Ever wonder if you could remove the skin from pistachio nuts? Yes, you can! It takes only 3 steps to peel pistachio nuts (though a little tedious) revealing the green, sweet pistachio that makes for greener baked goods like baklava, muffins, and more.
Recipe testing for cookbooks has taught me a few things, and this is one of those things. Before this year, I had no idea that peeling pistachios was an option. I didn’t know how it was done, nor that the method is different for pistachios than it is for hazelnuts (not that I can eat hazelnuts, but I still at least know how to peel those).
Why peel nuts?
Most nuts, once shelled, have a paper thin skin covering the actual nut. For some nuts this peel is easily removed, like the brown papery skin on peanuts. For others, like pistachios, it’s much more challenging to remove the peel or skin on pistachio nuts. You may want to remove the peel from nuts if you want a cleaner nut flavour from the nuts, especially if you are grinding them. You also may want to remove the peel to remove the brown skin that will lead to discoloration in baking. For example, peeled pistachios make greener pistachio baklava. Almonds are a great example too because blanched ground almonds have a lighter, creamier colour.
How to remove the skin or peel from hazelnuts
To remove the skins/peel of hazelnuts, usually you toast them in the oven, then pour them onto a kitchen towel, cover them, and then rub them like mad. The peel rubs right off into the kitchen towel. Pistachio skins tend to be a little clingier, so the method is different.
How to remove the skin or peel from pistachios
Here are the steps to peel pistachios and remove their skins:
- heat a large pot of boiling water and drop them in when the water comes to a rolling boil
- Let the pistachios boil for about a minute or so, at which point you will notice the peels lifting off. The goal here is not to boil the pistachios til they are mushy, after all.
- Strain out the nuts and drop them into an ice bath immediately to chill them.
- When the pistachios are thoroughly chilled, the peels should just lift off. This is a slow, tedious task. I suggest you peel them while watching Netflix. You can also rub the blanched pistachios in a kitchen towel to loosen the skins, and then the skins might just rinse off at that point.
How you choose to get the peel off in the end is your choice, but the point is that to skin hazelnuts, you toast the hazelnuts to lift the skin off, then rub them. But to skin pistachio nuts, you have to blanch the pistachios and shock them in cold water to lift the papery brown pistachios off, revealing the green pistachio nuts.
I let the peeled pistachios air dry on sheets of paper towel, and I use them within a day. Some dry out peeled pistachios in a low oven to remove moisture for longer term storage. Once dried, you can grind the green pistachios to make ground pistachio for pistachio baklava or pistachio financiers.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University.