Pistachio

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that promote healthy pooping patterns. Yes
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Nut
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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A pile of pistachio nuts before they have been prepared for a baby starting solid foods

When can babies eat pistachios?

Pistachios, if they are finely ground or served as pistachio butter mixed into other foods, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Whole pistachios, chopped pistachios, and pistachio butter are choking hazards for babies and children, so read our preparation by age section closely before serving.

Where do pistachios come from?

Pistachio trees originated in Central and Southwest Asia thousands of years ago, where the nut was a prized royal delicacy in the Persian empire and grew in the orchards of the hanging gardens of Babylon. Today, pistachio trees thrive in sunny, dry conditions, from California to China to Iran and Turkey, where many of the world’s supply of pistachio nuts are produced. Walk through a pistachio orchard, and you may hear the tiny popping sounds of shells opening—a sign that the nuts are fully ripe. Within the beige shell is the seed (commonly called a tree nut) that ranges in color, from mossy brown to bright green depending on the level of chlorophyll within the plant. In some parts of the world, you may encounter red pistachios, whose color is a result of bright red dye applied to the shells, not a natural process.

Amelia, 10 months, eats finely ground pistachio with yogurt. If you are introducing pistachio or tree nuts for the first time, take care to start with a small quantity as they are common allergens.
Zuri, 13 months, eats finely ground pistachios on a wheat farina cereal.
Adie, 16 months, tastes ground pistachios for the first time.

Are pistachios healthy for babies?

Yes, if unsalted. Pistachios are an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber, and zinc—all important nutrients in supporting baby’s brain development, digestion, and immunity. Like all nuts, pistachios are also a great source of iron, making them a particularly healthful food for babies on plant-based diets. Lastly, pistachios contain vitamin K, a nutrient that is important to help babies heal from those occasional bumps and bruises.

Pistachios are sometimes sold salted, and some brands of pistachio butter may be high in sugar and sodium. When introducing pistachios to babies, opt for unsalted pistachios or unsalted, unsweetened pistachio butter, if possible.

★Tip: Like most tree nuts, pistachios can go rancid, so store raw nuts or open jars of pistachio butter in the refrigerator, purchase roasted unsalted pistachios, or roast raw unsalted pistachios yourself to extend their shelf life.1 Shelled or unshelled pistachios can keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 year, and in the freezer for up to 2 years.2

Can babies drink pistachio milk?

No. Prior to 12 months, the only liquids an infant should consume are breast milk, formula, and if the baby is older than 6 months of age, water in small amounts (less than 2-4 ounces a day) in an open cup.3 4

If, after the first birthday, you’d like to introduce unsweetened pistachio milk, it’s fine to do so, but know that nut milks often lack adequate calories, fat, and protein for a plant-based milk for toddlers (typically fortified soy or pea milk are more nutritious).5 See our Milk FAQs to learn more.

Are pistachios a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Whole nuts, nut pieces, and globs of nut butter are choking hazards for babies and young children.6 Pistachios are often sold in their inedible shells, so take care to remove them before preparing the nuts for babies. To reduce the choking risk, finely grind shelled pistachios until no large pieces remain and sprinkle the ground nut on other foods, or offer smooth pistachio butter thinned with baby-friendly liquids like applesauce, yogurt, breast milk, formula, or water. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are pistachios a common allergen?

Yes. Pistachios are considered tree nuts (although they are botanically a seed), and tree nuts are common food allergens. Due to similarities in the protein structure of pistachios and cashews, children are often allergic to both of these specific tree nuts.7 While only 1 to 3% of the population is allergic to tree nuts, it is usually life-long: only 9% of children with a tree nut allergy will outgrow it.8 9 10

Although an allergy to one tree nut increases risk of allergy to another, keep in mind that being allergic to one nut does not necessarily mean that all nuts need to be removed from the diet.11 Having as diverse of a diet as possible, even within the confines of food allergies, is important to get the nutrients we need to be healthy.

