Gluten Free Dairy Free Pistachio Gelato Recipe

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by Carol Kicinski on September 16, 2010

At the International Food Blogger Conference last month I eyed the spectacular photos and listened with half an ear to a presentation by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold on Modernist Cuisine. The reason I listened with only half an ear is that for the most part, while fascinating, Modernist Cuisine is not really applicable to me as a home cook. (Case in point, I was treated to a fabulous leg of lamb by my chef friend Darrell which was prepared in an $1,100.00 sous vide – a method of cooking vacuum sealed food at really low temperatures for a long time – for 18 hours. Yes, it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and really flavorful but that’s an awful lot of money for a contraption and a really long time to wait for dinner!)

What caught my attention however was when Dr. Myhrvold mentioned they had made dairy-free pistachio ice cream using pistachio oil that was intensely flavorful. He sited that dairy actually masks the flavor of the pistachios and commercially prepared pistachio ice cream often contains almond extract to make up for the lack of nut flavor. Hmmm, this was interesting so I started asking questions. The exchange went something like this:

Me: Where do you get pistachio oil?

Dr. M.: First you grind pistachios…

Me: With what?

Dr. M.: Oh, what ever you would grind wheat with. Then it will turn into a paste like peanut butter and you need to let the solids separate from the oil.

Me: For how long?

Dr. M.: As long as it takes. (I hate answers like that!) Then you take the oil and mix with water and emulsify it.

Me: With what?

Dr. M.: We have a machine that does that but maybe a blender or something? Then you add in a little of the pistachio paste, churn it up and viola, best tasting pistachio ice cream ever.

Me: What is the ratio of water to pistachio oil?

This is where he became a little annoyed with me and said the recipe would be in his book (I should say books. Modernist Cuisine is a multi volume set of books that will sell for somewhere between $500.00 and $650.00.) But because I am sweet and smiled really pretty at him he did start in on how I could figure that out by figuring out the percentage of fat to water in substances like cream or half and half. At this point he was talking science and to me it sounded like the teachers in those Peanuts Cartoons.

Well I immediately saw a few problems with this for me. First of all I don’t eat wheat and thus do not have a machine that grinds it. Secondly it seems like a huge waste to use only the oil of the pistachio paste and just a little bit of the solids. Thirdly it just seemed like too much trouble and too long to wait. So I started thinking about how I could do this at home with what I have. Actually I started obsessing about it.

I decided to employ a favorite method of raw and vegan cooks. One of the things they use in place of dairy cream is cashew cream made from ground soaked cashews. Why wouldn’t it work with pistachios?

Well, the answer is it does!

I decided to make my dairy free version a gelato instead of an ice cream. It is indeed intensely rich and pistachio flavored. The only thing I didn’t like was the color (a bit too browny/yellowy green) but a few drops of green food coloring fixed that. My husband would have preferred his gelato smoother while I like the bits of nuts. If you want a smooth gelato, strain the mixture before processing in the ice cream maker.

You can eat this straight out if the ice cream maker but if you want to make ahead and store in the freezer, take it out for 5 or 10 minutes to soften up first before serving.

Dairy Free Gluten Free Pistachio Gelato

Gluten Free Dairy Free Pistachio Gelato Recipe


2 cups roasted, unsalted whole pistachios – use divided
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Green food coloring – optional


Put 1½ cups pistachios in a bowl and cover completely with water, soak for 1 – 8 hours. Drain and rinse pistachios in a strainer under cold running water until the water runs clear.

Chop the remaining ½ cup pistachios with the salt in a food processor until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Put the soaked pistachios in a blender with 2¼ cups of water. Process for 2 – 3 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth. It should be the consistency of very heavy cream. If too thick, add a little more water and blend.

Take ½ cup of the pistachio cream and mix with the cornstarch until completely blended. Pour the rest of the pistachio cream into a large saucepan, combine with the chopped pistachios and sugar and cook over medium-high heat until it just starts to boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture should be the consistency of pudding. Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. If you want the color a little greener, stir in some green food coloring drops, a few drops at a time, until if becomes the desired shade of green.

For a smooth gelato, push the mixture through a strainer into a bowl or for a chunkier texture just scrape the mixture into a bowl. Top with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let the mixture cool to room temperature then refrigerate for about 2 hours or until cold.

Put mixture into an ice cream machine and process for 20 – 25 minutes or according to the manufactures instructions.

