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Pistachio flavor - do I like it fake or just intense??

I'd like to make a pistachio cake/cupcake/muffin/dessert. But here is my predicament.

My absolute favorite ice cream growing up was pistachio. I also like pistachio nuts themselves but am not crazy about them. What I realized is that I actually love pistachio ice cream but not necessarily with the actual pistachios! Well I don't mind a few pieces in there for crunch/texture, but I prefer the flavor of the ice cream surrounding the pistacho pieces than the pieces themselves.

Now, I've had some pistachio ice creams at fancy places in NYC that I just didn't love. And I've realized that these ice creams tended to NOT be very green. Whereas I picked up a pint of Wegman's pistachio ice cream yesterday, and it's green and delicious!

Does this mean I like some fake green mutant flavor of pistachio? Or is this the true pistachio flavor, just amped up?

And finally, either way, how do I get this flavor into baked goods? And any good recipes? The only thing I can think of and have seen is Jello pudding mix. I basically want to taste the green ice cream base in a cake/muffin! Have been thinking over a year about making David Lebovitz's almond cake but with my fake/intense pistachio flavoring... but the pistachio "paste" I found doesn't remind me of the flavor I'm looking for!


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  1. Most pistachio ice cream is flavored with almond.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sr44

      Hmm, might explain why I like all things almond flavored as well! I'll have to check the ingredients list of my green pistachio ice cream.

    2. What you like is the essence, the aroms of pistachios. What you'd get if you steam-distilled pistachio paste.

      to get this flavor, I'd recommend using pistachio butter. There are products out there sold that are like this, but they're expensive by volume/weight. You could try making your own, but even shelled pistachios still have that stupid paper hull on them. I know that the machinery that removes those paper hulls (like on peanuts, too) is just brushes that spin/brush rapidly to get it off, so if you;re handy you could jerry-rig something to do this or just get stiff bristle brushes and do it by hand.

      Without a pasting machine you can just grind the pistachio kernels in a fod processor and add oil/crisco for the added lubrication/liquidity you'll need.

      Also you can buy pistachio butter online, but the companies on amazon that make nut "butters" don't grind the nuts quite fine enough for my taste.

      If you want to really go nuts, you could go all molecular gastronomy and steam-distill pistachio essence.

      2 Replies
      1. re: peanuttree

        Interesting!! In making the butter, does leaving the paper hull on affect the flavor/aroma at all? Or does it just add some extra "texture"? I have a Moulinex from the 70s that I bought on eBay that easily grinds everything to powder (better than any food processor out there today)... I also like the smooth taste.

        I did major in chemical engineering in college back in the day, so maybe I will try tackling the steam distillation. Just need to source the equipment. It will be like the show Breaking Bad, except not illegal and no chance of selling for a high price to a big market of pistachio aroma addicts...

        Thanks for the intel!

        1. re: jen223

          you can always grind your pistachios, infuse your milk base, and then strain out it out for a smooth texture.

          Distilled pistachio aroma, is that the same thing as commercial extract? This is real, not fake pistachio flavor, but I would probably try this recipe before setting up my own still. http://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/p...

      2. Could also try heating pistachios/paste in cream to extract the flavor/mix it with dairy like in the ice cream. Maybe try to find out what other flavorings they put in the pistachio ice cream

        3 Replies
        1. re: peanuttree

          I actually looked at my Wegman's pistachio ice cream for ingredients, and they attribute all flavoring (other than the pistachio pieces themselves) to "natural flavors". Oh well.

          I also did realize that I've been lying to everyone... the Wegman's ice cream is NOT green or even close to green! It's a normal off-white cream color. I think I just assumed it was green because it tasted like the fake pistachio flavor I like.

          1. re: jen223

            My local Giant carries (hopefully still does) a "Simply Delicious" brand pistachio gelato. It's rich, creamy, and delicious---and it has that intense pistachio flavor you might associate with Jello pudding ;)

            1. re: jen223

              call and ask them what flavors they use, you may be able to buy the mix if they buy a pre-made flavoring from a food flavorant company. You;ll have to buy like a 1 gallon jug, far more than you'll need for a long time, but still.

              or call said company and ask them what the ingredients are, if they say it's proprietary just ask them for a few of the ingredients... that is, if you can even get talking to a chemist. Maybe just try to meet a food flavoring chemist in real life and ask him what flavors they use to create pistachio flavor.

