Hitting the jackpot: Pistachio Shortbread

Welcome back to Jeopardy, folks. Our Final Jeopardy category is…

The Emerald Isle.

And the Final Jeopardy answer is…

Sweet and green.

Remember to write that answer in the form of a question.


Time’s up, contestants. Let’s see what you’ve come up with.

Susan, what’s your answer?

What do Irish cows think when they eat shamrocks?

No, Susan, I’m sorry… Your wager was $12,100, which puts you at $100.


Mike, how about you?

What do they call a hybrid Porsche Boxster in Dublin?


Well, no, Mike. Your wager is $500, so you remain in second place, behind our champion, Tracy.

And Tracy’s answer is…

What do you bake to bring to the office and share with your friends on St. Patrick’s Day?

Absolutely right, Tracy! You remain our champion, with a 4-day total of $48,700.

(Wild applause; Alex schmoozes with contestants; fade to commercial…)

Sweet and green, indeed. That means lime. Or… kiwi? Mint? Green apple. Grapes. Honeydew…

It’s fairly easy to think of sweet green flavors, but not many of them translate well to cookies, which in my opinion are the #1 thing you should bring to the office on St. Patrick’s Day.

I mean, grape cookies? Nah.

For me, there are only two types of green cookies that’re worth heating the oven: lime, and pistachio.

Our Luscious Lime Cookies live up to their billing, but they’re not green. Unless you add food coloring.

Which leaves us with pistachio. And Pistachio Shortbread, a tasty, “sweet and green” treat you can easily throw together on St. Pat’s Eve, after the kids are in bed.



Let’s bake.


While these cookies have mild-to-medium pistachio flavor, pistachio-lovers may want to up the ante with this extra-strong pistachio flavor.


And here’s where the cookies get their green color, and mild pistachio flavor: instant (not sugar-free) pistachio pudding mix. For best effect, select Jell-O brand. I’ve found store brands don’t add nearly as much color.


Our best-selling classic nut grinder is the perfect tool for chopping pistachios to exactly the right size for this recipe.


Just fill with nuts, turn the handle, and spill out a pile of chopped nuts. And hey, it’s only $9.95; you can’t go wrong!

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two round 8” or 9” round cake pans. If you worry about the shortbread possibly sticking in your particular pans, line them with parchment, and grease the parchment.


Place the following in a bowl:

1 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 box (3.4 ounces) instant pistachio pudding mix, Jell-O preferred for best color
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pistachio flavor, optional


Beat till smooth.


Add 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. Beat till well combined. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating till it comes together. If it absolutely won’t come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough.


Divide the dough in half. A scale makes this easy. 604g of dough in the bowl…


…becomes 302g of dough in each pan.


Smooth the surface of the dough with your fingers, or with a pastry roller.

Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes.


Sprinkle 1/3 cup chopped pistachios into each pan.


Spread to cover the surface of the dough, pressing down gently.


Bake the shortbread until it’s golden brown around the edges, about 35 to 40 minutes.


Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface. I always use a piece of parchment, so I can easily collect any fallen nuts and quickly press them back onto the shortbread, while it’s still warm.


See the “corrugations” in the shortbread? That’s from our USA Pans cake pan. Its base is ridged, promoting air circulation and a better bottom crust. Works like a charm!


Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges.


Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it’s cool, it won’t cut easily.


Looking good. Tasting good, too. I know, you can’t resist; go ahead, enjoy a warm wedge.


Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool. Or let them cool right on the parchment, if you’ve used it.


What’s the difference between baking these shortbreads in an 8” pan (bottom cookie), vs. a 9” pan (top cookie)? About 1/8″ in height.

Surprisingly, they bake in the same amount of time; and you really don’t need to increase the amount of nuts on the top of the 9”, vs. the 8”. The 8” pan will yield just slightly smaller, slightly taller, slightly softer shortbreads.


Now THAT’S a green cookie I can really enjoy!


