What You Should Look For When Buying Pistachios

If you've seen Costco's giant tray of baklava, or Whole Foods' pistachio chantilly cake, and you want to try making your own version at home, you're going to need a lot of pistachios. Fortunately, pistachios are always in season, so that mildly sweet nuttiness can be added to any of your desserts all year round. When it comes to shopping for the nuts at the store, there are a ton of options from shelled and crushed, to unsalted and unshelled. But how do you know which ones to pick?

According to The Spruce Eats, it's always best to "look for blemish-free, ivory-colored shells that are split open at one end." While it's easy to assume that the shells without the splits are the freshest pistachios, they're actually just under-ripe, so they won't taste as good. Unshelled pistachios are a great option if you don't want to crack open every pistachio on your own, but as The Spruce Eats pointed out, they are significantly pricier, and not only that but Eat Delights reports they go bad a lot faster.

Check where the pistachios were grown before you buy them

Iran is the world's leading pistachio producer, The Spruce Eats states, but that doesn't mean it's always the best idea to get Iranian pistachios, or imported pistachios for that matter, because only domestically grown pistachios are safe from green and yellow dyes. In order to enhance the natural color of the pistachios, distributors outside of the U.S. will often add dye, however, this makes it difficult to determine the quality and freshness of the nut. As The Spruce Eats says: "The greener the nutmeat, the better the flavor."

When they go bad, pistachios lose their green and start to turn brown while developing a powdery white coating. Eat Delights explained that pistachios only have a shelf life of one to two weeks if stored at room temperature, or six months if stored in a cool, dry place, so the color is an important indicator of age. Unfortunately, this can easily be disguised by dyes, so when in doubt, Eat Delights' rule of thumb is to check by smell — specifically "the smell of paint or an old unused plastic container." That's a sign you should grab another bag of pistachios instead. If you'd rather play it safe, opt for the pistachios that are marked with "locally grown," or better yet, just stick with the shelled kind.