Pistachio Gelato Recipe

When it comes to ice cream, I am hopelessly predictable.

As far as I’m concerned, if the ice cream parlor, glacier, or gelateria offers dark chocolate, pistachio, and/or yogurt, he might as well not have any other flavor: I am blind to them.

I always go through the motions of hesitation, though (I scratch my temple, chew my lower lip, and hum lightly — it’s easy to fake, really), for the benefit of my ice cream companions, and because I like to entertain the thought that perhaps, someday, I, too, will go for rum-raisin and watermelon, but frankly, I fool no one. Dark chocolate, pistachio, and yogurt are my ice cream trinity, and I never stray far from it.

Dark chocolate, pistachio, and yogurt are my ice cream trinity, and I never stray far from it.

When it comes to homemade ice cream, however, altruism and the basic rules of household harmony lead me to consider other people’s tastes in addition to my own. Consequently, apart from this empyreal dark chocolate sorbet, I have tried to refrain from indulging my utmost ice cream obsessions, lest I end up eating them single-handedly, which is usually the fate of the aforementioned chocolate sorbet, it must be said.

But then I bought a bag of good-looking pistachios, and believe me, it had gelato written all over it. I turned to my ice cream mentor for guidance, and although he hadn’t included a recipe for pistachio gelato in his book, he did offer one on his blog.

It is an eggless ice cream recipe in which the custard is thickened with cornstarch — this reminded me of my mother’s fail-safe recipe for crème anglaise — and it is so easy to put together that I will be using this basic method (also demonstrated by Mark Bittman in this video) again in the future, for ice creams that don’t need the rich mouthfeel provided by yolks.

David’s recipe called for Sicilian pistachio paste, and this of course I didn’t have. But as far as I could make out, this paste was simply a mix of pistachios and sugar, so I adapted the recipe to use raw pistachios and agave syrup instead, guestimating the amounts of each and hoping for the best.

I also added a gurgle of limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, to enhance the pistachio flavor and help keep the ice cream soft and scoopable.

I was absolutely enchanted by my pale green gelato, which I left chunky, as is my preference. And I am pleased to say I wasn’t the only one to cast a favorable vote: my parents, who had come to dinner, smacked their lips, and Maxence declared it the best pistachio ice cream he’d ever tasted, which has to mean something, even from someone who invariably opts for mango and coconut.

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Pistachio Gelato Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Makes a little over 1/2 liter (2 cups)

Pistachio Gelato Recipe


  • 150 grams (1 1/4 cup) raw (= untoasted, unsalted) shelled pistachios
  • 65 grams (1/3 cup) unrefined cane sugar
  • 1/2 liter (2 cups) whole milk (non-dairy if preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (certified gluten-free as needed)
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) honey or other liquid sweetener (such as rice syrup or corn syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello (or amaretto, or other fruit or nut liqueur) (optional)


  1. In the bowl of a food processor (or blender, or mini-chopper), combine the pistachios and sugar, and process in short pulses until the mixture is reduced to a fine powder. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 60 ml (1/4 cup) of the milk with the cornstarch, and stir with a spoon to dissolve. Set aside.
  3. Combine the rest of the milk (440 ml or 1 3/4 cups) with the pistachio mixture in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat and bring just to a simmer, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring continuously as the mixture thickens. The custard is ready when it coats the wooden spoon, and you can trace a neat path on the back of said spoon with your finger.
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. (At this point, you can opt to strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve if you'd prefer a smooth texture; I myself like the tiny chunks of pistachio.)
  5. Stir in the honey and limoncello and whisk to blend. Let cool to room temperature on the counter, whisking from time to time to prevent the formation of a skin, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled (I usually prepare the custard the day before and refrigerate it overnight).
  6. Whisk the chilled mixture, and churn in your ice cream maker following the manufacturer's instructions. Serve on its own or with a few raspberries.
  • …non est disputandum, etc., of course, but: one must love Neapolitan as well. Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry. Not mixed together, but in separate and dignified blocks. So firm and childlike, somehow, and so tasty.

  • I’ve only ever made ice cream once, and it was also pistachio. I love the stuff! Will have to check out your recipe…

  • Joseph

    I’ll be the first to comment…
    Best ice cream flavor, hands down. As I was reading this post, I couldn’t stop thinking about creamy gelato. In fact, our air conditioner is out at work. Your pictures tempt me to leave work early and stop by a local gelateria.

  • Very fascinating, Clotilde. Have you considered substituting granulated fructose for the cane sugar since agave syrup is primarily fructose? This would give the entire product a lower glycemic index.

