If you’ve never had pistachio nuts before, you might still recognize the word from sweets like cookies and ice cream that use this delicious nut as an ingredient.
Of all nuts, pistachios are some of the most expensive and beloved.
They take some time to eat because you need to remove each pistachio from its shell, but pistachios are well worth the effort.
They are some of the most delicious nuts out there, either raw directly from the shell, or as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes.
In this article, we’ll look at how pistachios taste and how you can enjoy them for yourself.
What Are Pistachios?
Pistachios are the seed of the pistachio tree, Pistacia Vera. Although we refer to them as nuts and group them with other nuts in the grocery store, technically, pistachios are seeds.
They grow inside the fruit of the pistachio tree, which can be peeled away to reveal the small shell. Inside the shell is the pistachio seed, which pops open eventually in a process called dehiscence.
This lets us know that the pistachio is ready to be eaten.
Although pistachios have been a part of the human diet for a very long time (they are mentioned in the Bible), they have always been difficult to produce in large amounts because they are so labor-intensive to harvest.
In the past, the shells would be dyed red to hide the mistakes that human hands made harvesting them (cracks and chips in the shell, etc). Today, most pistachios are machine harvested with shells that are beige or tan.
What Do Pistachios Look Like?
Pistachios are small, elongated nuts in shells that are tan or beige. These shells are usually slightly open, like a clam shell. Inside, the pistachio is a light green or brown color.
A pistachio nut is usually less than an inch long.
Are There Different Types Of Pistachio?
They look pretty similar, but there are genetically distinct varieties of pistachio that are grown in different areas.
When you notice one manufacturer’s pistachios seem different from another, it might be more than the region they were grown in, etc. It could be an entirely different type of pistachio.
Here are some common varieties of pistachio:
- Arbari – Iranian Long
- Fandoghi – Iranian Round
- Kalleqouchi – Iranian Jumbo
- Akbari – Persian Elongated
- Turkish Antep
What Texture Do Pistachios Have?
For a member of the cashew family, pistachios are not as milky or creamy as you might expect, but they are hot hard, or brittle, either.
Pistachios have a nutty texture and consistency that is fairly soft and easy to chew, but not as creamy as cashew, for example.
Where Do Pistachios Come From?
Pistachios are harvested from the pistachio tree, Pistacia Vera.
The pistachio is probably native to Iran and the Middle East, having originated there thousands of years ago. The pistachio is a central and important ingredient in the cuisines of the region.
Since then, pistachios have spread around the world and are cultivated and enjoyed in many different countries.
Currently, some of the most important areas for pistachio production are Afghanistan, the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, and California in the United States.
Are Pistachios Healthy?
Compared to similar nuts, pistachios have less fat and more potassium, making them a healthier choice than almonds or pecans, for example.
Pistachios have plenty of fiber to help you grow healthy gut bacteria, and contain many different anti-oxidants to reduce your risk of cancer and other severe illnesses.
In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, pistachios may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, pistachios are intended to be eaten in small servings, and overconsumption of pistachios – especially smoked, roasted and salted pistachios – can lead to excess levels of sodium, as well as other complications.
Pistachios are a part of a healthy diet, as long as they are eaten in moderation.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Pistachios?
Eating too many pistachios, especially roasted and salted pistachios, can lead to weight gain, digestion problems, high blood pressure, and even kidney stones.
A few pistachios can provide a healthy boost of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. However, pistachios are so delicious that it can sometimes be too easy to keep popping another one into your mouth.
A single cup of pistachios can contain up to 700 calories. Roasted and salted pistachios can also lead to elevated blood pressure due to their high salt content. It is important to keep an eye on how much you are eating.
Experts recommend less than 2oz or 56g of pistachios per day – about 2 handfuls.
How Do You Eat Pistachios?
To eat a pistachio, you have to get it out of its shell, first.
In most cases, the shell is already open a little bit. Your job is to pry it the rest of the way open so you can extract the nut.
If you can’t open the pistachio with your fingernails, you can use the shell of another pistachio as a wedge to pry it open. If there is no opening at all, you might need to wrap the nut in a paper towel and hit it on the counter to crack it open.
How Can I Store Pistachios?
It’s pretty easy to keep your pistachios fresh. If you put them in a sealed container in your refrigerator, they should last for up to a year.
Can You Freeze Pistachios?
Yes! There is no issue freezing pistachios, and in a sealed container in your freezer, they will last up to 3 years.
Pistachio Nutritional Value
|per 1oz (28g) serving of ~49 Pistachio nuts, according to Healthline.com|
|Potassium||6% of the Reference Daily Intake|
|Phosphorous||11% of the RDI|
|Vitamin B6||28% of the RDI|
|Thiamine||21% of the RDI|
|Copper||41% of the RDI|
|Manganese||15% of the RDI|
Quick Table: 3 Pistachios Taste Recipes
|Brown Butter, Pistachio, And Chocolate Chunk Shortbread||311||50 Minutes|
|No-Churn Vegan Pistachio Ice Cream||120||40 Minutes|
|Creamy Vegan Pistachio Cacao Tart||180||30 Minutes|
Pistachios are an amazing ingredient for cookies, with an earthy and nutty flavor that is the perfect complement to chunks of chocolate. These shortbread cookies are soft and melty with a salty crunch of pistachios.
