Nestled between the double giant jars of Nutella and the double giant jars of peanut butter at my local Costco was a largish jar of lovely green…something. “Pistachio Cream,” it read, with ingredients first in Italian, then English. I love pistachios and carry them in my purse for hangry emergencies. What potential might this spread have?
When I got my Costco spoils home and unloaded, I inspected the jar. There were no instructions for use. My previous foray into pretty-colored goo, Trader Joe’s bright purple ube spread, had supplied some tips for spreading it on pancakes and whatnot. With pistachio cream, I was flying solo.
I took a taste. It was very sweet, definitely closer in taste to Nutella than peanut butter. Unlike the pistachio butter I had once made in my food processor, there was no way this spread was going in my sandwiches in place of almond butter. How was I supposed to use this sweet goop? Would it bake into cookies like peanut butter? Did it need to stay raw and be used only as a filling?
Pistachio cream is indeed an Italian sweet cream or paste, often made of about 50% pulverized pistachio paste (try saying that five times fast), milk, butter, sugar, and sometimes white chocolate. Other recipes use egg yolks and vanilla to make something closer to a pastry cream.
According to the blog Inside the Rustic Kitchen, boiling and then blending the little green nuts in a food processor or blender reduces them to a creamy paste quickly and easily. Unlike Nutella, this homemade product is not shelf-stable and would need to be refrigerated and used within a couple weeks. However, they recommend using it as one would Nutella: spreading it on toast or bread, using it in baked goods, or eating it with a spoon, which is what I did.
My commercially produced jar, which is from a Sicilian brand called Pisti, has powdered milk and olive oil to give the cream its smooth consistency. After refrigerating it, it thickened considerably, closer to a natural peanut butter. If I was going to spread it on anything less than very toasty toast, I would need to soften it up first.
You can experiment with pistachio cream by using either the homemade or store-bought stuff in your existing recipes to see what tastes best. For example, I know I love a good almond croissant because of the bittersweet goo sandwiched between flakey layers, so why not pistachio?
As for my fairly large Pisti jar, I won’t be limiting its use to after-dinner spoonfuls. Cucina by Elena has a recipe for homemade pistachio cream but also several suggestions for use including pistachio gelato (yes, please), Italian cream horns (which might be beyond my skill set but look great), and Italian crumb cake (I want this one immediately).
Bon Appetit’s Alex Beggs recommends adding some pistachio paste to buttercream or whipped cream, but warns that it might separate. As someone who has attempted many different frostings over the years, I am dubious that this one is foolproof and would advise you try it out on a practice day, not the day you’ve agreed to make a cake for your best friend’s wedding shower or something.
For simpler uses, Beggs suggests using the cream in place of jam in thumbprint cookies or filling cupcakes with it before frosting with something more stable. This seems like a great idea that won’t create a pale green disaster. Other suggestions including adding it to milkshakes, oatmeal, vanilla ice cream, and even coffee, though that reminds me a bit of the bulletproof coffee craze.
No matter how you choose to incorporate your not-quite-Nutella into your meals, it seems to be a surprisingly versatile spread that I hope Costco continues to stock. If not, I’ll get the big Costco bag of raw pistachios and try making my own, because I admit, as I eat a spoonful like a lollipop while writing this, I might be hooked.