Speaking of green – look what I found beside my south foundation on the last day of February. Hope springs eternal, as do daffodils…

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Pistachio Shortbread.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. tofugirl

    Those are really pretty looking! I like how pale the green is. Another option for naturally green cookies is green tea shortbread! Although that doesn’t seem to fit the theme of St. Patrick’s Day very well…

    Does the green tea really turn the shortbread green? Hey, tea itself (albeit black) is VERY Irish… PJH

  2. Esther

    I want to try this but I haven’t seen any pistachio pudding in the supermarkets. Do you have any suggestions for a substitute? The only Jell-O pudding flavors I see in the supermarket are Banana Cream and Chocolate. Will the Banana do if I add green food coloring? I know, I know… it will taste like banana. But I’m out of ideas. Help anyone?

    Esther, try vanilla instant pudding, green food color, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and the the pistachios on top – that’s what I’d do. And if your market ONLY has banana cream and chocolate – that’s pretty sad, with all the flavors Jell-O makes. Could you possibly try another store? PJH

  3. Kathleen

    I am definetly trying these. I love pistachio and it is a flavor and ingredient that is so under utilized in baking. My other favorite cookie? St. Patrick’s drop pistachio, of course, which I make any time of the year. Thanks for another great recipe.
    Oh, and if it’s not to late for P.J.’s trade show trip how about a reasonably priced glass footed, covered cake plate and maybe some other pretty serving pieces to put our beautiful and not so beautiful baked goods on?

    Thanks for the suggestions. Frank @ KAF.

  4. Kelly

    I love a pistachio bundt cake that I make for company but I only keep sugar free instant on hand. Is it just for bulk that you specified using regular and not sugar free pudding mix? Otherwise I’ll have to pick up some of the real deal. 🙂

    Kelly, it’s for the starch – it keeps the shortbread tender. You can certainly try the sugar-free – not sure how much (volume) the box holds. Try adding 3 tablespoons cornstarch with the sugar-free, I’m betting it’ll work just fine. PJH

  5. FRAN S

    Thank you for the picture of the daffodils popping up. I was wondering when you would start seeing them. I looked for mine the other day but they area is still covered with a large mound of deep snow here in PA. It seems backwards that Vermont is seeing signs of spring before PA. I love snow but I’m so ready to see flowers blooming even if it is through mud.

  6. Alvara

    Love this recipe. Delicious! Also love the format of the recipe printout. I like
    having a picture to remind me what it was like when I read it. We haven’t seen any sprouting daffodils in NY yet.

  7. Jan in Maine

    Can’t wait to whip these up to share with my college girls. Their Christmas stocking pistachios are long gone. Winter? My black lab has been rolling in the scratchy brown grass for a week! He’s confused, too.

  8. Lara

    I’m excited to bake this shortbread recipe for St pattys day! i cannot remember the last time i had fresh shortbread! I similarly love an italian pistachio cookie that i bake around Christmastime…so i’m hoping this turns out well!

    Also, i wanted to suggest to other bakers that if you cannot find Pistachio Jello at the store, then you can always find it online by ordering it through somewhere like Amazon. Sometimes if i cannot find a unique ingredient/spice, i look online. Oftentimes it saves me from driving around and hunting through specialty stores!!!

  9. Hoa

    Thanks for the recipe and step-by-step instructions. The pistachio shortbread was a hit with my co-workers.

    Glad it was a hit, Hoa – PJH

  10. Cheryl

    I baked this shortbread this weekend, and it’s outstanding. The wedges look just as lovely as your pictures. I plan to purchase the pistachio flavoring to try to kick up the nut flavor just a bit next time. This recipe is a keeper!

