What Exactly Is Pistachio Cream And How Do You Enjoy It?

Nut lovers far and wide can't deny the exceptional taste, color, and potential health benefits of pistachios. Maybe you frequently eat these bright green seeds for their distinctive taste, which is quite different from common varieties of seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. However, the complete source of protein and significant doses of potassium and vitamin B6 this vibrant food provides makes it a desirable everyday snack and meal accompaniment. If you've grown accustomed to sprinkling the nuts on your watermelon and cucumber salad and want to explore other ways to use this tasty ingredient, shift your thinking to desserts and consider pistachio cream.

Pistachios have been deemed one of the trendiest comestibles to gain a newfound presence in the culinary world. By 2023 standards, you're probably already familiar with pistachio ice cream, pistachio-flavored coffee creamer, and even pistachio paste, but what exactly sets pistachio cream apart from other green seed-flavored foods? In the broadest sense, the silky mixture is often made from ground pistachio paste and sugar. Butter or milk are sometimes added; egg yolks and white chocolate can also be used for an extra-rich flavor and texture.

Before diving into all the fun ways you can use this unique spread (and where to score a jar or two), it's worth learning about the foundation of pistachio cream, as well as when and where this luscious product was first created.

The history of pistachio cream

Before you start using pistachio cream in all its smooth buttery goodness, you may be curious to know how the purportedly healthy pistachio was transformed into a velvety smooth sweet spread. The exact time and place the nuts first became a sweet, creamy mixture is unknown. However, the nuts have been grown in Bronte, Sicily, where they have come to be incorporated into numerous savory and sweet dishes. During holidays, Italians have long used pistachio-based cream for a variety of sweets, such as classic panettone and cannoli.

There have also been instances of pistachio-based cream made during the 1700s in upscale English restaurants. This custard-like dessert was typically made of ground pistachios, cream, egg yolks, and brandy. But despite certain European restaurants using the nuts, traditionally, the flavorful green seeds have been cherished as symbols of bounty and life for the people of Sicily, whose one-of-a-kind pistachios are grown near the base of the city's volcano, Mount Etna. While Italians and Europeans have long used pistachio cream for decades, this rich spread is a less common confection for those residing in the United States.

How exactly is pistachio cream made?

Generally speaking, pistachio cream is composed of pistachio paste (i.e., shelled unsalted pistachios ground into a nut butter-type consistency) which is then sweetened. Some are considerably decadent, incorporating powdered sugar, milk, butter, and white chocolate. For this type, once the pistachios have been finely ground into a spreadable paste, a melted and warmed mixture of butter, milk, and white chocolate is added to the paste and combined in a blender or food processor until you're left with an ultra-smooth, spreadable confection.

There are also plenty of variations for this creamy spread that include either less or different ingredients. While you can make pistachio cream by mixing pistachio paste, prepared pastry cream, powdered sugar, and whipping cream, Sicilian chef Filippo La Mantia reveals his one-of-a-kind recipe to La Cucina Italiana, which contains pistachio paste, milk, sugar, and cornstarch. Other versions are even more pared down, containing little more than the nuts and some sugar (this kind of 'crema spalmible' also includes sea salt and extra virgin olive oil). While there's more than one way to make pistachio cream, the homemade version typically lasts up to 2 weeks in cold storage.

The taste of pistachio cream

Whether you use pistachio cream to adorn your morning bowl of oatmeal or as a luscious topping for your next sheet pan vanilla cake, this creamy confection has a distinct pistachio flavor and a resounding sweetness. However, given the many recipes you can follow to make your pistachio cream, there are many ways to alter this special spread to fit your needs.

In its most common form, store-bought pistachio cream has a texture and sweetness similar to jarred chocolate hazelnut spread. Given that it is typically loaded with sugar and dairy and has a somewhat thick consistency, a small spoonful goes a long way and will easily satisfy your sweet tooth. Some brands are made with toasted pistachios, which lend an even deeper, roastier flavor.

Homemade pistachio cream can be made in a variety of ways depending on how you plan to use it. It can even be turned into a pastry cream of sorts; adding egg yolks and cornstarch will transform this thick sweet mixture into a lighter, more spreadable confection. If you feel confident enough to make your own pistachio cream, try altering the amount of suggested sugar and playing with the ratios of milk and white chocolate to achieve your ideal balance of ingredients.

How to use pistachio cream

As you may have probably guessed, pistachio cream is the perfect spread to adorn your favorite confections or to breathe new life into everyday foods. If you've just learned how to make your own cream-filled doughnuts, why not substitute standard pastry cream for the pistachio version? The flavor of the rich, nutty cream inside your favorite baked goods will surely take your culinary enjoyment to new and exciting heights. You can add this luscious pastry cream to homemade cakes or use the smooth concoction to upgrade classic Italian desserts like panna cotta or tiramisu.

If you're looking for more ways to use pistachio cream straight from the jar, the spread's denser consistency works perfectly as a filling for cookies that call for a sturdy filling. You can also drizzle some of this sweet treat on your morning yogurt bowl or add a spoonful to your next homemade milkshake. With all the different and exciting ways to use pistachio cream, where can you buy a jar if you don't want to make it homemade?

Where to buy pistachio cream

If you're looking to add pistachio cream to your list of foods you can stuff inside a croissant, you'll want to note all the options available. When searching online for "pistachio cream," several different options pop up, yet you may want to read the ingredient list for each assortment. Each brand has its own list of ingredients, and some, like Rex pistachio cream, for example, include color additives in addition to artificial pistachio flavoring.

For those of you hoping to buy a jar or two at a brick-and-mortar retail store, Pisti pistachio cream has been spotted at Costco in the past. This variety is also available online through Amazon, and the first few ingredients on the brand's label include pistachios, milk powder, sugar, and extra virgin olive oil. Keep in mind that regardless of which variety you purchase, pistachio cream is quite pricey overall and ranges from $1 to over $2 per ounce. If you're on the fence about buying an entire jar, try scaling down a standard-sized recipe. Whether you make your own at home or buy a jar from a retailer, pistachio cream may prove to be a fun and exciting way to elevate your go-to list of morning meal accompaniments and favorite desserts.