Vitamix Pistachio Sorbet Recipe

Pistachio Sorbet made with a VitamixThis pistachio sorbet recipe uses the same technique as my previously described chocolate sorbet. I’ve come to realize that high-performance blenders like Vitamix and Blendtec are particularly well-suited to making nut-based sorbets. They can blend nuts to a smooth consistency, and they can easily make a sorbet/“ice cream” without needing an ice cream maker.

If you’ve never tried a nut-based sorbet, you’re in for a treat. The oils in nuts give the sorbet a creaminess that makes it more like an ice cream than a traditional fruit-only sorbet.

I’ve noticed a growing interest in nut-based dairy-free ice cream. Some people are lactose intolerant, some are avoiding animal products, and others just love nut flavors. Locally I know of three operations making and selling nut sorbets by the bucketful: Mr. Dewies, Genuto, and Scream Sorbet (unfortunately now closed). I talked with Scream Sorbet former owner Nathan Kurz, and he was kind enough to share his pistachio sorbet recipe. In his operation they were more precise and used a refractometer to measure sugar content because it can vary between batches of pistachios, and he wanted to achieve perfect/consistent results.1 For the home kitchen a rough approximation is sufficient.

Pistachio Sorbet Recipe

1 ⅔ cup water (390 g)
1 cup unsalted pistachios (130 g)
½ cup sugar (98 g)
½ tsp salt (2.8 g) 2

Makes about 4 medium servings. (This sorbet is dense and flavorful, so the servings are not large.)

For maximum freshness I think it’s best to buy raw nuts and then roast them yourself. I recommend gently roasting the pistachios. Here’s the process I used: heat oven to 300 °F, put the nuts in on a single layer on a cookie sheet, and then switch off oven and leave nuts in for 12 minutes.

Add all ingredients to blender, blend on high for longer than normal to make the nuts completely smooth: about 2 minutes. Mixture will heat up, which I believe helps make it smoother. Pour into ice-cube trays and freeze solid.

Pistachio sorbet in ice cube traysI waited overnight, but as long as you have a cold freezer, a couple of hours is probably enough. Finally, pop frozen cubes into blender and blend a second time on high. (For thick mixtures like this it’s important to use the blender at the top speed to maximize air-flow through the motor and avoid overheating.) At first it will be difficult to blend, but by using the Vitamix tamper (or the Blendtec Twister Jar) it will soon start to circulate. Stop blending as soon as it has gotten a chance to circulate for a few seconds. You should see what Vitamix refers to as the “four mounds.”

Pistachio Sorbet in VitamixThe consistency will be thick and scoopable, but blending does warm it up a bit, so it’s best to serve it right away before it melts. If you’re serving it in bowls that hold heat (such as ceramic or glass), I recommend pre-chilling the bowls in the freezer. Likewise, if you will be saving some in the freezer, pre-chill your storage container and scoop it in right away. Any parts of the sorbet that melt and re-freeze will form larger ice crystals and the texture will not be as smooth. In principle you could re-blend it, but it’s easier to just keep it frozen. Enjoy your Vitamix pistachio sorbet!

Shelled vs in-shell pistachios

I bought shelled pistachios to avoid having to shell them myself. You might save a little money by buying in-shell pistachios, but keep in mind that the shell accounts for about half of the weight. I’ve seen in-shell pistachios priced at half the cost of shelled, in which case you wouldn’t save any money. Some people like to have to go through the process of opening the shells so that they don’t eat as many while snacking, but for a recipe like this shelling is a bit of a hassle.

High-quality pistachios

Finding high-quality nuts is important for this recipe because that’s where all of the flavor comes from. Nathan recommended Inzana Ranch, and I’ve been extremely pleased with their pistachios, walnuts, and pecans. If you are in the Bay Area, look for them at select farmers markets, and if you are somewhere else and haven’t found high quality nuts, Inzana also does mail order.

Other thoughts

If you want to jazz up the color you could add a small handful of baby spinach to make it more green.

I suspect that you could also make this type of sorbet in a single blending step by adding some form of sugar syrup and ice cubes instead of water, but I also suspect that the result would not be as smooth. Update: I did this with peanut butter, honey, and ice cubes, and it worked well, although I think it helped that I started with nut butter and not whole nuts.

1. Scream Sorbet used PacoJets for all of their recipes. I’m sure you could tell the difference in a side-by-side comparison, but in my opinion the blender version comes out quite well. If you have a refractometer, the recommended Brix reading for this recipe is 28.8. If you get really into using refractometers, Nathan recommends this deluxe digital model.

2. Don’t skip the salt. If you want you could reduce to ¼ tsp, but I wouldn’t recommend going lower.

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Vitamix Pistachio Sorbet Recipe — 21 Comments

  1. Sounds delicious! Could this nut sorbet be made with hazelnuts? Love your website! Thanks for sharing all these wonderful recipes.

