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These pistachio cupcakes with strawberry frosting are one of my favorite recipes to make when I need a slightly unique cupcake flavor. They’re always a hit! Readers have enjoyed turning this cupcake batter into a 6 inch cake, too. Buttery and smooth, pistachios pair perfectly with almond and vanilla flavors – both of which are present in these soft and fluffy cupcakes.

One reader, Katie, says: “The strawberry/pistachio combination is brilliant. I’ve made these two years in a row for my husband’s birthday and they are my favorite cupcakes!”

pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

Pistachio is an underrated flavor in the dessert world. They’re certainly delicious cracked open and eaten on their own, but even better when they shine as the main flavor in ice cream. Or pistachio cake. Or cookies! Or, best of all, cupcakes. By the way, did you know that pistachio ice cream is usually flavored with almond extract? It complements the pistachio flavor.

overhead image of pistachio cupcakes topped with strawberry frosting

Tell Me About These Pistachio Cupcakes

  • Flavor: The pistachio flavor isn’t strong and that’s because we’re relying on the actual nuts and not artificial pistachio flavor. You can certainly add artificial flavor if you’d like, but we love the light pistachio, delicious almond, and strong vanilla flavor balance in the recipe as written below. Add the intensity of the strawberry flavor and your tastebuds will thank you!
  • Texture: We used our perfect vanilla cupcakes as the starting point for this recipe, so you already know they will be extra soft. We add ground pistachios to the batter, but don’t get nervous about that texture– the pistachio pieces become ultra soft inside the cupcake when baked. Plus, the pistachio pieces are small so you won’t taste the actual chunks, just their impeccable flavor.
  • Ease: This is a basic cupcake recipe – whisk dry ingredients, beat sugar, butter, egg whites, and extracts. The extra step here will be processing the pistachio nuts, which takes seconds. Same applies to the frosting, where you’ll just need to pulse the freeze-dried strawberries first. 
ground pistachios in a food processor

2 images of pistachio cupcake batter in a glass bowl and cupcake batter in a cupcake pan

Choosing the Right Ingredients

  • The best nuts: For quality pistachio flavor, let’s use quality unsalted nuts. We all know Diamond of California offers the best baking nuts on the planet–>  they rule the baking aisle! We’ll grind shelled, unsalted pistachios up into fine little crumbs and pour directly into a vanilla almond cupcake batter. This is how we start pistachio cookies, too. They’ll be some pistachio powder hiding in all those teeny pistachio pieces and that’s ok! Add it to the batter. Why unsalted nuts? Because you can control the salt in the cupcake that way.
  • The right flour. Cake flour helps promise an extra soft and cake-like crumb. We use it in a lot of cake recipes because it keeps everything light and airy. If you can’t find it, use this easy cake flour substitute
  • 3 egg whites + sour cream. These two go along with cake flour to add to the deliciously fluffy texture. We promise you’ve never tasted a cupcake like this and the cake flour, egg whites, and sour cream – your three power ingredients – are why. If you’re curious, read our post for vanilla cupcakes for exactly what each ingredient does and why they’re crucial!
strawberry frosting in a glass stand mixer bowl with a whisk attachment

strawberry frosting in a glass bowl and piping strawberry frosting onto pistachio cupcakes

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

This colorful cupcake has one of our favorite frostings on the planet: strawberry buttercream. It’s made with strawberry dust aka freeze-dried strawberries ground up into a powder. It’s incredible!

I knew this strawberry frosting would be perfect for these pistachio cupcakes because you need a food processor for the nuts anyway. The reason we’ll use freeze-dried strawberries in this strawberry frosting is because they deliver the most intense (and natural) strawberry flavor while, at the same time, do not mess up the texture of the actual frosting. Real strawberries can end up curdling your pretty frosting. Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? We always find them at major grocery stores in the dried fruit section or you can try Target, Trader Joe’s, or online here or here.

Piping tip. The pictured cupcakes are decorated using this piping tip: Ateco #849. All you do is start in the center of the cupcake, apply pressure to squeeze the frosting out, and slowly lift straight up. No swirling around the cupcake – just start on the center and squeeze frosting out while lifting the tip off the cupcake. Takes 2 seconds per cupcake and is great for beginners! Here’s our piping tips tutorial and video if you need some visuals.

pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

zoomed in image of a pistachio cupcake with a bite taken from it topped with strawberry frosting

More Fun Cupcake Flavors

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pistachio cupcake topped with strawberry frosting and a slice of strawberry

Pistachio Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 1516 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These soft and fluffy pistachio cupcakes with creamy strawberry frosting have the most wonderful sweet, fresh, and nutty flavors!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (out of shell)
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature*
  • optional: 1 tiny drop green food coloring*

Strawberry Frosting

  • 1 cup (about 25g) freeze-dried strawberries
  • 1 cup (235g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • optional for garnish: fresh strawberry slices

Instructions

  1. Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until ground up into fine crumbs. See photo above for a visual. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 4 liners – this recipe makes about 16 cupcakes. Set aside.
  3. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup of pistachio crumbs together. Reserve the rest of the pistachio crumbs for decoration.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, strawberry powder, cream, and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes and decorate with remaining pistachio crumbs and strawberry slices. I used the Ateco #849 closed star tip.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer |5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Mixing BowlKitchenAid Hand Mixer | Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender | Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Strawberries | Mother Earth Freeze Dried StrawberriesSpatula | Cupcake PanPaper Cupcake Liners | 16-inch Frosting Bags | Closed Star Frosting Tip
  3. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  4. Whole Milk and Sour Cream: Strongly recommended for the best taste and texture! A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  5. Food Coloring: While the pistachio crumbs do tint the batter light green, I added 1 *very teeny* drop of green food coloring to help brighten the green color. This is completely optional!
  6. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: pistachio cupcakes, strawberry frosting, cupcakes

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I’m excited for this to come out of the oven; I keep staring at my little cakes (opted for 3 6″ tiers, and I’m baking them a little lower at 325 to keep them from doming too much, so we’ll see how that goes…).

