Italian Pistachio Cookies

A platter of Italian pistachio cookies.

These Italian Pistachio Cookies aren’t like other pistachio cookie recipes. There’s no pudding mix or artificial anything. These cookies are crispy outside, chewy inside & naturally dairy and gluten-free.

A tray of Italian pistachio cookies.

Look up pistachio cookies online, and you’ll find an odd assortment of unnaturally green sweets made with pudding mix, food coloring and other fak-ish ingredients. Not here.

These Italian cookies have a simple list of ingredients with nothing artificial. They are quick and easy to make, and because their main ingredient is whole pistachios, just one or two will satisfy your sweet tooth.

I found this recipe in a little book called Biscotti, recipes from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome {affiliate link}. They described them as “tender and delicious… and brilliantly green inside”. (More on that later.)

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Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • They’re naturally gluten-free (no flour) and dairy-free (no milk products).
  • They’re festive enough for holidays. You can make these Italian cookies for Easter or Christmas.
  • This recipe can be doubled, halved or quartered, depending on how many people you’re serving.
  • They aren’t overly sweet and taste like pistachios because that’s the main ingredient.


Ingredients for the pistachio cookies.
  • Raw Pistachios – the greener in color, the better.
  • Granulated Sugar – to blend with the nuts to create the ground pistachio meal.
  • Honey – Helps to sweeten and bind the pistachio cookie dough.
  • Vanilla Extract – for flavoring, I use Penzey’s Double Strength Vanilla Extract.
  • Lemon Zest – use only the zest and none of the bitter white pith for the best citrus flavor.
  • Egg Whites – I use the leftover egg yolks in my morning scramble or frittata for a richer flavor.
  • Powdered Sugar – to coat the pistachio cookies for a crinkly appearance.

Step-by-step directions:

Mixing nuts and sugar in a food processor.
  1. Combine the pistachios and half of the granulated sugar in a food processor.
Crushed pistachio meal.

2. Pulse until the nuts and sugar are finely ground.

Adding ingredients to the ground nuts.

3. Transfer the nut mixture to a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, honey and vanilla and honey and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly combined.

Adding egg whites.

4. Slowly add the egg whites and mix until the “dough” is well blended.

Adding extra sugar.

5. Add the remaining sugar.

mixing the cookie dough.

6. Mix the pistachio cookie dough gently; it will be soft, but not sticky.

rolling balls of pistachio cookies in powdered sugar.

7. Measure out balls of the cookie dough with a tablespoon and roll them into balls. Then drop the rounds in a bowl of powdered sugar to coat them.

Pressing a nut into the top of the cookies.

Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and press a whole pistachio into the tops of each cookie. Bake in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are golden.

Baked pistachio cookies on a sheet pan.

Before we get to the pistachio cookie recipe, let’s talk about the nuts.


  • There are different types of pistachios. Iran and the Middle East have the widest variety of pistachio nuts, from the Iranian Round (Fandoghi), Jumbo (Kalleqouchi) and Long (Arbari, Badami) to the U.S.-produced Kerman variety. The greener the nuts, the greener your pistachio cookies will be.
  • Use raw nuts, not roasted, salted ones. This will make a difference in the texture and flavor of the cookies. I found them at Whole Foods.
A closeup of the Italian pistachio cookies.

Storage and Freezing:


These pistachio cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.


These cookies are best eaten within a few days after making them.

I don’t advise freezing them after they’ve been baked because the powdered sugar wouldn’t do well in the freezer because of the moisture.

However, you could freeze the unbaked balls of dough on a cookie sheet, then transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag and keep them frozen for up to two months.

Defrost the cookies, roll them in powdered sugar and bake as directed.

Taking a bite out of the cookie.

What do the pistachio cookies taste like?

The egg white acts as the binder for these cookies and gives the interior a substantial, but soft, chew. These Italian pistachio cookies are nutty with a lovely lemon citrus finish. They’re not overly sweet, either, despite having two types of sugar AND honey.

You can see that the coloring of these cookies is blonde with hints of green when I used the California pistachios. The crackly powdered sugar finish is reminiscent of crinkle cookies, but they don’t spread or puff because there’s no butter or leavening in the dough.

We shared this batch of pistachio cookies with friends and were immediately inundated with requests for the recipe.

Serving the pistachio cookies on a bed of greenery.


Do pistachios go bad?

Yes, they can. It’s the oils present in the nuts that can turn rancid and have a stale, off-putting flavor if they’re kept for too long. To prevent this, I recommend storing pistachios (and other nuts) in the freezer.

Can I use another type of nut in these cookies?

I haven’t tried it, however, I’ve been thinking about it. How good would it be with almonds and maybe some almond extract, or maple-y pecans with brown sugar and maple extract?

Taking a bite of the Italian pistachio cookie.

More nutty cookies and bars you’ll love:

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A plate filled with pistachio cookies.
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5 from 6 votes

Italian Pistachio Cookies

These lightly sweet, chewy pistachio cookies have a feint citrusy flavor from a little bit of lemon zest. They are rubbly and irresistible. These cookies are naturally gluten free, dairy free and are quick and easy to make too.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword christmas cookies, pistachios
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 50 cookies


  • Food Processor


  • 4 ⅓ cups raw pistachios
  • 1 cup granulated sugar divided
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of half a lemon about 1 1/2 teaspoons, finely grated zest
  • ounces egg whites from about 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 50 whole raw pistachios for garnishing


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.


  • Add the pistachios and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground.
  • Transfer the ground nuts to a large bowl and add the honey, vanilla and lemon zest. Use a rubber spatula to mix until the ingredients are evenly combined.
  • Slowly add the egg whites to the nut mixture and continue to blend with the spatula until the dough is well combined.
  • Add the remaining sugar and mix gently. The dough will be soft, but not sticky.
  • Use a 1 tablespoon measure to scoop out even portions of pistachio cookie dough and roll them into balls.
  • Fill a shallow bowl with the powdered sugar and roll the pistachio cookies in the sugar to coat. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet set about 1-2 inches apart.
  • Press a whole pistachio into the tops of each of the cookies and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are golden.
  • Keep cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.


Calories: 93kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 121mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg

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  1. Can these be made ahead of time and frozen? I’m working on a cookie table for my daughter’s wedding in 4 months, and I’m trying to get as much done as I can now. Thanks!

    1. The only thing I’d be concerned about is the powdered sugar coating, which likely wouldn’t hold up to freezing and defrosting.

  2. 5 stars
    I made one fourth of this recipe, and wow, these are dreamy. On top of a pinch of lemon zest, I added 1/2 tsp of orange extract and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract to give it that punchy flavor. I also did not bother with the powdered sugar, and wow, I am glad — these cookies are extremely sweet, almost like baklava, just with the regular granular sugar. There’s no need to add powdered sugar, too.

  3. Rusty H Briggs says:

    These cookies look ab fab, and I can’t wait to bake mine! The egg measurement: fluid ounces, yes? Or maybe it’s weight ounces? Many thanks for what looks to be the pistachio amaretti — my Platonic cookie ideal!

  4. Karen Dioguardi says:

    Just question the amount of lemon zest from one half of a lemon 1 1/2 tablespoons?

  5. 5 stars
    I’m heading to the pistachio bin at Whole Foods! I like a simple cookie and these are so pretty and unusual . Can’t wait to try them.

  6. 5 stars
    These look amazing! I’m sure they taste amazing too!