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Are pistachios red or green?

Pistachios are a popular nut that can be found in grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and specialty food shops around the world. They are prized for their unique flavor and crunchy texture. But one thing that often puzzles people is what color pistachios actually are – some appear red, while others seem green. In this article, we’ll take a close look at the exterior and interior colors of pistachios to finally determine if they should be classified as red or green nuts.

The Outer Shell of Pistachios

Let’s start by examining the hard outer shell that encloses the pistachio nut kernel. This shell initially appears reddish-purple when the pistachio fruits are growing on trees. The red pigmentation comes from anthocyanin, which are plant compounds that act as natural dyes. Some common foods and flowers that also contain anthocyanins are red cabbage, blueberries, cherries, and hibiscus flowers.

When the pistachio fruits fully mature and ripen in the late summer and early fall, the outer shell takes on more of a beige or tan appearance as it dries out. However, traces of reddish coloring may still be visible depending on the pistachio variety. Some popular varieties like Kerman pistachios maintain a rosy blush even when dried. Other types like Aegina pistachios appear more brown or nude.

Here’s a quick overview of the outer shell colors of pistachios:

  • Growing on tree – reddish-purple
  • Fully ripe and dried – tan, beige, light brown
  • Some varieties retain reddish hues

The Inner Kernel of Pistachios

Now let’s examine the edible kernel inside the hard outer shell. This inner nut is what people consume and taste when eating pistachios. The kernel features a pale beige epidermis or skin that covers a vibrant green nut meat inside. This striking green color comes from chlorophyll, the same pigment that gives leaves and grass their verdant green shades.

When raw pistachio nuts are harvested, this inner green color appears very bright and intense. However, roasting or drying pistachios can cause the chlorophyll to fade slightly, resulting in a more muted jade tone. Still, roasted pistachios remain distinctly green in color when the outer shell is removed.

Here are some details on the inner kernel colors:

  • Raw kernel – bright green
  • Roasted kernel – muted jade green
  • Always retains greenish tone

Why Do Some Pistachios Appear Red?

This brings up the question – why do some pistachios appear red if the inner kernel is actually green? There are a few reasons for this misleading reddish appearance:

  • Dye is added – Some processors dye the inner shells red to distinguish them from other nuts.
  • Outer shell left on – The red outer shell isn’t fully removed, tinting the inner kernel.
  • Variety differences – Some types like Red Aleppo retain red streaks on the kernel.

In most cases, the vibrant red pistachio shells that people see in stores and online have been artificially dyed. This is done for branding purposes and to prevent confusion between pistachios and other lookalike nuts in the same family like cashews or pine nuts.

Natural red markings on the inner kernel are possible depending on the pistachio variety, but are relatively uncommon. When the outer red shells aren’t fully removed during processing, the remaining bits can temporarily stain the inner nut, also giving a reddish appearance.

Nutritional Profile of Pistachios

Now that we’ve settled the debate over shell and kernel colors, let’s look at why pistachios are considered a top nut for health and nutrition:


  • Protein – 6g per serving. Provides amino acids for building muscle.
  • Fat – 13g per serving. Mainly healthy unsaturated fats like oleic acid.
  • Carbs – 8g per serving. Low net carbs compared to many other nuts.


  • Vitamin B6 – Supports metabolism and immune function.
  • Copper – Essential mineral that assists iron absorption.
  • Manganese – Involved in bone health and metabolism.
  • Thiamine – B vitamin that converts food into energy.


  • Carotenoids – Antioxidants like lutein support eye health.
  • Phytosterols – Help lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body.
  • Polyphenols – Anti-inflammatory compounds that may reduce disease risk.

Selecting and Storing Pistachios

When buying pistachios, look for nuts still enclosed in their beige outer shell. Avoid pistachios that have been hulled or removed from the shell prior to purchase. The shell helps preserve freshness and nutrient content. Here are some pistachio selection and storage tips:

  • Look for intact, closed shells with no stains or damage.
  • Avoid shells with signs of mold, moisture, or rancid odors.
  • Select raw, roasted, salted, or flavored varieties based on preference.
  • Store pistachios in a cool, dark place up to 6 months.
  • Keep shelled pistachios in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Freeze for longer term storage up to one year.

Delicious and Nutritious Ways to Enjoy Pistachios

Thanks to their appealing colors and textures, pistachios are a fantastic addition to both sweet and savory recipes. Here are some nutritious and creative ways to use them:

Breakfast Options

  • Pistachio granola or muesli
  • Pistachio milk
  • Pistachio pancakes or waffles
  • Nut butter and pistachio toast

Lunch and Dinner Recipes

  • Pistachio crusted fish or chicken
  • Pesto with pistachios
  • Moroccan chicken tagine with pistachios
  • Bibb lettuce salad with pistachios
  • Roasted veggies with pistachios

Snacks and Sides

  • Spicy roasted pistachios
  • Pistachio dried fruit and nut trail mix
  • Pistachio granola bars or energy balls
  • Pistachio tabbouleh or pilaf

Desserts and Sweets

  • Pistachio ice cream
  • Pistachio baklava
  • Chocolate pistachio bark
  • Pistachio cake or cupcakes
  • Pistachio macarons

Fun Facts About Pistachios

Let’s wrap up with some interesting facts about this popular green nut:

  • Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, originating in the Middle East.
  • It can take 7-10 years for a pistachio tree to mature and start producing nuts.
  • Pistachio shells naturally split open when the nuts are ripe.
  • Iran, the United States, and Turkey are the top producers of pistachios worldwide.
  • Pistachio trees thrive in hot, dry climates and are very drought resistant.
  • The pistachio is a member of the cashew family along with mangos and sumac.
  • “Pistachio Green” is an official Crayola crayon color.


While pistachio shells start out a reddish-purple, the edible inner kernels are distinctly green in color. This vibrant green nut meat comes from chlorophyll pigments. Roasting pistachios may cause them to appear more muted jade green but they never turn red internally. While some red-colored pistachio varieties exist, most red pistachios in stores are dyed that way during processing. In terms of uses, pistachios make for a healthy, colorful, and flavorful addition to a wide variety of both sweet and savory recipes. Their crunchy texture and versatile taste profile are just two of the many reasons why pistachios continue to be a beloved nut worldwide.