Whatever Happened to Red Pistachios?

updated Dec 28, 2023
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Red pistachios on a white background
Credit: Melody's photography / Shutterstock

Remember red pistachios? Up until the 1970s, it was almost impossible to find pistachios that didn’t leave fiery-red powder on your fingers.

So what happened to red pistachios? And where did they come from in the first place? Read on to find out.

Who was the first to make red pistachios?

There are two competing stories that explain why pistachio shells used to be red.

In one version, the crimson hue originated with a pistachio vendor named Zaloom in Brooklyn, New York, around the turn of the 20th century. He decided to dye his nuts to make his products stand out from the competition. According to the tale, Zaloom’s dyeing process quickly took hold and became the standard for pistachios in the United States.

Dr. Bob Klein, the former manager of the California Pistachio Research board, shared a slightly different version with farmprogress.com. Pistachios were colored red to cover unsightly but natural markings on the nuts’ shells, he explained. American processors would dye the nuts, which were mostly imported from Iran, before distributing them.

What happened to red pistachios?

Red pistachios began becoming rare in the 1980s because of a limit on pistachio imports from the Middle East. Plus, there was a huge increase in American grown pistachios produced through advanced harvesting methods. Due to the advanced methods, there was no need to dye the pistachios because they didn’t have stains anymore.

What makes the pistachios red?

Red pistachios get their signature color from artificial red dye.

Do red pistachios taste different?

The red dye might leave a vibrant trail, but it doesn’t affect the flavor at all. The pistachios we all eat today aren’t missing out on any extra flavor without the added dye.

What happened to red pistachios?

Dyeing pistachios red went out of style in the 1980s, when California growers became the largest source of pistachios for the American market and chose to distribute undyed nuts.

Can you still buy red pistachios?

Most pistachios are left undyed these days, so red pistachios are hard to find on grocery store shelves. But don’t worry: If you find yourself craving a serving of vibrantly-red nostalgia, it’s still possible to buy red pistachios online.

You can find red pistachios at the following online stores:

  • Nuts.com
  • Etsy
  • Nuts To You
  • eBay