There is no recommendation to complete allergy testing before introducing tree nuts into the diet, even if there is a family history of food allergy. However, if you suspect baby may be allergic to nuts, make an appointment with your primary care clinician or a pediatric allergist before introducing nuts at home.

When it’s time to introduce the nut, offer a scant quantity (such as a pinch of finely ground nut or 1/8 teaspoon of smooth pistachio butter thinned with water) for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals. It is okay if baby does not consume each serving entirely. It is important to maintain common food allergens (such as tree nuts) in the diet regularly (about 1 gram twice weekly, if possible) once introduced. Don’t stop offering the nut unless the baby shows signs of a reaction.

How do you prepare pistachios for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Grind pistachios in a food processor until completely fine and no large pieces remain. If you do not have a food processor, you can pound the nuts in a cloth with a hammer, with a mortar and pestle, or with the end of a wine bottle. To serve the ground nut, sprinkle a small amount on yogurt, rice, quinoa, squash, or warm cereal. You can also roll slippery foods like sliced fruit in ground nuts, which adds texture that makes it easier for baby to pick up. If you’d like to make a baby-friendly nut butter, keep the food processor going until the nuts form a paste, then add water, yogurt, or a baby-friendly liquid to thin it into a non-sticky, smooth spread with no clumps. This can be spread very thin on other age-appropriate foods. Keep in mind that adding even a thin layer of nut butter to a food can make that food more challenging for baby to manage. Toast with nut butter can be particularly challenging for young babies to manage which can increase the risk of choking.

12 to 24 months old: Continue to finely grind shelled pistachios and sprinkle on fruits and vegetables or to incorporate pistachio butter into other foods such as yogurt and warm cereals. When serving nut butter on toast, make sure the butter is thinly spread and offer milk or water in an open cup to help wash down any sticky pieces of food.

24 months old and up: Continue to serve finely grind shelled pistachios and use pistachio butter as you wish. If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouths, and finally, the ability to identify and spit out foods when it is not well chewed, AND is able to eat softer nuts like walnuts and pecans with ease, they may be ready to learn how to eat whole pistachios. Just remember that nuts and nut pieces are considered choking hazards until age 4 and even beyond by all governing medical bodies.

Pistachios are particularly risky and challenging to eat as they are firm, difficult to take a bite out of, have a hard outer shell, and are small and round. From a fine motor perspective, shelling a pistachio is a relatively advanced skill. This can be a good litmus test to determine if your toddler is ready to try chewing these resistive nuts. If your toddler can’t independently shell a partially opened pistachio after demonstration, you may want to hold off on serving them. The shells are a definite choking hazard, so never let your baby or toddler suck or chew on pistachio shells. It is important to help your child stay engaged with the task, and part of that is modeling that safe chewing takes place when we are not talking, singing, etc. A highly animated child who is talking, yelling or singing while practicing eating nuts increases choking risk.

To model how to eat pistachios safely, start by telling your child: “This is a hard one. Watch me.” Then, show your toddler how to place the pistachio in-between your front teeth. Hold the nut between your teeth and exaggerate moving the nut to your molars with your tongue. Chew with your mouth open (you can even demonstrate by opening and closing your hands at the same time). Once you have chewed the nut well, open your mouth to show your toddler how it has been broken down. Say, “I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing.” Demonstrate a couple of times before offering the child a pistachio to do the same.

To coach your child through eating a whole pistachio safely, say, “Your turn to try.”  DO NOT PUT THE NUT IN THEIR MOUTH. If the child takes a bite and chews thoroughly (they may spit the nut out for many months as they get used to the texture), offer one or two more nuts at a time (but never more) to keep the pace slow. If your child does not use their teeth to bite or attempt to move the nut to the molars to break it down, we recommend coaching the child to spit the nut out and waiting a few weeks more to practice chewing other nuts that are less challenging.

