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. hi Sally! i just love all of your recipes. so drooling making me wanted to try and turns out to be delish every time. now its about time i try this cupcake but i couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries here in my country. What can I substitute it with? is fresh strawberry okay? or mixture of fresh strawberry + cornstarch. another option that i have is to dice the fresh strawberries and freeze it for a long time. what do you think?

    1. Frozen strawberries are very different from freeze-dried. You can use any leftover of the reduced strawberry puree in the frosting, just keep in mind it will make the frosting much thinner. If you want extra strawberry taste without adding too much liquid you can add a bit of strawberry extract.

  2. Hi Sally!! I am obsessed with all your recipes, especially the pistachio flavored ones (the secret weapon is truly the almond extract) Just looking for some advice, would this recipe go weel with a white chocolate buttercream? Or, do you think that may be to sweet?

    1. Thank you, Brittney! I think they would go well together. Enjoy!

  3. Hello,
    this sounds so good. I really want to make this for new years, and was wondering if the one cup of pistachios was before or after grinding them up.

    thanks again

  4. Hi Sally, I absolutely loved loved this recipe! I’ve tried other Pistachio Cake recipes and by far this one is a keeper I did alter the recipe a bit, instead of almond extract I used rose water and instead of milk I used buttermilk (made it at home). I also used the cake flour recipe and made my own, sifted twice just like you said. Also, I made a Rose water glaze instead of frosting.. Rose water, Confectioners Sugar and a bit of milk. Then garnished with the remaining pistachio crumbs! The cake was amazing!!!!

  5. Hi Sally-
    My 11-year old daughter and I made these cupcakes today with your strawberry icing recipe, and they are fantastic–the whole family loves them. Hands down the best strawberry icing recipe I’ve ever had. I will definitely be making this strawberry icing recipe again in the future.

  6. love love love this recipe!
    was looking at using a new different flavour to add to a 3 tiered engagement cake I made over the weekend.
    I used this recipe for my 6′ top tier, included the strawberry buttercream to fill in between my 2 layers.
    this was by far the most popular flavour out of the 3 on Saturday.
    My soon to be bride has said that this flavour MUST be part of the wedding cake!
    I am so thankful that you are providing such delicious and easy to use recipes.
    This recipe will be added to my cake recipe repertoire x

  7. Oh Sally, I just ant to bake these right now, but all I have are salted pistachios!! If I leave out additional salt might that work? Thank you for always inspiring !

    1. Yes, you can try it that way. I hope you love them!

      1. Thank you so much! Baking them now!
        I’ve never had one of your recipes fail!!

  8. I was looking for a pistachio cake/cupcake recipe that didn’t use the typical pudding mix, so I’m glad I found your website. I’m planning on making this for a St. Patrick’s Day potluck at work with a pistachio butter filling and regular cream cheese frosting instead, maybe work in blackberries somehow if they taste sweet enough by then. Will check back in to see how it goes, but thanks for the recipe!

  9. Sammi Harasymchuk says:

    Hi Sally, would using a pistachio extract be better than an almond extract for this? I was planning on filling the cupcakes with a pistachio pudding and topping with simple whipped cream frosting. I want to make sure the pistachio flavour comes through.

    1. I’ve never tried pistachio extract! (Nor seen it anywhere!) You can certainly try it here though.

  10. Patsy L McDonough says:

    When I read over this recipe, I had no idea that shelled, unsalted pistachios would be so difficult to find on the coast of Georgia. Finally after 4 groceries, I found a bag of unsalted, but I spent an hour shelling them. The cupcakes were well worth all the trouble. Super delicious.
    My next issue was the strawberry icing. I had just ordered an icing kit from Wilton, but the instructions were not made for this wimp. I finally pulled up a U tube video done by Wilton to help me with the icing. I still had trouble finding the couplet, (still not sure if I even used it)screwing it on, and finding the right tip. Needless to say, my cupcakes DO NOT look like yours. How about a tutorial on using a decorating kit! I need lots of help!

  11. I love all things pistachio and these were absolutely amazing! I only had oatmilk on hand and it still tasted great and was incredibly moist. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed them so much, Sital!

  12. I want to make for my daughter’s birthday tomorrow but the instacart shopper brought me mccromick concentrated vanilla flavor instead of vanilla extract. With quarantine we can’t go back out and get extract. Would you use it or try almond extract instead?

    1. Hi Andrea! I would still use it– I haven’t tested these cupcakes with that product before, so I would start by reducing the quantity. Try using only 1 teaspoon. And still use the almond extract as instructed.

  13. Hi Sally! Love your site, this is going to be my first recipe of yours and I have many more of them bookmarked.

    I have a bottle of Watkins natural Pistachio Extract that I’ve been dying to use. What ratio do you think I should use for each – vanilla, almond and the pistachio? I def want to use all three.

