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. These cupcakes look fantastic! If I weren’t allergic to pistachios, I might have tried them. However, the strawberry buttercream recipe looks like a really tasty recipe to make regular cupcakes even better, so I think I’ll be using that recipe sometime. 🙂

    I hope you don’t mind my asking a completely unrelated question, but is it possible to use your Death by Chocolate Brownies recipe from your cookbook (my favourite) and turn them into bite-sized brownies? Maybe by reducing the bake time and using a two-bite brownie pan? I’m just wondering if you have tried this before or if it would be successful, since I would be a bit cautious attempting without an expert opinion. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Don’t mind the question at all! I haven’t tried it before, but honestly any brownie recipe would be fine to use in that pan– especially the death by chocolate brownies from my book!

  2. Austria Azaceta says:

    Hi Sally! 
    I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day.  These cupcakes look amazing!! I completely agree about the underuse of pistachios in baking.  I once had THE most delightful pistachio cupcake from a little bakery in NY that is sadly no longer there.  And my husband is not much into sweets but an avid fan of pistachio gelato! 
    I made the lava cakes last night because chocolate is a must on Valentine’s Day.  They turned out SO yummy (topped with vanilla ice cream & sliced strawberries)!!! I think I need smaller ramekins though cause mine were a little flat, just really gooey (in the most delicious way) in the center rather than lava-y.  Will have to try the peanut butter ones next time! 

    1. I think you’d LOVE the peanut butter ones. I secretly love them more than the chocolate lava cakes! (Pistachio gelato is the best, by the way!)

  3. Hi Sally! This looks gorgeous and yummy as usual! Quick question: if I were to use stabilized whipped cream (gelatin and all) as the topping to cake, would I still have to crumb coat it? Do you think it would also be okay to store it overnight 1 day in advanced even after I’ve frosted it? Thanks!

    1. I wouldn’t think a crumb coat would be necessary. I’d store it in the fridge overnight– don’t think that would be an issue!

  4. Sally I hope you had a nice valentines with your hubby! Did you make him anything sweet?

    1. We dug into a box of chocolates. I didn’t bake that day, actually!!

  5. Rachael @ Rachael's Foodie Life says:

    I agree 100% Sally pistachio I hugely underrated in desserts. I love pistachios an I adore your strawberry frosting. I can’t wait to try these they look stunning as always

  6. I love pistachio in desserts! You’re right, it’s totally underrated. These look amazing and I can’t wait to try. I’ve been trying to get better at frosting and the frosting tip you suggest sounds perfect and easy to use. Thanks for sharing as always 🙂

    1. You’re going to love that piping tip! So easy!

  7. These are so beautiful!!  Wowsas!    I just added pistachios to a cheesecake crust today – so, I totally agree: Pistachios are underrated.  My husband loves pistachio gelato… so would certainly agree;) 

    1. Oh my gosh my mouth is WATERING thinking about cheesecake with a pistachio crust!

  8. how many day’s in advance can they be made and kept fresh ? (stored properly of course) also, how much do you normally fill liners with this batter so that it rises nicely and doesn’t overflow? thank you so much! 

    1. Hi Sonny! See my make ahead tip for storing. And I always just eyeball the batter. Fill a little more than halfway.

  9. I really want to try these!!
    The only problem is that my partner has a milk allergy… Is it possible to use soy yoghurt instead of the sour cream and milk/full fat yoghurt?

  10. Hi Sally,
    New reader and baker! I made these cupcakes for my fiance on Valentine’s Day and they turned out beautifully! I’m in shock that my first turn at baking from-scratch cupcakes was a success! It’s a testament to your recipes, I’m sure. My fiance (and I) loved them so much, I am planning on making these (or some variation) for a groom’s cake for our rehearsal dinner in September. I’ll be keeping an eye out on the blog for other ideas along the way!
    Thanks for sharing !

  11. Linda Wright says:

    I’ve never tried pistachio cupcakes before, mostly because I thought they didn’t taste good. But after seeing these photos I just had to try and… suprise: it was incredibly delicious! Thank you so much!

  12. Hi sally

    Pistachios are quiet expensive in my country can I substitute with anything else?

    1. Any nut ground up super fine would be great– I’d say almonds would be delicious.

  13. Hi Sally,
    Can this be made into a cake?? I would love to make it this weekend for my sister’s going away party.
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Julia! To make into a cake– this batter will fit into an 11×7 pan to make a single layer cake. I’m unsure of the exact bake time!

      1. Hi Sally! Thanks for your reply! What about a round layer cake? Is that possible??

  14. Hi Sally,
    I’m a complete beginner in baking and am quite overwhelmed with the variety of piping nozzles out there. Could you give any advice on the type/ size I could get to decorate both cakes and cupcakes?
    Thanks a mil!