  11. Lyn from PA

    I decided to make this without the pistachios. And I patted half the recipe into a shortbread pan. It worked very well. Although I didn’t feel comfortable with the state of doneness until it had baked for 50 minutes. Turned the shortbread out within 2 minutes of removing from the oven, cut the wedges, and it worked well. Baking any less, as I did with the first panful was slightly underdone. It was much tastier when the tan color almost covered the visible shortbread. Really tasty, with a definite pistachio flavor, and lovely pale green color.

  12. AngAk

    I made this last weekend for a diabetic friend, so I made it with sugar free pudding and Splenda and it turned out yummy and very tender without the added corn starch. I made only 1/2 the recipe since I had the small box of pudding. I also shaped the dough into a long narrow rectangle on a parchment lined cookie sheet and it baked up nicely and then I cut it into triangles for the wedges—no flipping needed.

  13. Nancy

    I made this recipe about an hour after I read it and have made it twice since. I only added one thing–I sprinkled a liberal amount of coarse sugar crystals on top before baking. The salty nuts and sugar really go together. And since I made it so quickly that I didn’t have time to order the pistachio flavoring I used a 1/2 teas of almond extract. Ok, that’s two things I changed but I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!
    Kudos to you Nancy for trying different variations. The sugar topping does sound good. ~ MaryJane

  14. Barbara!

    I used the original recipe from your newsletter and rolled the balls in white and green sugar for a St. Patty’s day look. Everyone loved these cookies but the pistachio pudding mix can be hard to find. Luckily I had on hand 2 boxes of the mix because I had planned on making them in March. Every KAF recipe works and is great!

    Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, Barbara. Luckily, here in New England, I don’t seem to have trouble finding pistachio pudding mix; maybe it’s a regional thing? Glad you had some on hand so you could make these cookies! PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I’m sorry to say that we have not tried this recipe without the pudding mix. As such, I could not give an alternative. Jon@KAF

  15. Jan

    I made these using almond extract and salted pistachios and they were excellent! I would like to try butterscotch shortbread and have regular pudding mix (not instant) on hand. Will that work in lieu of instant? Pecans instead of pistachios; butter pecan extract; drooling.

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Jan,
      We haven’t tried it with non-instant pudding mix but I have a feeling it would not come out as well. I’d say stick with the instant mix for better results. Other than that, it sounds like a great twist! ~ MJ

  16. Gary Ray

    I learned a different technique for making shortbreads really light and with a perfect texture. When you get to the stage where you have divided the dough in half, form them into balls, wrap with plastic film, and put them in the freezer for an hour or longer. Now take out the hard ball of dough and using a big box grater, grate the dough into your shortbread pan using the largest grating available. Then very, very lightly press the dough into place. And bake.
    I have not tried it on this particular recipe but it sure works for other shortbreads. The texture comes out light and perfect.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried it, but feel free to give it a try. I would suggest to replace some of the butter with an equal amount of paste, maybe 1/4 of the butter to start with. Jon@KAF

  17. JB

    I would like to make this w/o the pudding mix. Can you please give me an alternative? or suggestion?
    Thank so much…keep up the good work!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you are looking to make a festive shortbread that does not require a pudding mix, you can start by using our recipe for Irish Cream Shortbread, which you can access here: http://bit.ly/1EVW61m. To make it very similar to this recipe featured in the blog post, add 1/4 teaspoon of pistachio flavoring in place of the Irish whiskey and a few drops of green food coloring until the dough reaches your desired shade of green. Still use the 2/3 cup of chopped pistachios and press them into the top of the shortbread to get a nutty, sweet crunch on top. Good luck and happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  18. Nora

    I love this idea. But I would like better to have a different and smaller shape than these triangles. Do you think it would be possible to roll and cut with a cookie cutter, or scoop it with a cookie scoop? I’m not sure what the texture of the uncooked dough is, so I’m wondering if any of these two techniques would apply.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Flatten the dough into a disc and chill. Then roll and cut as desired. If you scoop the cookies, they won’t have quite as nice a look and they won’t bake up the same. Happy St Patrick’s Day! Laurie@KAF

Post a comment

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