Indulge in creamy and incredibly flavorful pistachio gelato with this easy recipe. Discover my secrets to maximize the richness, flavor, and color of the pistachios in this nutty treat.
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Pistachio Gelato: A Heavenly Frozen Delight
Pistachio gelato is a classic and popular flavor like nocciola gelato (hazelnut gelato). And this recipe uses plenty of real pistachios, producing a gelato with a sweet and nutty taste.
Real pistachio gelato may not have a vibrant green hue due to natural color variations in the nuts, ranging from green to brown. It is certainly not going to look like green tea ice cream. Although, I did find bright green Persian pistachios online for my amazing saffron ice cream.
Gelato is creamier, smoother, and denser than traditional ice cream, thanks to less fat and air incorporation. Also, the higher milk solids content allows for less sugar, and a slightly warmer serving temperature enhances the flavors.
Thickeners like egg yolks or corn starch stabilize the gelato base. But in Sicily, renowned for its pistachios, corn starch is the preferred choice to ensure a pure pistachio taste without any eggy notes.
Further, ready-made pistachio paste is available online, preferably made with flavorful Bronte pistachios from Sicily. Choose pistachio paste rather than "pistachio cream" for a higher pistachio content.
Homemade pistachio paste is easy to make, if you follow my tips. Also, consider enhancing the flavor and color with a touch of pistachio oil, that is readily available online.
Surprisingly, peeling pistachios is not as tedious as one might imagine. Because a quick blanching process (and rubbing between kitchen towels) helps loosen the skins and softens the pistachios, making them blend smoothly into a delicious paste.
Choose the finest ingredients for the best pistachio gelato.
- Shelled unsalted pistachios: Use fresh, high-quality pistachios for exceptional flavor and vibrant color. I got mine online from nuts.com (not sponsored).
- Whole milk: The higher fat content provides a rich and creamy texture for a smooth gelato base.
- Sugar: Essential for proper texture and taste. You can’t lower this beyond a certain level without compromising on the gelato consistency. Pistachios add a naturally sweet taste, so we will need less sugar than the standard amount.
- Corn starch: Acts as a natural stabilizer for ideal thickness and creamy consistency instead of eggs.
- Heavy cream: The fat content in heavy cream enhances the richness and creaminess, giving the gelato a smooth texture.
- A pinch of salt: Balances flavors, intensifies sweetness and the pistachio taste.
- Pistachio extract: Adds depth and complexity to the gelato. It is easy to find online. Substitute with a drop of almond extract along with pistachio oil (also adds some color, I used La Tourangelle brand). You can try vanilla extract, but that doesn’t enhance the nutty flavor.
How To Make Pistachio Gelato
Here is a brief overview of the step-by-step process. **Full recipe is at the end of blog post.
- Prep pistachios: Boil water, add nuts, simmer and drain. Rub the pistachios between kitchen towels to remove skins.
- Blend pistachios: Combine pistachios with milk and blend. Refrigerate overnight.
- Strain mixture: Pour the chilled pistachio-milk through cheesecloth or a nut bag to remove solids. I did not do this as my vitamix blends pretty smooth.
- Thicken pistachio milk: Do this only if nut milk is not thick like a flowing custard. Heat pistachio milk mixture and stir in corn starch-milk paste. Simmer until thick and then cool.
- Add sugar, flavorings and cream: Stir in sugar, remaining milk, salt, flavor extract and heavy cream.
- Chill mixture: Refrigerate or use an ice bath.
- Freeze gelato: Follow ice cream maker's instructions, optionally add ground pistachios.
Blanch and skin pistachios for vibrant green color and smooth texture.
Chill the pistachio-milk mixture overnight to intensify the nutty flavor.
Strain nut milk through cheesecloth or a nut bag if it's not smooth enough. But I did not do this as my vitamix blends it pretty smooth and thick.
Use corn starch to achieve the desired flowing custard-like consistency if the nut milk is not thick.
Chill the gelato mixture before freezing for the ideal texture.
How To Serve
Enjoy your pistachio gelato with these serving suggestions. Thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator to soften it before serving.
- Savor the rich and creamy gelato as is or top with roasted pistachios or crushed praline for added crunch and nutty flavor.
- Serve with biscotti, pistachio tuiles, cones, waffle cups, or wafers for a delightful contrast in textures.
- Make a pistachio affogato by topping the gelato with a shot of hot espresso. The contrast in flavors and temperatures is delicious.
- Try garnishing with whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings, caramel sauce or chocolate sauce. The hint of bitterness complements the sweet gelato.
- Drizzle with homemade pistachio sauce for an intensified pistachio flavor.
This pistachio gelato is vegetarian, gluten free, egg free, low sodium and soy free. Below are a few suggestions, some of which I have not tried.
- Vegan/Dairy-Free: Substitute dairy milk with full fat coconut milk (the one you get in cans) and replace heavy cream with plant-based alternatives. But these products may add hints of other flavors.
- Refined Sugar-Free: Try honey or maple syrup as we did for the maple ice cream. For a low-calorie, low-carb alternative that maintains creaminess, try allulose. It's a natural sugar substitute that functions like sugar in ice cream recipes without being fully digested.
