Italian Pistachio Cookies

A platter of Italian pistachio cookies.

These Italian Pistachio Cookies aren’t like other pistachio cookie recipes. These festive nutty cookies are crispy outside, chewy inside & naturally dairy and gluten free. Skip the pudding mix and flour for these all natural green hued treats. Perfect for the holidays.

pistachios, sugar, honey, egg, and lemon.

These pistachio cookies contain real pistachios

Look up pistachio cookies on the internet and you’ll find an odd assortment of unnaturally green sweets made with pudding mix, food coloring and other fak-ish ingredients.

What makes these Italian pistachio cookies different, is that they’re made with real pistachios and not much else. 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.)

…And Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet Magazine, tweeted about them after tasting one on her visit to AAR in the summer of 2009.

Newsletter Signup
Join our community of food lovers!

Get my latest recipes, helpful kitchen tips and more good things each week in your inbox.

My tasters positively cooed about their crackly shell and moist, chewy interior that’s very pistachio forward — in other words, LEGIT.

Ingredients you’ll need for natural Italian Pistachio Cookies

  • Raw Pistachios
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Honey
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Lemon Zest
  • Egg Whites
  • Powdered Sugar
grinding the pistachios and sugar in a food processor.

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

Where do pistachios come from?

Iran is the top producer of pistachios, along with other Middle Eastern countries, like Turkey. Domestically, pistachio nuts are produced in the San Joaquin Valley in California, high dessert of New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, with 98% of the annual yield grown in California.

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 secret to naturally green pistachio cookies

For these pistachio cookies, the greener the nut you can get, the greener your cookies will be. Though the specific type of nut wasn’t detailed in the cookbook recipe, I suspect it to be the Iranian pistachio green kernel that gave their cookies a vibrant green hue.

I couldn’t find this variety in any of my local markets, and ended up using California pistachios, but if you want a brilliant green color for your cookies, plan ahead and order these online (not an affiliate link).

blending the egg whites sugar and honey with the ground nuts.

The most difficult part about making these cookies is simply sourcing the pistachios. You’re looking for raw pistachios and most of what we find in our supermarkets are already salted and roasted.

I’m not saying you COULDN’T use the cooked variety, but the recipe specified RAW, and that’s what I did. I found mine at Whole Foods, but next time, I’m ordering the super green raw pistachio kernels, I mentioned above.

How to make Italian pistachio cookies

  1. In a food processor, pulse the raw pistachios with half of the sugar until you have a fine grind.
  2. Combine the ground nuts in a large bowl with honey, vanilla extract and lemon zest and mix well.
  3. Stir in the egg whites and combine evenly, then add the remainder of the granulated sugar and mix well.
  4. Scoop the pistachio cookie dough with a tablespoon and roll into 1″ balls. Coat them in powdered sugar.
  5. Transfer the cookies to a cookie sheet and press a whole pistachio into the center.
  6. Bake.
coating pistachio cookie in powdered sugar.

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 leaveners in the dough.

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

coating the pistachio cookies with sugar and garnishing with a whole nut.
Can I use ROASTED pistachios for this cookie recipe?

As I mentioned above, the recipe specifically called for raw pistachios, but you probably could use roasted ones. I imagine the cookies might be a bit crunchier if you’re using previously cooked nuts.

Can I use another type of nut in these cookies?

Again, I haven’t tried this, 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? Stay tuned. They may be coming to the blog.

How long will Italian pistachio cookies last?

The cookbook says two weeks, but realistically, I’d stick with one week, tops. And, come on — they’re cookies. They won’t last two days if everyone knows about them.

How should I store pistachio cookies?

At room temperature in an airtight container.

Can I freeze the cookies?

I’d be hesitant to freeze already baked pistachio cookies because the powdered sugar coating would likely become denuded.

However, you could roll the cookies into balls and freeze them on a cookie sheet, then transfer the frozen balls to a zip top freezer bag and keep them frozen for up to two months.

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

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 (or other types of nuts) in the freezer.

The cookies before and after baking. They get more crinkled and golden after baking.

About pistachios

Ever wonder why pistachios can be expensive? It’s because they can only be grown in a few places and even then, are a pretty particular tree.

They are dessert plants, and can survive in poor soil and weather conditions, provided that there is adequate drainage for their roots.

They require cool winters and long hot summers with low humidity and even then, it takes a long time for pistachio trees to mature (15-20 years to reach peak production) and only the female trees produce nuts.

Further, the yield is relatively small with one tree producing only about 40 pounds of nuts.

Serving the pistachio cookies on a bed of greenery.

For the reasons listed above, pistachio nuts can be a bit pricey and to get the best quality Iranian nuts, you’ll pay a premium.

Try a small batch first

That said, I think it’s worth a splurge for the holidays — but if you want to try the Italian pistachio cookies before making a big investment, cut the recipe in half or even quarter it.

Breakdowns for half and quarter measurements to try a smaller batch of pistachio cookies:

Raw Pistachios2 cups + 2 1/2 tablespoons1 cup + 1 1/4 tablespoons
Granulated Sugar1/2 cup1/4 cup
Vanilla1/2 teaspoon1/4 teaspoon
Honey1 1/2 teaspoons3/4 teaspoon
Lemon Zest2 1/4 teaspoons1 1/8 teaspoons
Egg Whites1.75 ouncesscant 1 ounce or about 30 ml
Powdered Sugar1/2 cup1/4 cup
Whole Pistachios ~26 or enough for 1 nut to each cookie~13 or enough for 1 nut to each cookie
Taking a bite of the Italian pistachio cookie.

More nutty cookies and bars you’ll love:

Tried this recipe? Leave a rating and review.

Your comments and shares are invaluable to me and the thousands of readers who use this site daily. If you've made the recipe, leave a star rating and review. We want to hear how you liked it.

We'd love it if you shared the recipe with your friends on social media!

A plate filled with pistachio cookies.
Print Pin
5 from 5 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

Pin “Italian Pistachio Cookies” for later!

a pin to save for later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  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!