Love and Olive Oil

The Best Pistachio Extract: a Taste Test

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Pistachio is a flavor we all love and know, or, at least, we think we know—because, in reality, pistachio is one of the hardest flavors to define, describe, and recreate in extract form.

After my favorite pistachio extract was discontinued, I started looking for a suitable replacement. A task which turned out to be far more difficult than I anticipated. I ended up buying nine (yes, 9!) different pistachio extracts and decided to pit them against each other to find out which one had the best pistachio flavor.

Nine bottles of different brands of pistachio extract, flat lay on a marble background with a bowl of pistachios.

Unlike vanilla, lemon, or even almond which is a very clear and defined flavor (we all know what vanilla tastes like, and while various vanilla extracts can vary in quality and intensity, they still taste like vanilla), pistachio is much more subjective (I mean, be honest, how you would describe pistachio flavor?)

The prevalence of fake pistachio flavor has further skewed our perception of what pistachio actually tastes like, which in reality is mildly sweet, nutty and earthy, and sometimes even a bit piney, woody or herbaceous depending on the freshness and variety. Toasting the nuts changes the flavor profile entirely: toasted pistachios will be less bitter and grassy-tasting, and more buttery and toasty than their raw counterparts.

Did you know: pistachios are from the same botanical family as mangoes and cashews?

Because the natural flavor of pistachios is so mild and easily overpowered by other ingredients like chocolate and butter, I like to add a bit of pistachio extract to any pistachio-flavored treats or desserts to play up the pistachio flavor.

However, I’ve found that pistachio extracts vary wildly in terms of their flavor notes and overall pistachio-ness. It is very hard (well-nigh impossible) to find a pistachio extract that tastes like actual pistachios.

The nine brands we tried were all over the board. No two tasted remotely alike. From orange to almond to marshmallow to cherry, these extracts tasted like pretty much everything except pistachio.

I do think in most cases the pistachio extract does enhance the natural pistachio flavor in a recipe (assuming your recipe actually has pistachios in it in the form of whole/chopped nuts, pistachio flour or pistachio butter). So even if the extract itself doesn’t taste exactly like real pistachios, it will still improve the final product, so it’s definitely worth using in that regard.

Based on the flavor notes we detected in many of these extracts, you could probably also get away with using vanilla extract mixed with almond extract and get similar results. Do with that information what you will.

Disclaimer: I was gifted some of these products from the respective brands, but purchased all the others. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Prices are shown as of June 2023 and may be subject to change.