Did you love pistachio pudding as a child? I sure did! All those alien-looking green treats (cookie bars with a pistachio pudding layer, pistachio pudding jello...) -- yes, please! Then again, I've always been a huge fan of colorful happy-looking food -- colors make me happy :). So when I got requests for a healthier pistachio pudding on the blog, I was more than happy to comply...
Since January I've gotten multiple reader requests for a pistachio pudding that would fit a gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar-free diet -- something people said they've been missing a lot and didn't think they'd ever be able to eat again. Here's something one person said when reminiscing about this favorite childhood treat during a January giveaway I ran:
My absolute favorite childhood dessert was my grandmother’s pistachio pudding dessert. As a kid, I only knew it as the Yummy Green Dessert. Pistachio pudding sandwiched between a bottom layer of yummy cake like crust and topped with whipped cream. I’m sure everything about this dessert was artificial, but it sure was good. ~ Dru
One day, while working on a pistachio ice cream recipe I found just the perfect way to make a delicious vegan pistachio pudding that is far from the artificial green goopy goodness we all remember from our childhood. I even one-upped the requests and made this whole foods plant-based recipe paleo, raw, oil-free, and filled with veggies and greens -- but don't worry, you won't taste them one bit!
This recipe makes a lovely breakfast, dessert, or just a little snack. It's always nice to reach for a ready made jar of this pudding from the freezer and enjoy a little bright-colored, deep-flavored pick-me-up treat. And it's a great recipe for the universal celebration day of green goodness (St. Patrick's Day).
A few tips on this pistachio pudding before we begin
- This recipe only makes 1-2 servings (about a cup in total), but you can easily multiply it as needed if you're making desserts with pistachio pudding (such as the one described by Dru above). If you have a large blender (like the newer low profile Vitamix models, for instance), you'll definitely need to multiply it (by 4) to make sure it blends properly.
- And a quick note about the rose water in this recipe. It's optional. To me pistachios + rose water is a no-brainer combination. Deeeelicious. If you think that's too exotic, skip. BUT, if you do use it, please make sure that the brand you use is just rose water, and not one with rose oil in it. The one I use (linked to in the recipe) is a pretty good brand, and fairly inexpensive. Some other brands add a myriad of other ingredients, some of which are rose oil and I find the flavor of those to be incredibly strong and soapy — not a flavor I want to taste in dessert :P … True rose water is delicate and mildly-flavored, and adds a beautiful accent to baked goods when used in the correct amount.
And if you dig the happy pistachio vibes, you might enjoy these gluten-free vegan (and mostly paleo) recipes as well:
Creamy, vegan pistachio pudding made without dairy or refined sugar. Also paleo, oil-free, and gluten-free.
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and de-pitted
- ¼ cup pistachios, pre-soaked and strained*
- 5 tbsp maple syrup
- 5 tbsp water or coconut water
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp rose water (optional**)
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ⅛ tsp salt
- Optional: 1 handful of baby spinach leaves***
- more pistachios + salt flakes
- Blend all pudding ingredients in a high power blender into a smooth consistency. Stop and scrape down the sides as needed (or use your Vitamix tamper if necessary).
- Once the mixture is smooth, transfer the pudding into small jars or glasses (I used 2 of the jars pictured above the recipe), cover and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour to chill. When ready to eat, garnish with extra pistachios (chopped or whole) and sprinkle with some coarse salt flakes, and enjoy!****
*To pre-soak nuts: place in a glass bowl, cover with water, and leave to soak for 4 hours (or overnight in the fridge). Then strain and discard the water. For a quick pre-soak, cover with boiled water and soak for 15 mins, then strain and discard water. (Note: this technique doesn’t preserve the nutrition of the recipe as well as the traditional soaking technique above). Additional Note: the purpose of soaking the nuts is to re-hydrate them and plump them up for blending into a smooth, cheesecake-like consistency. Proper soaking techniques also maximize nutrition and digestibility. If you’re interested in learning more about nut soaking and other dessert prep tips and tricks, I delve into these subjects in detail in my book Unconventional Treats.
**See notes above recipe regarding the correct rose water to use.
***Add the spinach in at the end if you want to adjust the color if your pistachios are not very vibrant -- I did not need to add any to the pudding in the pictures, but I had some gorgeous-looking pistachios to work with. Can also throw them in if you love spinach, of course.
****Storage: Because this recipe uses avocado, it'll tend to brown up after a day or so out of the freezer (even if kept refrigerated). To avoid that, I recommend keeping the pudding frozen until ready to consume and take it out of the freezer and let sit at room temp for a bit to let it thaw out a little.