In case you haven’t noticed, pistachio is really having a moment right now. And no, I’m not talking about the humble nut itself, vibrant green and commonly grown in California, at least not in its original form. Nope, right now it’s all about the flavor of pistachio, which is earning a ton of buzz as it’s being stirred into cocktails, scenting candles, frozen into Disney’s iconic Dole Whips, and generally working its way into the hearts of all who love its inviting, indulgent nuttiness. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.
The most mainstream example of the current pistachio obsession is Starbucks’s popular line-up of pistachio drinks, first launched in 2019. There’s a cold brew topped with pistachio-flavored cold foam, plus a pistachio latte served hot or cold; both are dominating my social media feeds. There’s also the extremely intriguing — and currently sold-out, at least in the size I can afford — pistachio perfume from fragrance fave D.S. & Durga, which combines the nutty aroma with notes of cardamom, toasted almond, and patchouli in a scent that feels decidedly more elegant than the vanilla-scented body spray that was so ubiquitous in the 1990s.
The comparatively restrained sophistication of pistachio-flavored treats is a nice change-up in this relentless, never-ending cycle of food fads. In the era of TikTok and Instagram, trends tend to be either rooted in austerity (the keto diet) or excess (butter boards), and there’s really no middle ground for showing off the ways that regular people actually eat. That has, essentially, created a niche in which pistachios can serve as both an (allegedly) heart-healthy treat and an indulgence in multiple contexts, whether we’re talking about the fragrance department or a coffee shop.
There’s something about pistachios that makes them seem fancier than other nuts. A pistachio has more pizazz than a boring peanut, more visual appeal than a pale cashew, and a rich flavor that, to my tastebuds, feels inherently luxurious. Maybe that’s because I associate pistachio flavor with classic pistachio desserts like hulking scoops of gelato and Pistacchiosa, a rich Italian spread that is sort of like if Nutella were made with pistachios instead of hazelnuts that’s also seen a surge in popularity in recent months. Even the act of eating pistachios is an indulgence: Individually prying the shell away from each morsel of nutmeat requires your full attention more than the typical tin of almonds or chocolate-covered cashews.
This moment of pistachio love — in which seemingly everyone is reaching for pistachio-flavored treats in an effort to find some morsel of joy and indulgence in a weird world that’s only getting weirder — feels particularly decadent, especially given the pistachio’s prior associations with diet culture. When I was a kid, the so-called “pistachio principle” encouraged dieters to eat pistachios, but only in small amounts, and only the ones that came still in the shell. The theory held that the tedious act of prying them from their shells would somehow make you want to eat fewer of them, which is almost assuredly nonsense, as anyone who has ever housed a bag of pistachios in one sitting can attest.
Considering the general diet-obsessed vibe of January and all the swirling conversations about people sucking buccal fat out of their faces and taking drugs that make them sick to lose weight, it’s a really good time to be reminded to treat yourself. And thankfully, now there are a ton of pistachio-laced options for making yourself feel special on a real bummer of a day, whether that’s splurging on a $200 bottle of perfume or simply buying a $7 latte sprinkled with salted brown butter topping.