    • I was thinking about this further, and I thought of a tip I should mention. If you end up using hazelnuts, I would recommend rubbing them in a dish towel after roasting to remove as much of the skins as easily come off. I described this technique in my homemade nutella post. (It should make the sorbet smoother.)

      • Adam, I blanched my hazelnuts. Should I soak them before progressing with the recipe?I want to make it one night this week! Thanks for your help and suggestions. Will let you know how it turns out. Hazelnut Gelato was my favorite when I grew up in Germany eating at the Italian Eis places. Yummmy!!! Will let you know how it turns out. Might have to add a little of the Frangelico liquor to the mix!!!

        • Soaking should not be necessary, assuming you have a Vitamix. I think I once soaked hazelnuts and they lost some of their characteristic flavor. I do recommend lightly roasting them. I have never blanched them, so I’m not sure how that affects the flavor.

  2. Adam, I want to make this soon as pistachio gelato is one of my favorite frozen dessert. A few questions:
    1. Could I use substitute sugar instead of regular sugar and still yield the same result? I am thinking either Splenda or Stevia Extract (both in powder form). If it’s ok to use it, what quantity would be suitable?
    2. Could I just use “raw” pistachio without roasting it?
    3. I have the new jar (wide). Is there a “minimum” quantity for the frozen pistachio cubes? I’m thinking of using 50% of it at a time (2 servings).
    4. I am also curious about the alternative one-step recipe though I would not know how much water to reduce and how much ice cubes to add in that case. Why do you think it may not yield well?
    Thanks! CH

    • Lots of questions! I’ll do my best to answer.
      1. I have not tried sugar substitutes, but I’m sure you could use them. Sugar does add to the consistency of sorbet though, so it would be different. I suspect that the texture might be a bit more icy. You should try and let us know how it turns out! For quantity, I would just use the sweetness equivalence guidelines for whichever substitute you decide to use.
      2. You can use raw nuts, but I think roasting improves flavor and possibly texture.
      3. With the wide jar I think you’d have trouble halving this recipe. (You could probably halve it if you have a narrow jar.)
      4. If you want to try a one-step, I would replace all of the water with an equivalent amount of ice cubes. My thought is that the one-step won’t be as smooth because you can’t blend it as long. Also, in the two-step process you emulsify the nuts with water at a warm temperature, which may help make a better emulsion.

      • Thanks much Adam. If I am daring enough to try the sugar substitute, I’ll be sure to report back. on #4, thanks for the explanation. I had no idea that processing at different temperatures and timing makes a difference in food emulsion.

  3. Hi, Adam! I made the hazelnut version of this sorbet tonight. I roasted the hazelnuts for 17 minutes at 300 degrees and proceeded as for the pistachio sorbet. My sorbet mixture is in ice cube trays in the freezer. I will make the actual sorbet Monday evening. My German mom is here visiting and anxious to try my new treat for dessert tomorrow night. Will let you know how it turns out!

  4. Do you think the 32-ounce container is better designed than the 64-ounce (tall). I see that you are using the 32-ounce container a lot 🙂 I am debating which blender to buy (the Pro 750 in stainless or the 5200 in stainless finish). Would you prefer to but the Pro 750 with low profile container + 32-ounce container versus a plain 5200 in stainless with 64-ounce container? To me, it seems like the 32-ounce container is better designed with more narrower ridges. It looks like it blends better than the tall 64-ounce container. The 5200 does seem to fit under our cupboard if I take the cap off (height 20,15 inches). So I am tempting to buy the Pro 750 it would be because of the slight noise reduction, stronger motor and better designed airflow, matte plastic on the base, new design and the more squat low profile 64-ounce container. But there is a price difference between the models here in Europe (240 dollars). Which would you prefer? 🙂

    • I do enjoy the combination of the wide 64-oz container with the 32-oz container. However, the tall 64-oz container blends just as well as the 32-oz container. The difference comes in the convenience of scraping things out of a shorter container, as well as the smaller container just being a bit handier. (It’s a minor difference, but I do like the small container.)

  5. I didn’t have any unsalted pistachios on hand so I did this recipe today using roasted & salted pistachios and about 1 cup of baby spinach and it came out terrific.

    I actually think it came out better using salted nuts than it would have with unsalted ones, and reminds me of the flavor of salted caramel ice creams. I suppose you could just add more salt in the recipe, but I seem to have an easier time finding salted pistachios than unsalted.

    Thanks for posting the recipe!

    • Surprisingly, a little salt brings out sweetness—almost all ice cream recipes call for salt.

      You could use this technique to make a traditional dairy ice cream. Mix up the recipe, freeze it in ice cube trays, then blend the frozen cubes.

    • The receptors on your tongue for salt and bitter are antagonists – the salt receptors will slightly depress the bitter receptors. Adding a touch of salt to sweet goods will not register on your palate as “salty” but it will slightly diminish your ability to detect bitter – making sweets “more sweet” with less sugar. These aren’t huge changes – but they are discernible.

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  7. I made this with salted pistachios and maple syrup in place of sugar; changing the water to 1 cup to account for that. It was absolutely amazing!

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