After practicing nuts with your toddler, make sure their mouth is clear before taking them out of the highchair. Never allow your toddler to walk around with nuts or nut pieces in their mouth.

Our Introducing Allergens page offers all the guidance you need for dealing with common allergens.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with pistachios?

Pistachios are delicious on their own or mixed with other nuts and seeds, but if you want to use the nuts in your cooking, there are plenty of options. Pistachio blends beautifully into a creamy nut butter to spread on toast or eat with fresh fruit. You can also grind pistachio to make an earthy topping to sprinkle on vegetables or on pasta as an alternative to breadcrumbs or parmesan cheese. Try using the ground pistachio to enhance the flavor of keftedes arni, lamb kofta, or your favorite meatball, or use it as a coating for homemade chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or tofu strips. You can also grind and soak the nuts to make pistachio milk, which can add creamy flavor and lots of nutrition to grains, porridges, and smoothies. Pistachios also taste delicious when mixed with grains and spices in dishes like morasa polow, a colorful preparation of rice studded with barberry, orange peel, pistachio, and saffron with yogurt that is made in Iran to celebrate the new year.

Recipe: Pistachio and Lamb Meatballs

Yield: 10-12 meatballs
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 grams) ground lamb
  • ½ cup (56 grams) unsalted shelled pistachios
  • 1 small onion or 1 teaspoon (3 grams) onion powder
  • 1 pinch ground cumin (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) labneh, unsweetened whole milk yogurt, or yogurt of choice (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (labneh, yogurt) and tree nut (pistachio). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Defrost the meat in the fridge if it is frozen. Place the meat in a mixing bowl.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius). Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
  3. Grind the pistachio to a fine powder. Place in the mixing bowl with the ground lamb.
  4. Peel and finely chop the onion. Add to the mixing bowl, along with the spice if you are using it.
  5. Mash and mix the ingredients to form a paste.
  6. Shape the mixture into 2-inch-wide meatballs. Evenly space the meatballs on the tray.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the tray from the oven. Flip the meatballs, then return the tray to the oven and bake until no pink meat remains in the center of a meatball when it’s cut open, about 10 minutes more. If you like, check that a meatball’s internal temperate has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius). Remove the tray from the oven.
  8. Set aside a couple of meatballs for the child’s meal. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
  9. Serve the meatballs as finger food with some labneh as a dip if you like. To encourage the use of a utensil, pre-load a baby fork and rest it next to the food for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the pre-loaded fork in the air for the child to grab.

To Store: Pistachio and lamb meatballs keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Pistachio pairs well with freekeh, lamb, orange, rice, trout, and yogurt.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

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  2. Pistachios, shell or no shell. (2019). FoodKeeper App. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
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  4. Public Health England and the UK Committee for UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. (2021). Guide to bottle feeding. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
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  6. HealthyChildren.org. (2019). Choking Prevention. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  7. Brough, H. A., Caubet, J.-C., Mazon, A., Haddad, D., Bergmann, M. M., Wassenberg, J., Panetta, V., Gourgey, R., Radulovic, S., Nieto, M., Santos, A. F., Nieto, A., Lack, G., & Eigenmann, P. A. (2020). Defining challenge-proven coexistent nut and sesame seed allergy: A prospective multicenter European study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 145(4), 1231–1239. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.09.036. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  8. Brough, H. A., Caubet, J.-C., Mazon, A., Haddad, D., Bergmann, M. M., Wassenberg, J., Panetta, V., Gourgey, R., Radulovic, S., Nieto, M., Santos, A. F., Nieto, A., Lack, G., & Eigenmann, P. A. (2020). Defining challenge-proven coexistent nut and sesame seed allergy: A prospective multicenter European study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 145(4), 1231–1239. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.09.036. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  9. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Everything you need to know about tree nut allergy. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  10. Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree nut allergy. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  11. Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree nut allergy. Retrieved July 1, 2021.