    1. Hi Masha! I’m actually creating a new video and baking basics post about this later this month. Check back!

  15. Hi Sally,
    I just made these this weekend and the cupcakes were absolutely delish! The frosting on the other hand was super sweet and it kind of tasted like I was eating strawberry flavored confectioner’s sugar. Do you think that if next time I put less confectioner’s sugar in, the recipe will turn out ok just less sweet? I really want to try this again because the cupcake itself was really just so good.Thanks so much!

    1. You can use less sugar next time, yes! Or more strawberry dust, less sugar.

      1. Ok thank you so much! Will do!

  16. Hi Sally- I know you kind of answered this one a few posts up but– If you wanted to make this into a round layer cake (2 layers) in 9 inch pans… any suggestions?? Congrats again on your big news this week. I am beyond thrilled for you <3

    1. Thanks Angela! And I’m unsure about a 2 layer cake. You can make this batter twice (do not double) and fill the pans halfway. Use any leftover batter for cupcakes.

  17. Tried this over the easter weekend and loved it…I left out the green color but the pista itself gave beautiful green tinge. It was very flavourful. Thank you for the awesome recipe :-*

  18. Hi Sally! 

    Do the the pistachios have to be shelled or can I just buy the nut meats? 

    Thanks!

    1. By shelled I mean already de-shelled 🙂

  19. Hi Sally! Do you think I could make this into a cake? If so, would I need to change anything? Thanks- Jaya

    1. Hi Jaya, this batter will fit into an 11×7 pan to make a single layer cake. I’m unsure of the exact bake time!

  20. HI sally
    I made these pistachio cupcakes and got raves from my fellow work colleagues. The smell from the ground pistachios was fabulous it like a strong almond flavor but better. I did enhanced my cup cake with a bit of green coloring food gel, it gave a lovely color balance. Where I am from we do not have freeze dried strawberry so I made cream cheese frosting that blended well with the cupcakes. Another well tested recipes

  21. These are absolutely fantastic. What else to say. I bake a lot and these are going right into the “favorites” list.

  22. Are these raw or roasted pistachios? I can’t wait to make these but my stores don’t carry Diamond and I’m not sure what to purchase.

    1. You can use either one, Kim!

      1. Thank you! Next question though is when to add the sour cream? I’ve read through a few times and I don’t see it.

      2. Step 4 after the almond extract. 🙂

  23. Sally, love all of your recipes! I already have a lot of Wilton icing tips. Could you please tell me which Wilton tip is comparable to the 849 tip you used for the strawberry icing? Thank you so much in advance! GERMAINE

    1. Wilton 1M will produce a similar look!

  24. Hey Sally, I have a pistachio paste, made of 100% pistachio, no sugar added. Any idea how much I would have to use instead of the fresh nuts? I would love to bake more with pistachio.

    1. Hi Tina! I haven’t tested this recipe with that product, so this is all just what I would try first– maybe 3-4 Tbsp? Please let me know how the pistachio cupcakes turn out. I’m curious!

    2. Hey Sally, so I made the cupcakes with the pistachio paste and while I can’t compare it to the original, I think it worked well. I used about 80g of the paste (maybe three tablespoons) and the cupcakes taste subtly like pistachio. They are maybe slightly more dense than what you’ve described but they are still fluffy.

  25. These turned out awesome! Used your blackberry cream cheese frosting instead, delicious! Thanks for your awesome recipes and help!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

  26. Agnes Galiant says:

    Hi sally! I’ve made these cupcakes before and they are truly delicious! Do you think this recipe would work well in a bundt cake format? Any tips on cooking time?

    1. Hi Anges, I haven’t tried this exact batter in a Bundt pan but let me know if you do!

  27. These cupcakes look amazing – I can’t wait to try them! I was wondering how strong the almond extract tastes and if there is anything you think I could substitute it for? I really dislike marzipan and desserts that resemble it in any way. Thank you! I love all the recipes of yours I’ve tried 🙂

    1. Hi Samantha! Most of the flavor comes from the almond extract. You can definitely reduce or replace with vanilla extract. 🙂

  28. I would love to make these cupcakes, but can’t get my hands on freeze dried strawberries. What can I substitute it with?

    1. Hi Sarah! I recommend this strawberry whipped cream instead.

      1. Hi Sally! Could I follow this cupcake recipe and the quantities for an 8 inch cake tin?

      2. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Manisha, yes! Fill the pan halfway. Use any leftover batter for cupcakes.

  29. Melanie Skeen says:

    Oh my! I just made these for Mother’s Day. My mom, aunt, and grown sons LOVED them. I made w your blackberry cream cheese icing and the combo w complex and divine. Wonderful thanks so much!
    Wish I could post a pic..

  30. I made these as a six inch cake and it was perfect! The amount of batter was perfect for three pans and there was enough frosting as well, but not too much. I’m always a bit wary with almond extract as it can be overpowering, but this amount complimented the pistachio flavor really well. I decorated the cake with chopped pistachios and pieces of freeze dried strawberries for even more color and it looked AND tasted amazing!

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