Latin name: Pistacia vera
Uses: nut, oil
If you’ve spent any time around Midwestern potluck tables, you might remember the shocking green pistachio puddings that always managed to show up. They looked like ectoplasm but were somehow kind of delicious. Such is the power of pistachio — just out there elevating everything they touch. These cashew cousins have been in cultivation since the Bronze Age and, like their other cousins the mango, can keep producing fruit for 300 years.
Why is pistachio healthy?
Pistachios have a complete macronutrient profile, making them a perfect snack — and an interactive one as you shell them for the plump morsels inside. They are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, including two important carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin, which furnish their trademark yellow-green color and provide excellent eye health support. Adding nuts to your diet has been associated with many health benefits, particularly improved heart health and blood sugar control.
What does pistachio taste like?
Crunchy, buttery pistachios have the sweet and toasty-nutty flavors that make pretty much all nuts delicious, but they also have their own unique green-woody, warm-balsamic, vanilla-musky qualities from a variety of aromatic compounds.
Where does pistachio grow?
Pistachios are originally from Central Asia and the Middle East, and Iran is still a top global producer. California (the biggest producer) grows mostly Kerman pistachios, a cultivar from Iran. Pistachios were introduced to California in the 1850s, and commercial production ramped up by the early 1900s.
How do I prepare pistachio and what do I pair it with?
Traditionally used in everything from Turkish delight to Mortadella sausage, pistachios bring their sweet, crunchy complexity to everything they touch. For your next batch of baklava, try using pistachios instead of walnuts; they love the flavors of honey, butter, citrus, and rose petals. While you’re in that neck of the culinary woods, add pistachios to other Middle Eastern and Caucasian dishes like herby plov/pilau (rice pilaf) jeweled with dried fruits, shredded carrots, and warm spices.
Pistachios make a wonderful alternative to pine nuts in a pesto, too. Slather a pistachio-mint pesto on grilled eggplant and summer squash, warm flatbreads, or seared halloumi cheese. Or just stir it into a pot of cooked orecchiette. Leave out the mint or use different herbs; add lemon zest and fold it into Greek yogurt. The world is your pistachio.
Pistachio is a traditional gelato flavor, and you can use the nuts for other chilled desserts, too. Try them in a frozen vegan cheesecake by pureeing them with your favorite nut milk and sweetener. Roll truffles made from dates or chocolate ganache in chopped pistachios for a colorful crunch.
Also known as “Watergate salad,” the American concoction known as Pistachio Pineapple Delight is emblematic of the era in which it was born: the 1970s. Jell-O brand’s pistachio pudding had the dubious honor of being introduced in 1976 and became the pudding of choice for cohering bizarrely addled “salads” of canned fruit, nuts, mini marshmallows, and whipped topping.