If you are a pistachio lover like me, this homemade pistachio cream is going to knock your socks off. Rich, creamy, and full of intense flavor, this is the ultimate addition to any pistachio dessert.
Pistachio Cream is a decadent filling used in many different desserts. It is basically pastry cream mixed with pistachio paste - so all the flavor comes from real pistachios. It's great to pipe into things like donuts and eclairs, or on top of things like layer cakes and tarts.
I have used it to make an incredible pistachio version of my Custard Donuts, as well as an alternative filling for my Pistachio Dacquoise Cake - a showstopping dessert for pistachio fans on a special occasion!
Two Types of Pistachio Cream
There are actually two kinds of pistachio cream - they are quite different things but share the same name, and many people get confused between the two.
The first is a pistachio pastry cream - a decadent filling that is basically custard mixed with pistachio butter, this is the one often used in pastries and desserts.
The second is more of a pistachio spread, it is often sold in jars and used almost like a pistachio Nutella. It is also great for filling chocolates.
I will actually tell you how to make both kinds of pistachio cream in this post. The main focus is the pistachio pastry cream, as this is the most widely used. But for those looking for the pistachio cream spread - I will include a section on how to make that down below.
It takes relatively simple ingredients to make pistachio cream. It's really just custard with pistachio butter.
- Milk - I strongly recommend using whole milk for this recipe as you'll need the fat content to make a thick, creamy custard.
- Egg Yolks - We only need the yolks, not the egg whites for this recipe. But you can save the whites to make something else.
- Sugar - Use extra fine white sugar (caster sugar in the UK).
- Vanilla - You can use vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
- Cornstarch - This will help to thicken the pastry cream and prevent it from being too runny to hold its shape in your desserts.
- Flour - Serves the same purpose as the cornstarch. If you want to you can leave it out and add a little extra cornstarch.
- Butter - You can make this recipe without the butter but it makes it extra creamy and flavorful.
- Pistachio Paste - You can either buy pistachio paste online or make your own using just pistachios and a food processor. Read my blog post on how to make your own pistachio paste.
- Salt - The amount of salt you use is up to personal preference, but I feel like it really helps to bring out that amazing pistachio flavor!
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Pistachio Cream
First, we will make a standard pastry cream, then we will add the pistachio paste at the end to transform it into a delicious pistachio cream.
- Start by adding the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl along with the cornstarch, flour, and salt. Whisk together into a thick paste and set aside.
- Pour the milk, sugar, and vanilla into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the milk starts to get warm, pour a small amount of it into the egg yolk mixture and whisk it in. Then drizzle the rest of the milk in slowly, whisking as you go, until it is all added. It's important to do this slowly so the heat from the milk doesn't scramble the eggs.
- Note, if you can't pour with one hand and whisk with the other, just add a little bit at a time and whisk in between.
- Once all the milk has been added, pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and continue to heat, whisking constantly. You don't want to whisk vigorously - we're not trying to incorporate air. You just want to whisk enough to keep the mixture constantly moving so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Let it come to a boil, once thick bubbles are bursting on top of the surface, boil for one minute. The custard should be thickened enough that you can coat the back of a wooden spoon and draw a line in it.
- Remove from the heat and pass the pastry cream through a sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps.
- Add the butter, one small chunk at a time, whisking until incorporated before adding the next chunk.
- Once all the butter is added, add the pistachio paste and mix it in completely.
- Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is touching the surface of the pistachio pastry cream, and let cool for at least two hours.
- If not using it the same day, put it in the fridge once it comes to room temperature, until ready to use.
How to Use Pistachio Cream
There are many delicious ways to enjoy pistachio cream - it is typically used as a filling or addition to other desserts, rather than a standalone dessert. You can basically use it anywhere you see pastry cream or custard being used, to make an indulgent pistachio version.
If you are piping it into something like an eclair, cream puff, or donut, remove it from the fridge and give it a little whisk before transferring it to a piping bag fitted with a long thin nozzle. Squeeze into the desserts, just as you would pastry cream.
For a tart or cake, you can pipe or spread the pastry cream wherever it needs to go and smooth it out with a palette knife.
You can also mix the pistachio cream with other ingredients such as whipped cream for a lighter topping or filling, or you could add it to whipped butter to make a pistachio German buttercream.
Another fun way to use pistachio cream is to turn it into a homemade pistachio gelato - my favorite flavor of ice cream!
Here are some recipes that would go great with pistachio cream.
What is Pistachio Paste?
Pistachio paste, also known as pistachio butter, is a thick paste made from 100% pistachios. I use it in all of my pistachio-based recipes as it provides an intense pistachio flavor and doesn't require any additional artificial flavorings or weird ingredients.
A lot of 'pistachio' recipes use instant pudding mix or jello powder to get the pistachio flavor - I much prefer to get my flavor from real ingredients for a more authentic and tastier result.
