Ingredient Intelligence

Why Pistachios Are Green: Plus 5 Favorite Recipes for Using Them

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Christian Jung)

Could there be anything better than a handful of pistachios? They’re a snack on their own, they’re a dessert when mixed with ice cream, they’re a savory addition to our salads — I wouldn’t be surprised if they could leap tall buildings and move faster than a speeding bullet, too. They’re basically the superhero of nuts. Except they’re not actually nuts. And with that bright green color, they’re not exactly fooling anyone with their low-profile disguise. 

Like their cousin the cashew, are actually a seed — not a nut. The fruits grow in clusters in trees, and as the delicious pistachio seed expands, it cracks open the hard outer hull and inner shell. These ripe fruits are knocked from the trees and dried.

According to our favorite science buff, Harold McGee, the green color of a pistachio comes from chlorophyll, just like green plants and vegetables. It’s unique among other nuts and seeds for this feature. Pistachios grown in cooler climate have especially vibrant color.

Pistachios also have a distinct sweet flavor that make them an equal partner to both desserts and more savory dishes. If you’re lucky enough to have a surplus, try grinding pistachios into a seed butter. This is pure decadence both in baked goods and on toast.

Here are five of our favorite ways to use pistachios:

Do you love pistachios? How do you use them in your own baking and cooking?