Calories Per Serving: 311
Total Preparation Time: 50 Minutes
The flavor of pistachios works really well in ice cream. If you have never tried some, this recipe will allow you to make your own no-churn, vegan pistachio ice cream! It’s an excellently balanced recipe, but it’s great to be able to make this at home so you can adjust all of the flavors and get the exact style you like.
This recipe is also ideal for those who are vegan or lactose-intolerant. Without using any dairy, it recreates the milky and creamy flavor and texture of ice cream, pairing it with the sweet and strong pistachio flavor.
Calories Per Serving: 120
Total Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
You can find a place for pistachios in almost any elevated, gourmet dessert, but this recipe for a cocoa tart that features pistachio is especially tantalizing.
This dessert would be perfect for a classy dinner party, a special occasion, or just a really impressive treat on a weekday evening.
Pistachios nuts are harder than some of their closest relatives in the cashew family, but when blended they can create a soft and milky texture that forms a luscious base for this tart.
This ultra-creamy tart has a soft, cheesecake-like texture that is the perfect delivery system for pistachio flavor. The contrast with the chocolate is delicious.
Best of all, this is a recipe you can make for nearly any guest: it is no-bake, vegetarian/vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, cashew-free, and gluten-free!
Calories Per Serving: 180
Total Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Raw Pistachios Taste Like?
If you’ve only ever tried dried pistachios, you might be surprised by the flavor you encounter trying one raw.
The vast majority of pistachios for sale have been dried, with salt added. This makes them easier to transport and less likely to go bad or carry diseases like salmonella.
Unfortunately, it also harms the nutritional value of pistachios and removes some of the core flavors. Drying and salting pistachios change how they taste.
Raw pistachio is not salty but has a subtle sweetness and creaminess, as well as vegetal and citrus flavors that are erased by the salt.
Some claim that the true flavor of pistachios is only accessible when they are raw because the salt erases the subtle flavors.
Does Pistachio Taste Like Almond?
No, pistachio doesn’t taste like almond. The flavors are very different, but they are frequently confused because of the way pistachio products were created in the past.
Pistachios are expensive, so when companies create pistachio products they need to reduce the cost as much as possible.
This sometimes means using pistachio substitutes, at least in part, to reduce the need for pistachios.
In the past, companies have added almond to their pistachio products so they can get away with using less pistachio.
As a cost-saving maneuver, it worked excellently. Most people don’t notice the difference, and if they do realize they are tasting almonds along with pistachio, they don’t care because the dessert is still delicious.
However, this has led to many people mistaking the taste of pistachio for almond, because they recognize the almond flavor and the pistachio flavor intermingling in some of their favorite branded desserts.
What Happens When You Eat Too Many Pistachios?
Pistachios are a part of a healthy diet, but eating too many can lead to a variety of health complications.
The recommended serving size for pistachios is very small – about 2 handfuls per day. It’s a good idea to restrict your intake of pistachios to less than this.
Why? Because pistachios are high in calories, and when they are dried and salted they are high in sodium. Although pistachios have fewer calories and more protein than some other nuts, in large quantities they are not healthy.
Overeating pistachios can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and even kidney stones due to the presence of oxalates. To avoid these issues, regulate your intake of pistachios.
How Many Pistachios Should You Eat In A Day?
According to experts, you should eat less than 2 handfuls of pistachios per day, which equals about 2 ounces, 56 grams, or 90 shelled pistachios.
Why Are Pistachios So Expensive?
Unlike some other nuts which are more easily commercially farmed, pistachios are difficult to grow and harvest in bulk and the considerable cost involved with producing pistachios drives up the price you pay at the grocery store.
To begin with, the pistachio tree is very picky about climate. It prefers to grow in areas with extremely hot summers, and cold winters without any frost.
This narrows the area where they can be cultivated significantly, and explains why regions like Afghanistan and California are ideal for pistachio production.
Pistachio trees also take a long time to cultivate before they start producing viable pistachios. Even in the perfect climate, it takes 20 years for a pistachio tree to produce its first crop, and it will only produce fruit every second year after that.
Lastly, only female pistachio trees produce fruit, while the males are only pollinators. This means that effectively half of the trees grown don’t produce fruit.
All of these factors lead to the high cost of pistachios. Despite all of the work and risk that goes into producing them, we love pistachios enough that they keep showing up in markets around the world, and in some of our favorite dishes!
Is Pistachio Ice Cream Just Vanilla?
The flavor of pistachio in pistachio ice cream is different from vanilla.
However, it is a pretty subtle flavor and if you are used to vanilla ice cream, when you eat white pistachio ice cream you might confuse it with vanilla flavor.
If you try a taste test, you’ll be able to tell the difference between pistachio and vanilla ice cream.
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