    Also, were the pistachios like those available in America, i.e., with the skins tightly in place, or the ones I’ve seen in the restaurants I’ve worked in in France that were skinless and deep green?

  • Clotilde, all you have to do is ask and I’ll send you some pistachio cream like what I sent David ;)

  • I’m laughing because I go through the same motions of anguished decision making at the ice cream counter. It’s not exactly life or death! But like you I am predictable: Coffee, coffee, coffee.

  • Pistachio is one of my favorite flavors too.

  • Ruth Adams

    Whiskey cream, please and thank you. Our local ice cream and gelato bar also makes beer (stout) occasionnally. The best ice cream I ever made was a vanilla to which I had added the blueberries I used to make liqueur by soaking them in white alcohol over the summer. My friends loves the boozy blueberry ice cream.

  • elemjay

    I have found (thanks to a Nigella tip off) that the best and greenest pistachios come from Iranian shops – they sell de-skinned pistachios in splinter shapes that are super green. I am lucky enough to live 5 mins walk away from a nice little Iranian shop that always stocks them, kept in the fridge too. They are quite expensive though…

  • Predictability? No, devotion.

    Wonderful idea to use the limoncello, I will have to give this a go.

  • Lovely recipe! You should try the cinnamon ice-cream they sell at a stall in Jardin de Tuileries (and maybe elsewhere in Paris too, but that was where I tasted it).


  • gingerpale

    Oh oh oh I will do this and report! But does the lemon liqueur leave a taste of lemon?
    There is a pistachio liqueur called “Dumante Verdenoce” (Italian, means “green nut”, I think.) It’s expensive, and might not do the trick a little lemon often does, but it’s the alcohol that keeps the gelato soft, not the flavoring, yes?

  • Perfect weather for Gelati!

  • Chris

    Ah. For me, the thrill would be (if I ever went to an ice-cream place – a gelatisserie?) in trying something different every time.

    Pistachio ice cream makes me think of Kulfi – Indian ice cream made by reducing and freezing milk infused with crushed almonds, pistachios, and cardomom. See example.

    Try it; home-made, it’s out of this world, and well worth the tedium of standing over a pot of boiling milk until it has reduced by half, constantly stirring lest it scorch. (You can cheat slightly and start with evaporated milk and/or cream).

  • OOhhh! I’m getting married soon and am really hoping someone gets me an ice creak maker. I’ll have to figure out the best one.

    And then I shall make pistachio ice cream! Heaven!

  • We rarely buy ice-cream in our household, and we practically never buy sorbet. Not because we don’t eat them, on the contrary… but because I make them. This week-end, I just had a workshop teaching students to make – among other things – minty green apple sorbet (using the very early tart summer apples we have in the Virginia Northern Piedmont). So refreshing.

    When I was living in France, pistachio was one of my favorite ice-cream. (On the rare occasions) when I find an Italian ice-cream parlor, I will buy pistachio ice-cream, but that generally mean A scoop. I have tried to make it several times, but mine turn yellowish rather than greenish, and the taste is not as strong as the ones I had in France.

    I appreciate the tip from elemjay re: finding green pistachios. I just have to locate an Iranian market… And I suppose a base without egg yolks like yours, Clotilde, would allow the ice-cream to turn slightly green. Yeah – another ice-cream recipe to try…. (funny nobody makes a face in the house I try a new dessert recipe – a new kale recipe however, is quite another story…) Thank you!

  • Joan

    Even though it’s midWinter in Oz/hands almost frozen!..the icecream maker will be at work tomorrow!..Clotilde this post feels like a gift!..the art of guestimating..’tis an art methinks

  • Lisa

    This recipe looks imminently achievable and I can hardly wait to make it. My trio: pistachio, chocolate, coffee.

  • Caramel au beurre salé and Framboise à la rose – nothing beats these two for me. But here in Brazil we have some good ones made with our typical fruits, specially in the North. We have some serious coconut ice cream, with big real flakes, and one made with açaí, I do not know if you guys know this fruit. It is small, purple and oily, reminds olive a little bit, but it is sweet. Anyway, your ice cream sounds lovely, I will try it!

  • Clotilde, you beat me to the punch. I’ve been daydreaming of pistachio ice cream for days. Wish I was there to share a bowl with you! Looks delish. xo -h

  • Peter – I used pistachios that still had their skin on — you can see little flecks in the finished ice cream. Skinless pistachios are lovely indeed, but they usually cost *a lot* more!

