Pistachio Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

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 frostingIt’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: 15-16 cupcakes
  • 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

  • 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

191 Comments

  1. SALLY!!! I KNEW you were going to post pistachio cupcakes, because in your strawberry frosting post which I saw today (how in the world did that happen???) you wrote pistachio cupcakes with no link to a recipe so I was like, HUUHHHH!!! PISTACHIO CUPCAKE?? SHES GONNA MAKE PISTACHIO CUPCAKE??? and so when the clock hit 2:00 ( you almost always post at 2:00 PM in Korea. I am a very very regular reader since looong time ago; do you know me?) I went back to the home page(?) and there it was! pistachio cupcake! So like the mac and cheese excitment (now you remember me?) I scrolled down with wide eyes. Unfortunately, I cannot find those strawberry here unless I dig in cereal, so that will have to wait. BUT! I will make the molten lava cakes and let you know 🙂

    1. You totally called it. 😉 Let me know how the molten cakes are when you try them. And the mac & cheese too!

  2. Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower says:

    These cupcakes look soo mouthwatering! I love pistachio and I can just imagine how amazing it would taste in a cupcake. And that strawberry frosting will for sure become a favorite. I can’t wait to try this combination!

  3. Emma @ Lights, Camera, BAKE! says:

    I’ve never thought of using pistachio in cupcakes! These look and sound amazing. Thanks for the tip for of using almond extract for bringing the flavour of the pistachios out!

  4. These cupcakes look divine! As an avid reader of your blog since the very earliest days, I’m always amazed at how much work you put into perfecting these mouth-watering, decadent recipes and making sure that we readers have absolutely no difficulties in following them. I’ve made countless recipes with spectacular results. Thank you so much!!
    p.s. I really don’t mean to be nitpicking, but flavor A ‘complements’ flavor B, not ‘compliments’. To ‘complement’ means to perfect or complete something, whereas to ‘compliment’ is to praise. Sorry to be such a nerd 🙂

    1. But can’t flavor A give a compliment to flavor B? 😉
      Thanks for pointing that out and the incredibly kind comment this morning!

  5. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    Yum!  I would never think to put these two flavors together.  And NEED to try that strawberry frosting asap.  I made the chocolate lava cakes this weekend and my husband said it was his favorite dessert I’ve ever made!  I think I’ll have to double the recipe next time 😉

  6. Hi Sally, I actually never used pistachios in baking. Never! (how sad is that?) I love your recipe for cupcakes because I always have extra egg whites. Also, this recipe can be ideal for Valentine’s Day…it is pink and cute. Add heart decoration…pieces of chocolate, some icing sugar and….HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Check my Nutella Chocolate Love Cake http://www.5starcookies.com/2017/02/13/69-naughty-ideas-front-garage/

    1. I hope you try them!

  7. Sara | Last Night's Feast says:

    These look amazing! So brilliant to make the frosting with dehydrated strawberries!

  8. I’d like to make this as a cake, think a blackberry buttercream would work? I have a blackberry loving kiddo that would adore this as a birthday cake.

    1. To make into a cake– this batter will fit into an 11×7 pan to make a single layer cake. I’m unsure about a double layer cake if that is what you were hoping to make. Do freeze-dried blackberries exist? I haven’t seen them at the store but would love to try them!! Any freeze dried fruit blended into a powder would work.

      1. I found some freeze dried blackberries on Amazon! 

      2. NICE! I’ll have to search. A blackberry frosting like this would be SO GOOD.

  9. What in the $*(#)*$#($*()#. You just made my dayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Pistachio is SO underrated you are right. Pretty colors, yummy flavors, I cannot WAIT to try these!!! WEEKEND GOALS.

    1. I love the excitement!!

  10. Pistachio cupcakes – YAYAYAYAY!! One of the few nuts I can eat that is truly a nut (unlike peanuts). Love them, and this is definitely on my to-bake list. I even have some in the house . . . just waiting to be enjoyed some other way than just eating them plain. And that frosting?!! OMG. If I hadn’t just made the lava cakes for tomorrow, well let’s just say there might be an emergency baking session tonight! HA!

    1. Haha….glad you are excited about these! Let me know how it goes when you get to make them!

  11. Oh my god. I’ve been craving pistachios lately and have been wanting to bake something pistachio-y! Cupcakes aren’t usually my go-to when I’m bringing a dessert/treat for an event, and I DEFINITELY don’t need a dozen cupcakes sitting around my apartment, just begging me to shove them in my face. Do you think that your “Vanilla Cupcakes for Two” recipe from 2012 could be modified to be delicious pistachio cupcakes like these?

    1. Absolutely. I would add 2 Tablespoons of finely ground pistachios to that batter. And a scant 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract.