              But with "natural flavors", obviously one of the main flavors is just straight up steam distiled pistachio flavor oil.

          2. You have me laughing. I **cringe** at that whole pistachio flavor. Pistachio nuts, I enjoy. My mother used to make this green pistachio pudding when I was growing up - one of the worst things ever (sorry, Mom!). Based on that experience, I would never even try pistachio ice cream!!!

            9 Replies
            1. re: jbsiegel

              Haha... but it's such a pleasant shade of green! I used to love the green pistachio pudding. Have to admit I haven't had it since a teenager, and I also don't think I've ever had it not made from powder in a Jello box. I wonder if people actually made it from scratch

              1. re: jen223

                Doubt it. I make it in a pie crust and everyone fights over it.

              2. re: jbsiegel

                what is this? I feel like I've heard of this. But I've never seen pistachio flavored jello or jello brand pudding mix. Is it a regional thing? I live in New Jersey.

                1. re: peanuttree

                  I live in NY so I'm sure you can find it. It's instant pudding, either Jello or MyTFIne. I've been eating it my whole life (since the 1950s) and I just bought some the other day.

                  1. re: peanuttree

                    I grew up in NJ (Sussex and Morris counties) and we always shopped at Shoprite, which definitely carried the jello pistachio pudding mix. Hopefully it's still around! I'll check next time I'm at the Wegmans by me

                    1. re: peanuttree

                      Really? I'm also in NJ and I know Stop & Shop carries pistachio flavored pudding around Easter and sells it until its gone gone gone. I've never seen pistachio jello though, just pudding. I've never tasted it tho.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        I find it year round, for special occasions where you don't want your dish to be duplicated. It's not jello, it's pudding, but Jello might make it under their name. Unfortunately, I looked in my pantry and found that what I have on hand is a house brand. So tell me it's not that popular!

                        1. re: coll

                          Okay so not in jello; just pudding. That's what I thought. How does it taste, coll?

                          1. re: HillJ

                            Better than chocolate or vanilla to me. Maybe equal to butterscotch. It's intense!

                  2. http://www.preparedpantry.com/Pistach...

                    My youngest daughter adores these. She also likes the green gel included in the batter and she crushes the pistachio nuts super fine. Take a look at the flavoring list on this one.

                    Most muffins actually use almond extract and/or almond paste.

                    Have fun with the recipe hunt!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: HillJ

                      I wonder why, if pistachio muffins and other goods use more almond ingredients than pistachio, they don't just call it an almond muffin?? I'd still buy and eat it!

                      Thanks for the recipe!

                      1. re: jen223

                        Excellent question! A true pistachio muffin will have pistachio nuts in the batter but securing that nut essence is impossibly tricky; hence the almond extract sub. Dyeing the muffin green (option but easy to ID) helps to market the pistachio variety. Almond muffins do not contain pistachio nuts (& of course aren't green). Almond muffins sometimes only have the extract and no to little almond nuts!

                        So in terms of ID'ing the two, the clarification is met commercially but probably not what we necessarily seek from home baking.

                        There use to be a muffin shop near me that made only mini muffins. They made a mini pistachio muffin that was Kermit green and so moist! They used almond paste only. After gymnastics my kids and I would go for a treat. Gobbled them down and giggled home.

                        I've never made the type that use the pistachio pudding but I would imagine they would be very moist muffins.

                    2. I know what you mean---I've had some "gourmet" pistachio ice cream that I found to be too mild and not pistachio enough. But then, I was always a big fan of the electric green pudding growing up (and still am).