    Sara – You are too kind — I’ll be in touch! :)

    Gingerpale – The lemon in the limoncello works as a flavor enhancer only, you can’t really discern its own flavor. And yes, it’s the alcohol that helps with the texture, so the pistachio liqueur would work well here!

    Chris – Good suggestion, I’ll have to try making my own kulfi.

  • It’s the same for me! I always stand there, and think, will I do it? No. I’m the most predictable of all: I LOVE vanilla. Sometimes less is just more…

  • What a coincidence–I’ve been thinking of nothing but pistachio gelato lately, so much so that I absolutely needed something (anything) pistachio the other night and made instant pudding. A really poor substitute, but the gelateria that used to be in town closed over a year ago. I may have to solve that problem by making my own! Thanks for sharing this, Clotilde. I love your site!

  • What a great riff on the recipe.

    And thanks for being so exact and precise with the ingredients, too!
    ; )

  • Dipika

    Thank you for the pistachio gelato recipe – hands down my fave flavor too.

    Could you please tell me a source for good unsalted pistachios? It’s not a nut that’s very popular in the US, it appears. The only turkish pistachios I see online are salted.

  • David – Glad you approve, my friend. :)

    Dipika – If you have access to a Trader Joe’s store, they stock good raw pistachio nuts at a *very* reasonable price. Otherwise, I believe they can be found in bulk at your average natural food store.

  • Laura

    Thanks so much for posting this! I saw David’s version on his website and have been agonizing for two weeks now over how to make it without buying the costly pistachio butter online. I can’t wait to make this–and yay, no egg-custard!

  • Aiyana

    Oh wow– now I am dying to try, not only this one, but also the other exotic favorite flavors mentioned in the comments! If only they came with recipes…

    I will add my own favorites to the list– Ginger Ice Cream (available at many hand-made ice-creameries) and Grasshopper (made with creme de menthe, bien sur!). Actually, I adore all the odd little flavors that small shops come up with– rhubarb-strawberry, lemon meringue, and anything that contains dark chocolate and coconut.

    Clotilde, I must recommend you try the Margarita Ice Cream in Nigella’s “Forever Summer” collection. It really is divine on a hot day, and perfect for parties.

  • Oh yum….it looks like the perfect end to a really hot summer day.

  • Erin

    This could not be more perfect! Pistachio is my favorite ice cream/gelato but I am always disappointed when I buy it from a store. What’s even more perfect is I have limoncello in my hall closet that will be ready in just a few more days. Thanks Clotilde!

    Dipika- I bought some raw pistachio pieces at Trader Joes a few weeks back…a 1 pound bag was just under $7.

  • I always go for nutty flavours when it comes to ice cream – and pistachio clearly comes top of my list! I particulary like your idea of adding limoncello. I have often been using amaretto for my sweets, but will definitely try the limoncello option soon.

  • Last time I had pistacho ice cream I was a little child… Many years ago. Time to have it again!

  • Wouter

    Yoghurt (not too sweet, no sugar added) is one of my favourites too. I always (always!) have noisette (hazelnut) in my threesome. Coffee I like too, and good coconut (bad coconut tastes like sun-tan oil). I was once in Rome (one of the privileges of a classical school, travel and ‘learn’) and had Champagne icecream, wonderful.

    Supposedly there is a region of ice cream makers in the Italian Alps, where most of the ice cream makers in Holland come from. I was told they meet up in the winter and swap recipes. Though it seems highly unlikely to me, I really want to believe this story :)

  • Anna

    oh joy! pistachio gelato! I love the fact that it sounds so light and dare i believe it somewhat… healthy(!!)

  • This looks so wonderful – I will have to try it because I have a huge bag of (toasted) pistachios, so I will give it a try with those!

  • I have a personal bone to pick…that recipe looks so yummy that I want to eat my computer screen.

  • paola

    Best pistacho icecream in the world? In ROME, gelateria dei Gracchi, Via dei Gracchi, and of course in BRONTE (Catania, Sicily), the only large pistacho producer in Italy!

  • I absolutely love gelato! You’ve just convinced me that trip to my favourite gelato shoppe is in order, obrigada jajaja!

  • Helen

    If this duplicates the pistachio gelato my husband and I had at Les Baux de Provence on our honeymoon two years ago, I will be eternally grateful to you, Clothilde. We spent the next three weeks tasting pistachio gelato in every town but ever one that equaled Les Baux. Like you, I do make my own pistachio paste for cakes, etc., but can never get it as smooth as the commercial pastes. The only time it was a problem was when I tried to duplicate a pistachio creme brulee I had at the Getty museum cafe years ago. That dessert rivaled the gelato but requires a smooth texture.