    Thank you, Meegan

    1. Hi Meegan! I haven’t tested these cupcakes with that product, but you could try using 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 1/2 teaspoon pistachio extract. Let me know how they turn out!

  14. Hi Sally! Wanted to make this for mothers day! Could it be made into a 6 inch layer cake?

    1. Yes! See my post on 6 Inch Cakes for baking instructions.

  15. Hey Sally,
    Your’s is the only blog I follow for all my baking. Now I’m planning to make this but I don’t have Almond extract handy and I dont think I will be able to buy. So is it ok if I just avoid almond extract???

    1. Hi Sabana, 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.

  16. Sinthu Navaretnam says:

    Hi Sally,
    I don’t have sour cream or whole milk on hand… I do however have buttermilk. Can I sub the 1/2 cup of whole milk and 1/3 cup sour cream with 1 cup of buttermilk?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sinthu, you can use 1 cup (240ml) of buttermilk to replace the 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of sour cream.

  17. Hi Sally, can I replace the almond extract with rose water? Id also like to add a pinch of cardamom. Please advise if I should. Thanks

    1. Hi Mona, I haven’t tested this recipe with rose water but feel free to make that substitution. (I actually have never baked with it before!) A little cardamom would be delicious.

  18. Made this recipe as a 6in cake for My father in law for Father’s Day. It was a huge hit. I couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries, so I did have to use a different buttercream recipe using fresh strawberries, but it was still perfect! Thanks for another awesome recipe!

  19. Hi Sally!
    I’m about to make these but apparently those pistachios are not easy to find. I just wanted to know if they have to be roasted or raw.

    Thanks!

    1. You can use either one, Sandra!

  20. Hi Sally!

    I’ll be making these today for a friends birthday and I wanted to know if I could use heavy whipping cream (have some on hand) versus heavy cream in the frosting? Thanks so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can!

  21. This recipe is delicious! My husband loves pistachio desserts and I made these for his birthday. I was a little hesitant with the strawberry frosting but it was a great combination! I will definitely make these again 🙂

  22. Hi Sally,
    I read this recipe three times to make sure you are actually grinding shelled pistachios. I tried 6 inch cake using shelled pistachios wondering how they are going to be soft once baked. And my fear came true, entire cake is full of shells. Tastes amazing but because of this I’ve to throw this away.
    Did I miss something here??

    1. Hi Neelima, shelled pistachios mean they have been shelled, meaning removed from their shell. If you try the recipe again, you only need to grind the shelled nut.

  23. Alexandra Larosa says:

    Hi sally,

    I love all of your recipes! Do you think full fat yogurt would be a good substitute for the sour cream?

    Thanks
    Alex

    1. Absolutely! A 1:1 substitution.

  24. HI Sally! I am looking forward to making this. I only have lightly salted pistachios will that work?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  25. Hi Sally! Will the frosting work with freeze dried blueberries (for blue frosting), instead of strawberries? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Catherine, you sure can. Happy baking!

  26. I’ve made these cupcakes twice for my family – they love it! Instead of the strawberry frosting, I followed your recipe for cream cheese frosting and topped with some more pistachio crumbs.

  27. Hi I forgot to put egg white should I just throw away the whole dough or any other remedy ?

  28. I made these for my mom’s birthday today, and I can’t believe how amazingly perfect they are. They may be my new favorite cupcake. I never even thought of using pistachio in cupcakes before but oh my goodness what an incredible flavor… and combined with the strawberry frosting- it’s truly something special. I followed your recipe exactly, and they turned out perfect (as all your recipes do). I definitely recommend that drop of green food coloring. I think it really adds to the aesthetic! The only thing I did different, was made an Italian meringue buttercream, as I am not a huge fan of confectioner sugar based frostings. But I used the freeze dried strawberry trick in my Italian meringue and it worked beautifully! (I also made your lemon cupcakes, but with a blackberry Swiss meringue cream cheese buttercream and a blackberry compote sauce to drizzle on top and they were divine too!) Thank you once again for such amazing recipes! They really made my mom’s birthday one to remember!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for making our recipes, Cassie! So happy these were a hit for your mom’s birthday!

  29. Hi Sally, I am looking to make these this weekend. Are the pistachios supposed to be roasted or unroasted? Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can use either one, Zack!

      1. Awesome, thank you. Can’t wait to try these this weekend with a rose water buttercream!

  30. I have natural pistachio flavoring by Beanilla. It smells a lot like almond extract. What do you think if I use 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla and 1 1/2 tsp of pistachio flavoring? I ordered freeze dried strawberry powder for the frosting. These are beautiful and pistachio is one of my favorite flavors!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested these cupcakes with that product, but you could try using 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 1/2 teaspoon pistachio extract. Let us know how it turns out for you!

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