    Though, I did wonder — are the pistachios meant to be toasted first? I realized when I put it in that it didn’t specify in the recipe, and I do wonder if the raw ones I used could’ve been improved by some toasting. What do you think? Does it matter that much?

    1. Hi Aja, We do not toast the pistachios first but you certainly can if you want a more roasted flavor. Enjoy!

  2. I used this recipe for a 6-inch cake. I only had two 6-inch pans, so I made a few cupcakes with the extra batter. Unfortunately, and it’s entirely my fault, the layers fell after removal from the oven (they needed more time). Luckily, when I assembled it, it was not noticeable. Best of all, it tasted divine! I paired the pistachio cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting, and the two flavors were fabulous together. Sally’s recipes never disappoint!

    1. We’re thrilled you enjoyed this pistachio cupcake recipe, Naomi! Thanks so much for reporting back.

  3. Hi there! I’m allergic to almonds and I was wondering what I could substitute the almond extract for! Thank you!

    1. Hi Charley! You can skip the almond extract but you will lose that flavor. No need to replace with anything unless you want a stronger vanilla flavor or use another extract you have/love.

  4. I purchased Pistachios with the shell, and it says grind them, is that with the shell too?

    1. Hi Stevie, you want to take the shells off first so you’re just grinding the pistachio nuts.

  5. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Question for Sally: if I am trying to make use of some nice pistachio flour that I had from making macarons recently, what would the substitution amount be in place of the pistachios being ground for this recipe? I assume it grinds up into less than a cup.

    1. Hi Maisie, you use 3/4 cup ground pistachios in the cake batter (see step 3). Let us know how it goes!

  6. Hi! I am wondering if these could be made Gluten Free with a basic King Arthurs Gluten Free flour. Would anything need to change in the recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ally, we haven’t tested this recipe with GF flour but let us know if you do!

  7. Hi Sally, there’s no unsalted pistachio available in the island. Can I use salted pistacio and omit the salt in the recipe? Or can mix half cup almond four and half cup ground pistachio and also omit the salt in the recipe to reduce the saltiness in the cake batter?

    1. Hi Pinky, You can certainly try the salted pistachios. Feel free to leave out the added 1/4 tsp of salt if you wish. Enjoy!

  8. I don’t have a food processor, so I’ve bought Pistachio Meal. How many grams should I use for those cupcakes?

    1. Hi Klaudia, One cup of shelled pistachios is about 125 grams, so use the same weight for the ground pistachios.

  9. I made these cupcakes for my coworkers to celebrate my last day at work. They were BLOWN away. One coworker said that they were wedding quality, which was very flattering! I have never considered myself a baker, but Sally’s recipes have had me trying new things and impressing my family and friends. I really appreciate all the delicious recipes you make available!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind feedback and for making and trusting our recipes! We’re thrilled these pistachio cupcakes were such a hit.

  10. I made this recipe in 3 6 inch cake pans as a layer cake and it was amazing. The flavor and texture were perfect. I made it exactly as described in the recipe except for the frosting. We are not fans of strawberry frosting, so used your Sunshine Citrus Cake whipped cream frosting and it was a hit. I added orange and lemon zest to the frosting and decreased the sugar in the frosting in half (we prefer a bit less sweet). Also, found that the baking time had to be a bit longer- 25 minutes, but may be my oven. Wow, this cake is tasty! The pistachio, almond, and citrus was really a great combo. It was a test- bake in advance of my sons’s BDay cake, and my husband and I scarfed it down!

  11. This was PERFECT. I did add about a tablespoon of pistachio paste and it came out wonderfully. I did use this frosting, but I am not a huge fan of buttercream frosting, so for the second time, I opted for a lighter frosting and it’s everything I wanted it to be. Thank you for this recipe!

  12. Hi!

    Could I add 8 ounces of cream cheese to the frosting to make it strawberry cream cheese frosting? And skip/reduce the cream? Thanks!

  13. I’ve made these cupcakes 3xs and I don’t know why they come out a little dry eventhough I followed your recipe. I also leave them in the oven for 19 mins. Is there something I may be doing wrong?

    1. Hi Raegan, you need finely ground pistachios for the cupcake batter and a food processor is really the best way to achieve this. You could potentially chop the nuts instead, but that would take a lot of time and effort to get them to the correct texture – see blog post for a visual.

  14. Hi I am wanting to make this recipie to practice for my boyfriends birthday cake, I live in the UK and we don’t use cake flour here, what can i use instead?

    1. Hi Chloe, If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make this homemade cake flour substitute. We suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.

  15. Hi Sally Just checking. is the 1 cup of freeze dried strawberries after you throw them in food processor or before?
    25g of the strawberry ‘dust’?

    1. Yes! You should have around 1/2 cup of the powder after blending them.

  16. Hi there,
    If I want to slightly augment the pistachio flavour with some emulsion, should I reduce the amount of vanilla in the recipe or simply add however much pistachio emulsion as desired on top of what’s already written into the recipe?

    1. Hi Jess, we haven’t tried this with pistachio emulsion, but don’t recommend leaving out the vanilla completely. If you try reducing the vanilla, let us know how it turns out!

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