You can buy pistachio paste ready-made, either online or in specialty food stores. It comes in a jar and may be called pistachio paste or pistachio butter. Just make sure you look at the ingredients and check that it is made from just pistachios, not a bunch of extra ingredients. Also, don't get it confused with the pistachio spread I mentioned earlier. Pistachio cream spread is absolutely delicious, but it won't work in place of pistachio paste in a recipe.
If you can't find pistachio paste or want to save a bit of money (it's quite expensive to buy ready-made), you can easily make it yourself at home with just a bag of pistachios and a food processor.
You simply roast the pistachios in the oven to release their natural oils (so you don't have to add any additional olive oil or anything), then blitz them in the food processor. At first, it will make ground pistachios, but if you keep going they will start to get moist and clump together. Keep going until you have a lovely smooth paste.
For more detailed instructions on how to do this, check out my post on How to make your own pistachio paste.
Pro Tip: I much prefer to buy shelled pistachios, this saves time and will save your fingers as you won't have to spend forever picking the shells off before beginning to bake!
Depending on how many pistachios you start out with, I like to make a whole jar of pistachio paste at once. I'll use what I need for the recipe and then keep the rest, either to spread on toast with some sea salt or to use in one of my other pistachio recipes.
How to Make Pistachio Spread
As I mentioned above, there are two different things that get called 'pistachio cream'. The first is the pistachio pastry cream we just talked about. But the other is a kind of pistachio nutty spread that tastes a little bit like pistachio Nutella.
As promised, I'm going to tell you how to make that one too. It's a much faster, easier process than the pistachio pastry cream, but it serves a completely different purpose and wouldn't work for the desserts and fillings the pistachio pastry cream is intended for.
It is super sweet and thick and has a much more solid consistency than the pistachio pastry cream.
- 50g White Chocolate
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 3 tablespoon Pistachio Paste
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 pinch of Salt
- Melt the white chocolate and butter in the microwave in 30-second increments until totally melted, stirring in between. (Or if you don't have a microwave, melt in a heatproof bowl over a medium-sized pot of water on low heat).
- Add the pistachio paste, vanilla, and salt and mix together until everything is combined into a nice creamy paste.
- Put it into a jar immediately as it will solidify more as it cools.
That's it! Super easy! You can spread this on toast or use it to fill chocolates.
- Different Nuts - You could theoretically make this pistachio cream recipe with any kind of nut butter you like, just replace the pistachio butter for an equal amount of almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter or whatever kind of nut butter you like.
- No Butter - If you want to, you can leave the butter out of the pastry cream to make a slightly lighter version of the recipe. Not it may be a little runnier when set, so cook it for an extra 30 seconds if you're going to do this.
- Extra Flavor - If you want to really punch up the flavor, you can add a few drops of almond extract or almond emulsion to your pistachio cream at the same time as the vanilla extract. Almond flavor really compliments the pistachio flavor and helps to show it off a little!
Store your pistachio cream in the fridge until it is ready to use. Make sure it is covered in plastic wrap that touches the surface of the pistachio cream - this will prevent it from forming a skin.
I actually find pistachio cream, or any pastry cream in fact, is better when made 24 hours in advance so the flavor has a chance to develop some more. You can store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Looking for more pistachio dessert recipes? Try these:
- 2 ½ cups Whole Milk 600g
- 5 Egg Yolks
- ½ cup White Sugar 100g
- 6 tablespoon Butter 85g
- 2 teaspoon Vanilla
- 3 tablespoon Corn starch
- 1.5 tablespoon All purpose Flour
- ½ cup Pistachio Paste 8 tbsp
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- Put the egg yolks, corn starch, flour, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine into a thick paste. Set aside.5 Egg Yolks, 3 tablespoon Corn starch, 1.5 tablespoon All purpose Flour, ½ teaspoon Salt
- Pour the milk, sugar, and vanilla into a saucepan and heat on medium heat.2 ½ cups Whole Milk, 2 teaspoon Vanilla, ½ cup White Sugar
- When the milk mixture begins to get warm, drizzle a small amount of it into the egg yolk mixture and whisk it in. Then slowly drizzle the remaining milk into the egg yolks, whisking as you go. It's important to do this gradually so you don't scramble the eggs with the heat.
- Once all the milk is incorporated with the egg yolks, pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat.
- Keep heating the mixture, stirring constantly until it stars to boil and thicken. Once you see thick bubbles bursting on the surface, boil for about a minute. The pastry cream should be thickened enough that you can coat the back of a spoon and draw a line in it. (See pictures above for guidance).
- Remove from the heat and pass the pastry cream through a sieve to remove any lumps.
- Add the butter, one small chunk at a time, making sure it is completely melted and incorporated before adding the next chunk.6 tablespoon Butter
- Add the pistachio paste and mix it in well.½ cup Pistachio Paste
- Cover the pistachio pastry cream with plastic wrap, making sure it touches the surface of the pastry cream. Let cool for at least two hours before using. If making ahead of time, store in the fridge until ready to use.