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How to Open Pistachios

How to Open Pistachios

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Pistachios make a delicious snack and they’re used in many different recipes, like pistachio and herb-crusted lamb or homemade pistachio ice cream. Most often, the pistachios you buy from the store will still be in their shells, which can make them a little tricky to open. Instead of ruining your teeth or hurting your nails trying to pry them open, use other items to crack open the shells, like a pocket knife, a coin, or a garlic press.[1]


EditOpening Already-Cracked Pistachios

  1. Use your thumb to fully crack open the shell if there’s a wide gap. Most store-bought pistachios are ripe and ready to be eaten. When you examine a shelled pistachio, observe whether you can see the green meat of the nut between the two halves of the shell. If so, simply pry open the two halves using your thumb. It should give pretty easily and yield a tasty pistachio ready for you to eat.[2]
    • When shelling pistachios, it’s helpful to have two bowls in front of you: one for the discarded shells, and one for the nut itself. That way, you can keep the shells separate from the nuts.
  2. Twist a coin between the shell halves to keep your fingers clean. Always use a clean coin (disinfect it before you use it if you aren’t sure of its cleanliness) to make sure you aren’t accidentally introducing bacteria to the pistachio you’re about to eat. Place the coin between the two shell halves and twist it to release the nut.[3]
    • To clean your coin, wash it with warm water and dish soap; scrub it with a soft-bristled brush to remove any dirt or grime.
  3. Crack a barely-opened pistachio with another pistachio shell. Sometimes you’ll come across a pistachio that isn’t open wide enough for you to easily access the nut. In this case, look for a slim opening that shows just a glimpse of the green meat inside. Take half of a discarded shell, insert the pointed tip into the crack, and twist the shell while pushing it forward into the pistachio. This movement should act as a lever and force the two halves apart.[4]
  4. Insert the tip of a pocket knife or something similar into the crack. Anything with a thin tip can be used to pop the two halves apart from one another. Just be careful when working with sharp objects so you don’t accidentally hurt yourself.[5]
    • For the best control, use a knife with a short handle. A longer handle might make it harder to position the knife and pry open the shell safely.

EditDealing with Uncracked Pistachios

  1. Use gentle pressure to crack open the shell with a jar or can. Put a towel over the nut to keep it from skittering away after you crack it. Gently smash the nut with the flat part of a jar, can, or something similar. Once you hear or feel a crack, stop hitting it so you don’t crush the nut.[6]
    • When you’re outdoors and have pistachios you want to open, you could even use a rock or something similar.
  2. Crack multiple nuts at once with a cutting board and a rolling pin. Set out a single layer of pistachios on a cutting board, then cover the nuts with a clean dishtowel. Hit the nuts with a rolling pin and repeat this motion over the entire cutting board. Take off the towel, remove the cracked nuts, replace the towel, and repeat until all the nuts are cracked.[7]
  3. Opt for a nutcracker or a garlic press to crack open a sealed shell. This option protects your counters or table from potential dings from the shell getting hit against it. Squeeze the pistachio shell until it cracks and then pick the nut out of it.[8]
    • If you’re using something like a garlic press, make sure to clean it beforehand so your nuts don’t smell and taste like garlic.
  4. Invest in a pistachio opener to quickly shell a lot of pistachios at once. Some recipes call for a large amount of pistachios, and it can take a long time to shell them all. A pistachio opened can shorten your shelling time, helping you get to baking a lot sooner.[9]
    Open Pistachios Step 8.jpg
    • Pistachio openers generally cost anywhere from $10 to $30, depending on the brand. You can buy them online or at your local home goods store.

EditStoring Opened Pistachios

  1. Place the unshelled pistachios into clean, dry, airtight containers. Use plastic containers with lids or zip-up plastic bags to store your shelled pistachios. Pack them in as tight as you can—it won’t hurt them to be pressed tightly together. The less air the nuts come into contact with, the better they’ll keep.[10]
    Open Pistachios Step 9.jpg
    • Avoid using a container that was previously used to store something with a strong scent, like onions or garlic. Even if the container was washed out, the residual scent could still seep from the container into the pistachios.
  2. Keep pistachios at room temperature for 2 to 3 months. You can put the pistachios into a cupboard or even keep them on a counter or on top of the fridge. Just make sure they’re stored in an airtight container, and try to keep them out of direct sunlight so they don’t get dried out.[11]
    Open Pistachios Step 10.jpg
    • If you notice any strange smells or discoloration when you open up the container, chances are the nuts are starting to spoil and you should get rid of them.
  3. Store pistachios in the fridge for up to 1 year. To prolong the life of your pistachios, keep them in a cool location, like the fridge or a cellar. Always store them in an airtight container rather than in something open, like a basket.[12]
    Open Pistachios Step 11.jpg
    • Label the date on the container so you remember how long the nuts will be good for.
  4. Freeze pistachios safely for up to 3 years. Place the pistachios in a freezer-safe bag or plastic container. Keep them frozen until you need them. To defrost them, simply leave the nuts on the counter for 30 to 40 minutes.[13]
    Open Pistachios Step 12.jpg
    • Keep the nuts near the front of the freezer to keep them from developing freezer burn.


  • If you really hate opening pistachios, look for ones that are already shelled. This is a great option if you need a lot of pistachios for a recipe and don’t want to take the time to shell them yourself.
  • Pistachios make a great snack—enjoy about 30 pistachios for just 100 calories.

EditThings You’ll Need

EditOpening Cracked Pistachios

  • Clean coin
  • Pocket knife

EditDealing with Uncracked Pistachios

  • Jar or can
  • Clean dishtowel
  • Cutting board
  • Heavy item, like meat cleaver or rolling pin
  • Nutcracker or garlic press
  • Pistachio opener

EditStoring Opened Pistachios

  • Airtight storage containers


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