  • My very first ice cream maker arrived in the mail 3 weeks ago, and I’ve only made about 2 batches so far (strawberries and nectarines). I’m trying to determine what to make next. I love pistachio ice cream and especially when it’s pistachio gelato! I will definitely add this recipe to my ice cream making queue! ^_^

  • This is a great post, and comes right in time for the holiday weekend. I’m going to give this one a try. Thank you! :)

  • Your recipe sounds delightful, and I plan to try it out this weekend. Thanks!

    I’d love to see your mother’s recipe for Creme Anglais, that sounds great, too.

    As for gelato flavors, I fell in love with Chestnut gelato in Italy, and can’t find it here anywhere. I guess I’ll have to figure out a recipe for it…

  • How wonderful it sounds! It’s my favorite flavor. The best one I have tasted so far was at a restaurant in Vancouver BC named Global. It was perfectly balanced. I’m going to have to try your recipe.

  • OK Clotilde, you are bringing me right back to very pleasant thoughts of Paris and ice cream at Berthillion! My daughter is allergic to eggs and I love this recipe. I am going to make this for her. Thank you so much for this beautiful site.

  • Thank you for the great links on this- such a educational blog post!

  • Kathryn

    Alexa, I can’t find a restaurant in Vancouver named Global – can you give me more information?

    As for the gelato – pistachio is one of my favorite flavors too. I had to put my own spin on it though, because the only thing better than gelato is gelato with tasty chunks hiding in it. I strained the mix to make it as smooth as possible, then added cooled, roughly chopped candied pistachios, a la the recipe below – delicious!


    * 1 tablespoon white sugar
    * 1 tablespoon hot water
    * 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (1/4 pound)
    * 1/4 cup turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw

    MAKE THE CANDIED PISTACHIOS: Raise the oven temperature to 325°. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet. In a medium bowl, stir the white sugar into the water until dissolved. Stir in the pistachios, then the turbinado sugar. Spread the coated nuts on the baking sheet in an even layer and bake for about 10 minutes, or until shiny. Let the candied nuts cool completely on the baking sheet, then break apart.

  • If it were up to me, I would only make vanilla, with real vanilla pods. Fortunately, my husband makes the ice cream, so we have variety.

    He does a pistachio, but it’s in a vanilla cream base. Because, what’s ice cream without a whole lot of dairy fat?

    I’ll keep this recipe on hand, should we ever need to cut back!

  • Jacinta

    Dear Clotilde, thank you for the ice-cream recipe! I made it on the weekend, even though it is winter here in Australia! It was delicious!!

  • Oh, two of my favorites: pistachios and gelato. I have never tried the two together, but I’ll have to whip up this recipe soon. I recently made both cappuccino gelato and pistachio shortbreads, so I obviously love both. Will have to try your recipe!

  • Travis

    I made two batches of this over the weekend, but couldn’t seem to get mine creamy or thin enough. Ended up too dry and thick. Excellent flavor, just not quite right texturally. I used simple syrup instead of agave, but didn’t think it would affect it that much. I’ll play with it again.

  • Thanks for giving me another reason to break out my ice cream maker. Pistachio is my standby favorite, but I’ve never attempted it at home.

  • Honestly..I’ve never had that ice cream before :)

  • andrea

    thank you for this recipe!!
    i cannot wait to try it–i know exactly what you mean by that moment of hesitation at the ice cream counter! every time i go to my favorite local gelateria, i mean to try new flavors, but i always, always choose pistachio as one of them!

  • Meg

    Dear Clotilde – would you perhaps take on mint ice cream? I am a big ice-cream-maker fan, but still have not found a decent recipe for my favourite!



  • Absolutely divine. I will have to try it. Pistachio is my gelato of choice although I often choose other ice cream flavors. Do you feel you need an ice cream maker?

  • It is delicious and I put some fresh mint leaves, for a stronger flavor.

  • Gorgeous gelato! Pistachio is one of my favourites, too, but I must say that I adore rum and raisin too. Maybe a home-made version would entice you?

  • Clotilde,

    Your writing is simply inspirational. I, like you, also find the combination of dark chocolate and pistachio (as well as hazelnut) irresistible. Thanks to you, I’ve found inspiration to start my own food blog!

