What is pistachio paste?

Pistachios are widely grown in Iran.

Pistachio paste is a smooth paste made from pistachio nuts. The paste is used to flavor pistachio puddings, custards, pies, macarons, ice cream, cakes, cookies and other pistachio dessert dishes. It can also be used to flavor other tasty foods. Although cooking with pistachios has become quite common in the western part of the world, it originated in central parts of Asia.

Most pistachio paste recipes call for honey.

Pistachios have been widely cultivated for centuries in the desert regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Jordan, and pistachio nuts are known to be very popular among the Mughals, Assyrians and Persian royal families; because of this, pistachios are often described as shahi or “royal”. At the time of the Romans, traders introduced pistachios to the western world and pistachio trees began to be cultivated in many European countries. Pistachio cultivation began on the American mainland in California in the 1850s and accelerated in the 1970s when relations between the US and Iran, the main pistachio exporter to the US, soured. Pistachio cultivation has also been carried out quite successfully in the dry regions of Australia and China.

There are over a hundred varieties of pistachios, and this can make a big difference in size, color, and flavor. The nuts are harvested when ripe, shelled, air-dried and selected and processed for market. Pistachio nuts are excellent to eat as they are rich in carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. Since harvesting and processing these nuts is very manual labor, however, pistachios and their products can be quite expensive.

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Pistachio paste can be purchased ready-made or made with raw pistachios. To make pistachio paste, raw pistachios are blanched, roasted and crushed. The other ingredients used to make the paste include sugar, honey, water, almonds and butter. Green food coloring can be used if a bright green paste is needed. Sugar and honey may be omitted in some cases, especially if the paste is used in dishes other than desserts.

When the paste is ready, it is sometimes mixed with butter to give it a smoother texture. Pistachio paste should be stored without adding butter, preferably in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If kept in an airtight container in the fridge, pistachio paste can last up to a month.

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