Can be eaten immediately or stored in the freezer in an airtight container. Take out of freezer for about 5 minutes to soften before serving.


Makes 1 quart of Gluten Free Pistachio Gelato.

Note – if you make this recipe with salted pistachios, leave the additional salt out of the recipe.

Need a quick meal?

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Ready for dessert?

Simply...Gluten-Free DessertsSimply…Gluten-Free Desserts is now available, with over 135 recipes not featured in my blog.

Available at bookstores including Barnes & Noble, Borders, Powells, Books-a-Million and Amazon. You can get it also HERE.

“I can now have recipes I know I can count on for every Dessert and Breakfast occasion! I’m thrilled!” – A. M.

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Categories:    Dessert
  • Deanna

    Yum! My husband's favorite dessert at the Indian restaurant has always been pistachio ice cream. I'm going to have to try this to see how close we can come to the Indian version.

  • Donna

    Wow! I love the way you made this. Another must try!

  • Britt

    Oh my…this looks amazing! Very well done! I'm short an ice cream maker, though. You said, at one point, it is the consistency of pudding. How do you think it would be straight from the fridge pre ice cream machine?

  • Simply…Gluten-free

    Hi Britt,

    I sent you an email answer but in case anyone else is interested, here is what I said:

    I did taste it before putting in the ice cream maker and the only real difference (besides not being freezing cold) was the gelato was a bit creamier after being in the machine. But the consistency was right. So, should be fine.

    Here is a link to David Lebovitz on how to make ice cream with out an ice cream maker


  • Sandy

    Love that technique and your dialog w/ the doc :)

  • WendyGK

    I just get this image of you flirting with the geeky scientist guy trying to charm practical and useful information out of him. That whole book, session, food kinda creeped the Luddite in me out a bit. Give me a cast iron skillet not a sous vide contraption.

  • SunnyB

    Carol, this looks absolutely divine! I cannot wait to share this with my family. Thank you- Sunny

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog)

    oh my this looks TASTY!

  • GF Gidget

    You made this for me, didn't you?! ;-)

  • Stephanie

    Genius! I'm so excited to try this one. I think I'll serve it with some of your pistachio cookies ;)

  • Ali

    That looks absolutely amazing Carol! :)

  • GFree_Miel

    This looks and sounds amazing. I've never made my own ice cream or gelato before so this is definitely something I will have to try sometime soon!

  • my darling lemon thyme

    Oh yum! Now that's something I am going to have to try!!! Gluten and dairy free, your my hero! Many thanks xx

  • Diane-The WHOLE Gang

    Brilliant! Carol you are so smart. I listened to the same person and the teacher from Peanuts never left my ears. So glad you heard more and created this. Can't wait to give it a try. Just have to shell more pistachios than I eat.

  • The InTolerant Chef

    What a great idea! Clever thinking. It's a bit like when millions of dollars went into creating the pen that would write in space with zero gravity, when all that was really needed was a pencil!

  • Simply Life

    oh my gosh, that looks amazing!

  • Tasty Eats At Home

    Way to go on this idea. I love it. And I think I'll have to make it ASAP – before the first chilly snap!

  • Aubree Cherie

    Hey Carol,
    This is so beautiful! And I love pistachios, but I've never thought to make ice cream/gelato with them. I'd love to try this! I've added this to My Favorite Recipes from Last Week post. Thanks!

    ~Aubree Cherie

  • Jess

    Oh wow that looks so good, what great mix of flavours

  • Anonymous

    Amiable dispatch and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you seeking your information.

  • Brittany

    This recipe is Brilliant! Cant Wait to try it.

  • Tiffany

    Oh my…I am definitely bookmarking this recipe! The gelato looks and sounds divine! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Dawn (KitchenTravels)

    Just found your blog for the first time via Gluten Free Girl on Twitter. So glad I did! You have no idea how happy this recipe makes me. Can hardly wait to give it a try. Thank you!

    • Carol, Simply Gluten Free

      Well, thanks for stopping by! I am glad you came. :)

  • Paulette Alm


  • Cappy

    I just made this today, going for a lower-carb version by using alternative sweeteners (a blend of stevia, xylitol and erythritol). I also added 2 tablespoons of amaretto (which added back some carbs, but should keep it from freezing solid), and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract. I omitted the lemon juice. It turned out beautifully. Thank you!

    • Carol Kicinski

      I love your version, thanks for sharing!!!

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