactive, meaning that the yeast cells are killed during manufacturing and can’t be used to leaven bread or brew beer.

Most nutritional yeast has been fortified with vitamins, especially vitamin B12 — a single tablespoon (5 grams) provides 5.9 mcg (244% DV) (5, 53).

It is a favorite among vegans, because its yellow color and nutty, cheesy flavor make it a great replacement for cheese.

You can find nutritional yeast flakes online, at some supermarkets, and in the bulk bins at health food stores.

Sprinkle it over popcorn and salads, or use it to make vegan mac and cheese and other pasta dishes.

Final Thoughts

From nance fruit to nutritional yeast, there are plenty of delicious foods that start with the letter N.

We hope this list has inspired you to be adventurous and try some new foods, or to gain a new appreciation for some of the foods you already eat every day. 

Comment below to let us know which of these foods are your favorites, and how you use them in the kitchen!

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