  • I’m really into pistachios at the moment and used them recently in Umm Ali, the Middle Eastern delicacy.
    I love the way we all know they’re green but the pink/purple tinge is always a lovely surprise!

  • growitgreen

    I love gelato, I havent found a shop in my small town in S.C that makes it so I have to make it myself when I get a craving. I appreciate all of the recipes I can get my hands on.

  • Alex

    FYI, possibly the best pistachio gelato in the world can be had at a bar/restaurant in the piazza San Spirito in Florence. It’s located around the center point of the square. I get it with a scoop of their chocolate, also magnifico. I can’t even begin to describe how good it is…

  • Caleb Melchior

    I fell in love at first sight! Unfortunately, I live in a small town way out in the country and couldn’t find raw pistachios, so I tried them with roasted. Don’t!!!! Wait until you can find raw nuts – the roasted nuts turned into rather a nasty-ish burnt-split-pea-soup colored gelato. I can’t wait to make this the right way. (Texture was delightful, color and taste were off)

  • OH yes, yes, yes to chocolate, pistacio and ice-cream…(or gelato) Is there anything else worth living for culinarily speaking? Gonna try the dark chocolate sorbet…you are a wicked temptress!

  • Mmm! There’s nothing like homemade ice cream, and when it’s pistachio it’s better than ever! ::drool::
    Why not take it step further and turn in into a full on sundae? Over here at Kitchen Caravan we recently did a Fairuz Sundae, with pistachio ice cream, stewed cherried, and a chocolate tahini sauce. Your homemade recipe sounds like it would go perfectly with it! Come have a look!

  • Alice

    Hi there, Clotilde!Even though it’s cold(summer)in Vancouver, Canada,your gelato sounds lovely.Although my favourite flavour is cookies’n’cream(Oreo crumbles in vanilla ice cream.).

  • Nancy

    Even though I’m a bit late with my comment, if you like pistacchio ice cream, if you ever visit Milan in Italy you definitely have to stop by the best gelateria of the city (and there are many, so this definitely means something): Il massimo del gelato. They have many, many delicious flavours (including 6 different chocolate flavours, mmm) but their speciality is salted pistacchio made from real pistacchios from Sicily! Check out this site for more info.

  • Delicious recipe!
    We made it today.
    Love your adorable site.
    BTW, there is a terrific glass container w/ snap-on lid that is perfect for storing homemade gelato (Glasslock brand). We use the 8-cup rectangular one since we usually make 2-quarts.

  • My family voted:
    Next time we will add fewer pistachios to keep the whole family happy. It seemed a bit heavy to the teenagers.
    We served it together with your recipe of Sorbet Chocolat Noir (the hands down favorite of everyone who sampled them both).

  • Anna

    Just had pistachio gelato in Las Vegas. I LOVE IT! I am going to try your recipe. Haven’t found gelato in Ohio yet. Also how would I make this for a diabetic?? Thanks Anna

  • Clotilde, I made this ice cream this weekend and it was quite delicious! However, it was very different in consistency from what I know of traditional gelato–it barely melted and was super dense. More like a semi-frozen crunchy custard. Perhaps I didn’t grind the nuts finely enough? In any case, it was yum. I love pistachios!

  • Kasey – As you suggest, I suspect that the pistachios were perhaps not finely ground enough — you should get a mixture that’s very fine. As mentioned in the recipe, you can also opt to strain the custard to remove the chunks of pistachio, if you prefer it smooth.

  • Minerva

    Love this recipe, especially with the use of agave! Do you think I could make vanilla gelato by subbing the pistachios for vanilla bean, simmering the beans in half of the milk and making the slurry with the other half? I can’t seem to find a vanilla gelato recipe that doesn’t use egg.

  • Minerva – It’s definitely worth a try, but I would keep the milk proportion as described here (steep the vanilla in 1 3/4 C milk, making the slurry with the 1/4 C milk). And if you can lay your hands on Navan (the vanilla version of Grand Marnier) it would be a good substitute for the limoncello. Rum would work, too.

  • ErinK

    Hi, I tried this recipe and did not like the outcome. It was too thick immediately, when I added the cornstarch. It froze too hard, even with the addition of limoncello. The taste was very bland and dull. I’m not a huge fan of sugar but this recipe needs something more to make the flavor “pop”. I love your site and recipes otherwise! :)

    • Sorry this didn’t turn out for you. The flavor of this is highly dependent on the pistachios you use, of course. What kind did you use?

      • ErinK

        Thanks for your reply! I used Trader Joe’s raw unsalted pistachios.

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