                      This recipe might hit the right notes for you:


                      1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature

                      3/4 cup all-purpose flour

                      1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

                      1/3 c. shelled pistachios, ground finely in the blender

                      3-4 drops green food coloring, optional

                      1-2 drops almond extract

                      1-2 drops vanilla extract

                      1 tsp. walnut oil, optional

                      1 tsp milk, optional

                      8 pistachio nut halves, for decoration

                      2 tsp. turbinado sugar, for decoration


                      1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add flour, powdered sugar, extracts, food coloring, and pistachios; mix until combined. If dough is too dry, add the milk and walnut oil until it just comes together.

                      2. Spread dough evenly into an 8-inch round cake pan lined with parchment (you can use a rolling pin to flatten). Sprinkle with turbinado sugar and top each 1/8 with a pistachio half. (Optional: flute the edges with a floured fork.)

                      3. Bake until firm, 30 minutes. Immediately score into eight wedges; cool completely. Turn out of pan; break wedges apart.

                      Serve with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                        Is this that pistachio cake you posted about in WFD awhile back?

                        I too am a lover of that neon green pudding. My favorite trashy dessert involves pistachio pudding mixed with vanilla ice cream, put on a graham cracker crust, and topped with cool whip.

                        1. re: juliejulez

                          The shortbread, yes! I have to dig up the link to the pistachio cake recipe...just a sec.

                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                            I think you gave it to me already but now I can't find it :)

                          2. re: juliejulez

                            Here is the link: http://www.familyoven.com/recipe/pist...

                            I found it took 10-15 min. longer than called for to bake.

                            1. re: juliejulez

                              Thanks for the recipes, Christina!

                              Julie - your trashy dessert sounds delish... do you just beat the pudding with the ice cream until mixed?

                              1. re: jen223

                                Pretty much. Also you let the ice cream soften before that point (not til it's liquid, but just soft), and then once the whole thing is assembled you put it back in the freezer so it all goes solid again.

                          3. Pistachio is one of my favourite flavours - of ice cream, maracon, biscotti, cake. I LOVE it! I'm the complete opposite though and love the natural stuff - I won't have ice cream if it's green, it has to be brown and made with proper pistachios.

                            What people said below about pistachio flavoured stuff being almond sounds about right actually.

                            One of my favourite pistachio cakes it this Nigel Slater one, it's really moist and delicious. http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/11639/... - you could always add a spoon of almond extract.

                            Those nibbed bright green pistachios from middle eastern shops are what you want for amazing green colour.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: helen_m

                              I see that you're in DC, but if you're ever craving the non-green pistachio ice cream while in NYC... i can point you to many places!

                              It's funny about the comparison to almond b/c I do love almond-flavored things as well, but still feel like the fake pistachio has a distinct taste... even if it's not pistachio. Must be the aroma that peanuttree mentioned.

                            2. If cost is no object, you might try one of these items. Supposedly Sicilian pistachios are the best you can get outside of Iran (Persia), which really has the best, but they don't export anymore.



                              4 Replies
                                1. re: HillJ

                                  How about if we save the money toward tickets to Sicily? A 1lb can of that pistachio flour is bout 1/2 a RT ticket to Rome, and we could just take a train from there.....

                                  And eat our weight in pistachio everything while there, and bring back our own nuts!

                                  1. re: gingershelley

                                    like you have to twist my arm! Let me get my passport....!

                                2. re: gingershelley

                                  My attitude towards food is that it's always worth the price, but this is just ridiculous!!!!

                                3. I bought pistachio extract from King Arthur Flour. Sub it for almond and you'll get the bang for your buck.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: sbp

                                    they have pre-made pistachio extract? huh, that's a trip

                                    1. re: peanuttree

                                      When I was younger, the local Carvel place sold pistachio shakes. He put so much pistachio extract in there that you felt the alcohol. Definitely pisachio, not almond, I saw the bottle. Great memories.


                                  2. Best pistachio ice cream I've had was at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn, NY. Pistachio ice cream with their own pistachio brittle.

                                    1. Turkish are by far the best....even Siclian taste like California nuts

                                      1. Would just like to point out for pistachio lovers similar to me... the pistachio frappe at Bobby's Burger Palace is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted! Check it out if you haven't