- Flavors: Experiment with flavors like cardamom, rose water, saffron, or vanilla.
- Ice Cream Maker: Opt for the ICE-100 Cuisinart model with a built-in compressor for convenient ice cream making without freezing the bowl or chilling the mixture overnight.
- Ice Cream Container: Keep your ice cream soft and prevent ice crystal formation with the double-walled Tovolo ice cream tubs.
- Vitamix: Ideal for this recipe, this high-speed blender effortlessly grinds nuts into a smooth paste. The thick mixture requires no straining or thickening. Alternatively, consider nut butter makers for achieving a super smooth nut paste at home.
- Nut Bag: I use this pro quality nut bag. It really works very well to quickly make nut milk at home. And is not expensive at all.
Pistachio gelato can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Place it in an airtight ice cream container with parchment paper on top to prevent ice crystal formation. If possible, store it in the door section of your freezer as the temperature is slightly warmer.
Yes, you can, but be cautious of the saltiness. Also you may want to skip the added salt in the recipe.
While the result won't be the same, you can try freezing the mixture in a shallow container, stirring every half hour (to break the ice crystals ) until creamy.
Whip 2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in a can of condensed milk and stir in pistachio paste. Freeze the mixture using an ice cream maker or the method mentioned above.
Soak the blanched pistachios in milk overnight and blend in a high-speed blender like Vitamix. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a nut bag, if the mixture is grainy. Thicken the gelato base if it is not already like a flowing custard.
More Summer Treats
- Peach Smoothies (4 Ways)
- Mango Popsicles (With Creamy Vanilla Filling)
- Date Shakes (4 Ways)
- Easy Fruit Salad With Orange Juice
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Pistachio Gelato Recipe
- 2 cups shelled unsalted pistachios plus optional ½ cup coarsely ground
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1 to 1½ tablespoons corn starch use only if needed, start with 1 tablespoon
- ½ to ⅔ cup sugar adjust to taste, I used ½ cup + 2 tablespoons
- A pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon pistachio extract optional, or use 1 drop almond extract plus 2 tablespoons pistachio oil
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Prep the pistachios: Boil 4 cups of water and add 2 cups of shelled pistachios. Simmer for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water. Cool the pistachios and remove the skins by rubbing them between kitchen towels.
- Blend the pistachios: In a high-speed blender (Vitamix), combine 2 cups pistachios and 2 cups milk. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Alternatively, finely grind the pistachios using a food processor. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Strain the mixture: Pour the chilled pistachio-milk mixture through cheesecloth or a nut bag to remove any solids. Stir occasionally to dislodge solids lining the cloth. I did not strain the mixture as my Vitamix blends the nuts and milk into a smooth and thick paste.
- Thicken the nut milk: Do this only if nut milk is not thick like a flowing custard. In a large saucepan, heat the pistachio-milk over medium-high, stirring constantly. Do not let it boil. Dissolve corn starch in ½ cup plain milk until smooth. Lower the heat and whisk in the corn starch-milk mixture. Simmer until the mixture reaches a thin custard consistency or coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on an ice bath.
- Add sugar, flavorings and cream: Whisk in sugar, remaining milk (if not used for thickening), salt, and pistachio extract until well combined. Then stir in heavy cream. Instead of flavor extract, I used a drop of almond extract plus 2 tablespoons of La Tourangelle brand pistachio oil.
- Chill the mixture: Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight, or use an ice bath for faster chilling.
- Freeze the gelato: Follow the ice cream maker's instructions to freeze the mixture. Optionally, add the coarsely ground pistachios when the gelato starts to set.
- Store pistachio gelato in the freezer for 2-3 months. Use an airtight ice cream container and place parchment paper on top to prevent ice crystal formation. If possible, store it in the door section of your freezer as the temperature is slightly warmer.
- For ingredient notes, expert tips, recommended equipment, variations, serving suggestions, recipe FAQs etc, refer to the blog post.
- Homemade Pistachio Paste
- Prep the pistachios following step 1 above. In a food processor, pulse the blanched nuts with ⅔ cup sugar until finely ground.
- Add ⅔ cup milk and flavor extract (if using), and continue processing until smooth. Use a hand blender for a smoother texture.
- Ready-made pistachio paste is available online or at specialty stores. Buy a paste with over 45 percent pistachios and adjust the sugar in the recipe as those are already slightly sweetened.
- Pistachio Gelato Using Pistachio Paste
- Heat 2 cups milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Do not let it boil.
- Dissolve 1½ tablespoons corn starch in ¼ cup milk until smooth. Lower the heat and whisk in the corn starch-milk mixture, stirring constantly. Simmer until the mixture reaches a thin custard consistency or coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on an ice bath.
- Whisk in pistachio paste, one tablespoon at a time, until well combined. Stir in heavy cream, salt, and pistachio extract (if using). Adjust sugar to taste.
- Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight, or use an ice bath for faster chilling.
- Follow the ice cream maker's instructions to freeze the mixture. Optionally, add ½ cup coarsely ground pistachios when the gelato starts to set.