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Pistachio Creams

Learn about this recipe from our historic foodways staff, then try it at home

What modern people would recognize as cooked custards or puddings we here in the 18th century call creams, which would be found in the dessert course of an elegant dinner. Creams came in a variety of flavors: chocolate, orange, lemon, almond, apple, and more. If you froze them they would become iced creams. Pistachio is one of our favorite cream flavors to make and can be found frequently on both Mr. Wythe and the governor’s table. Enjoy!

18th Century

“Take half a pound of Pistachio nuts, break them, and take out the kernels; beat them in a stew pan with a pint of good cream, and the yolks of two eggs beat very fine; stir it gently over a slow fire till it is thick; but be sure it do not boil; them put it into a soup-plate; when it is cold, stick some kernels, cut long-ways, all over it, and send it to table.”

— Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1779)

21st Century


  • ½ cup shelled pistachio nuts, rough chopped, plus 10-12 whole nuts
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar*

The recipe is missing the addition of sugar. Whether this is an oversight, or the cook would have known to add sugar to taste, we do not know. Please feel free to add as much or as little sugar as you like, or none at all.


  1. Shell pistachio nuts and rough chop them. Set them aside.
  2. In a pot pour in the cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Beat well with a whisk.
  3. Cook cream mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon like the consistency of yogurt.
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool five minutes. Mix in ½ cup of chopped nuts.
  5. The mixture may be poured into a soup plate, or into individual small cordial glasses.
  6. Place whole pistachios on top of the custard.
  7. Let the custard cool for at least an hour before serving. May be served warm or cold.

Note: The recipe instructs the cook to put the nuts into the cream and cook. We find this causes the nuts to oil and curdle the mixture if not done properly. Stirring the nuts into the cooked custard avoids this problem.

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