  12. Michelle @ Brown Butter and Biscuits says:

    These look wonderful!! I love pistachio! Strawberry frosting sounds incredible with it too 🙂

  13. Pistachio and strawberry is an interesting combination, but I can see how it works. I love that strawberry frosting of yours, Sally. I’ve only made it once (for some chocolate cupcakes last Spring) but it was divine. I have to make it more often. I agree; this dull and depressing winter needs some COLOUR. I made the mixed berry fruit crumble in your first cookbook yesterday and served it with some ice cream for no reason at all (I also added a bit of quinoa for extra texture and crunch). Was just the pep everyone around here needed 🙂

    1. Good choice on dessert. Fruit crisps will forever be one of my favorite desserts on the planet. And now I’m craving the mixed berry version!!

  14. They’re beautiful! I love them!!

  15. Hi, Sally! I have written before to let you know how much I love you and your site. I tell everyone I know. 🙂

    I was thinking about shipping pistachio muffins to my dad (without the frosting) and wonder if you think these will ship okay? Should I freeze them first?

    I have made more recipes of yours than I can count and my favorite for the past holidays was your lighter chocolate chocolate chip muffin recipe paired with your candy cane frosting; one of my favorite things ever to eat! Thanks for everything you do, Jess

    1. Hi Jess!! Thank you. 🙂 I haven’t made that candy cane frosting is SO LONG!
      Per your question– I don’t think freezing is necessary. Just pack and ship after they’re cooled.

      1. Thank you, Sally! I am excited to send these to him! And that candy cane frosting is divine; it’s the only reason I bought candy canes this past holiday season. 🙂

  16. Shelby @ Go Eat and Repeat says:

    I’m loving that light and fluffy cupcake! I’ve always been skeptical about cake flour, I just was never sure it made a big difference. I do, however, love sour cream already because it makes them so moist! Dried strawberries are also a unique touch but sound so perfect! Happy early Valentine’s Day!

  17. Hi Sally!
    I am SO excited to try this recipe, I LOVE pistachio!! The only problem is I am allergic to Strawberries. Can you recommend another frosting for these cupcakes?

      1. TY for taking the time to answer me!! Can’t wait to make them 🙂

  18. Niki Daugherty says:

    Mmmmmm I love pistachio anything! And this strawberry icing looks delectable! Definitely one I’ll be trying!

  19. This looks delicious!
    Kari
    http://sweetteasweetie.com/

  20. These look wonderful and I happen to have all the ingredients at home so I think I will make these as a Valentine treat for my family. I would prefer to use my six inch cake pan though, do you think the batter would be sufficient to make three layers or would two layers be better? Also, I have been looking for an excuse to try out a rosette frosting–do you think this amount of frosting is sufficient, or should I double it?

    1. I made this today and it was lovely. This amount of batter was perfect for a three layer, six inch cake. I doubled the frosting recipe and piped rosettes over the entire cake. I ended up with over a cup left over.

    2. Hi Rebecca– I believe this batter could fit into 2 6-inch cake pans. I’m unsure of the bake time. This frosting isn’t stiff enough for a rosette frosting though. Maybe try that out a different time!

  21. Blogtastic Food says:

    Looks fantastic! Lovely recipe (:

  22. Izzy | pinch of delight says:

    These look amazing!
    I know how I am going to be spending my valentines day. x
    Izzy -https://pinchofdelight.wordpress.com

  23. Laura | Tutti Dolci says:

    Gorgeous cupcakes, Sally! I love those specks of strawberry too 🙂

  24. Lisa Henderson says:

    This cupcake intrigues me. I have some unshelled, salted pistachios at home. Do you suppose that I could shell them and rinse the salt so that I could try this recipe? I would like to use what I have before buying more. (Although, in the name of science/recipe testing, I could eat those and buy an unsalted batch!)

    1. Lisa, whichever works for you– washing/drying the salted pistachios would absolutely be OK… or just buying unsalted and eating the salted pistachios yourself. 😉

  25. Cindy Rodriguez says:

    Sally, I couldn’t help but laugh at your use of the Ateco #849 tip – it’s a HUGE game-changer, I’ll admit. It can turn the most novice of bakers into pros with one recipe.

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m particularly intrigued by powdering freeze-dried fruit. I’ve encountered some difficulty when incorporating any sort of fresh fruit into a frosting, but this sounds like an easy way to work around that *and* get a boost in flavor. Can’t wait till I try this myself!

    1. Let me know how you like the frosting! And the Ateco 849 tip is fantastic– cuts down on so much decorating time!

  26. Looks amazing! BTW DO YOU UNSHELL THE PISTACHIO?????

    1. Yes, shell the pistachios first 🙂

  27. Literally dying – I havent made them yet but i have a feeling these will be your best cupcake recipe! Love the “unusual” route you took with these Sally 🙂

    Will definitely report back with a review!

    1. Thanks Caitlin– and please let me know how you enjoy them!

  28. doublebatchblog says:

    These looks really good! We are definitely going to try them!

  29. Shawnna Griffin says:

    Hey girl- these look so yummy!

  30. Anastasia | Baking with Anastasia says:

    I love pistachio & strawberry combination! And your cupcakes look both beautiful and delicious!

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