Almond Varieties and Classifications

As if one variety of almonds wasn’t versatile enough to set your creativity free, there are more than two dozen almond varieties produced in California orchards. Each variety has distinct characteristics, which are important to understand so that you can select the appropriate almond for your needs.

California Almond Classifications

California Almond varieties are categorized into five broad classifications for marketing purposes based on distinguishing characteristics such as size and shape. The majority of almond production in California falls into the following three major classifications: Nonpareil, California, and Mission. Some varieties may fall under more than one classification since they have characteristics of one type (such as Mission), but are also blanchable (a requirement of the California classification).


With the widest range of uses among the marketing categories, Nonpareil are readily blanched (skin removal) and cut for processed forms. A thin outer shell and smooth kernel allow for easy, blemish-free processing. As a result, Nonpareil are used anywhere an attractive appearance or a strong almond identification is important.


This classification includes a number of varieties that are blanchable and used primarily in manufactured products. California-type almonds have a wide range of shell hardness, kernel shapes, skin color, and surface characteristics. As a result, they are quite adaptable and well suited for nearly any process or application.


Mission almonds have hard shells, and their kernels are small, wide, and often plump. The kernel skin is generally darker than Nonpareil and wrinkled, which enhances salt and flavor adherence. Blanching is not as common for this type.

Major California Almond Varieties

Food professionals can order California Almonds either based on the broad classification type or specific varieties. When placing orders, it’s best to be very specific on either the specific variety or classification preferred to ensure delivery of the exact almonds you intended. For example, ordering “Mission” without specifying “Mission Variety” could result in delivery of various almonds that fall under the “Mission Classification,” such as the Butte, Padre, or Fritz varieties.

Click here for a list of categorized almond suppliers.