The Perfect Persian Pistachio Post

Okay, this is actually a co-post with my friend Ahu from Ahu Eats, but I didn't want to ruin such exquisite alliteration!

Today, Ahu and I are playing with pistachios, a staple of Persian cooking. Ahu is an American of Persian ancestry, and has posted several wonderful Persian recipes on Ahu Eats - many of which I have made and enjoyed! Her Persian raisin cookies are amazing as are her cardamom cookies, a riff on the former... Today, she is making baklava using pistachios. I can't wait to try her recipe!

When I was the manager of a Persian carpet store many years ago, I became fascinated by Persian culture - the carpets, naturally, first caught my eye, but I soon discovered their beautifully-illuminated manuscripts, finely-woven textiles, poetry and, of course, cuisine.

When I went on buying trips to New York with my boss, a first-generation Persian-American, he would take me to small kabob restaurants for lunch. We would get kabobs with doogh as our beverage. The kabobs were amazing but I have to say that doogh is definitely an acquired taste!

Doogh is a yogurt-based drink with mint and a little salt, thinned with ice and seltzer. I haven't had it for 25 years. Living in the desert as we now do, perhaps it would be as refreshing as it sounds!

Recently, Persian cuisine has been getting some long overdue attention. Situated as it is, at the crossroads of the world, Persia’s foodways include so much more than kabobs and doogh. Saveur Magazine had a nice article with some great recipes. And several newspapers such as the NY Times, LA Times, and the Boston Globe have also given this culinary tradition its due.

I clipped today's recipe for a Persian pistachio soup from a magazine just after moving to Tucson. The article was about the then-new publication From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table (Mage Publishers, 2006) by Najmieh Batmanglij. This recipe uses an astonishing number of unique flavors to create a soup that is so well balanced that no one flavor is identifiable.

When I had coffee with Ahu in New York back this spring, we discussed this soup, and she was unfamiliar with it. But, of course she knows so many recipes that I don't. That is what gave me the idea for this co-post today - we are sharing with each other (and with you, of course) our favorite Persian pistachio recipes.

When I first made this soup, I tasted it at every step of the way and kept thinking how incredibly deep and rich the flavors would be – almost “dark.” But, at the end, there is a surprise – the addition of the Seville (or sour) orange juice. It changes everything immediately! All the darkness gives way to a tanginess that I never suspected. (I am lucky to have access to many Seville orange trees but, if you don’t, combining orange and lime juices will be a good substitute. See notes below recipe.)

The soup is finished with a topping that gives it a little crunch – a mixture of pistachios, barberries and grape molasses that have been sautéed together briefly, pulling back in some of the darkness and a little bit of sweet.

Thanks, Ahu, for doing this co-post with me. And I hope that you, dear readers, will pop over to see the baklava recipe and peruse Ahu's other recipes at Ahu Eats!

نوش جان (Nooshe jan! - or - Enjoy! in Farsi)

~ David

Persian Pistachio Soup
Adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij's book, From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table

4 ounces shelled, unsalted pistachios

2 cups homemade chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 

1 medium leek, washed and chopped (see notes)
1/4 cup chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons rice flour
1/4 cup dried barberries (
1/2 teaspoon grape syrup
1/2 cup Seville (sour) orange juice (see notes)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Cook pistachios in boiling water for one minute, then drain and rub off skins with paper towels.

Add 1/2 cup of the pistachios to a blender, reserving the rest for garnish. Add broth to the blender and purée the nuts and broth until smooth - about one minute.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the cumin and coriander seeds, and cook 10-30 seconds, until fragrant and a bit darker. Add the leek, onion, ginger and cayenne. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened - about 5 minutes.

Add pistachio purée, water, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Then whisk in the rice flour and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.

Reduce heat and cover; simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While soup is simmering, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Do not let it smoke. Add the barberries, remaining 1/4 cup pistachios and grape syrup, stirring until combined and heated through - about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl.

Purée soup in a blender and return to pot. Stir in the orange juice and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into soup plates and top with barberry-pistachio mixture.

Serves 6


• Leeks should be well washed; only the white and light green parts used 
• If you cannot get sour (Seville) oranges, use 6 tablespoons regular orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons lime juice.


  1. David - the recipe looks amazing, I can't wait to try it! You never fail to amaze with your incredible stories, photos and writing. It has been a pleasure working with you and I look forward to many delicious collaborations!

    p.s. I'm pushing 30 and I never acquired a taste for doogh even though I love yogurt. Quick, somebody revoke my Persian card!

    1. Nope - you need to keep that Persian Card, Ahu - I may want to do this again soon! Oh, and pushing 30? 'Tant pis" as the French would say... wait till you are pushing 60! :)

  2. I never met a pistachio (or pistachio recipe) I didn't like - this one is definitely getting a try in my new kitchen! And I agree with Ahu - LOVE the stories and nobody does food porn (pix) better than you!! xo

    1. Thanks, Karin! Hope your trip West is going well!

  3. Aren´t pistachios the prettiest nuts? I think so and I love using them, no matter how expensive. The barberries and grape syrup, well, I´ll have to skip that, but this is one of the most intriguing recipes in a long time David! Though a piece of baklava after it would be the perfect finish, I don´t think Ahu will ship it, she probably ate it..jaja!
    My brother used to take me to a persian restaurant in DC, and the food was SO good!

    1. i totally agree with you Paula, pistachios are not only delicious but beautiful as well. incredible color. the restaurant must be Moby Dick, it's famous for their amazing persian food in the DC area!

    2. I love pistachios, too - in any form. Straight out of the shell, toasted, raw... however you want to serve them! Why skip the barberries, Paula? Not available? If I didn't have them, I would substitute currants, and then use melted grape or currant jelly.

  4. The soup looks yummy and sounds like it would be uniquely delicious. The grape syrup--I am not familiar with that but will have to make myself familiar with it! Thanks for introducing us to Ahu--I am off to visit her blog now!

    1. Susan - the grape syrup is like a grape molasses, but less sweet than regular molasses. You might be able to find it in Boston. It is also great for glazing chicken and meats when you roast them.

  5. Wonderful post David. I love Persian (and all other Middle Eastern) food with a passion. The flavours, complexity, spices and colours are mouthwatering. This soup sounds so delicious. I've never used barberries in cooking but I'll try to track some down to make this. And in regards to the 'doogh'... it sounds a little like some salty Indian lassi that I tried at a small cafe once. It's definitely an acquired taste! I need to take a look at Ahu eats also. Great collaboration :)

  6. I am so impressed w your knowledge & appreciation of Persian food & culture, D.
    And, yes, doogh is just the perfect refreshment for hot summer days! xo

    1. Well, Colette, one of the best things about traveling is finding great food-ways and cultures that we didn't have in suburban Philadelphia when I was growing up. Now, all you need to do is look online and you can find so much out there... Mark and I both often wonder, "What cuisine next?"

  7. Wow this sounds amazing, another fabulous recipe!!. Anything with pistachios is a winner in my book. I am not familiar with barberries would there be anything else that I could substitute these with? They look a bit like goji berries but I'm sure they are not the same thing.

    1. Karen - for this recipe I did actually use goji berries which are a barberry. The Persian ones are smaller, darker and a bit more tart. Goji berries are very popular here now for their health benefits.

  8. David, first of all the idea of co-posting is one that I really like and then the wonderful and interesting recipe for this fabulous and velvety Pistachio Soup - the ingredients are different and intriguing and sound very tempting indeed. And last but not least, your wonderful photography - I am particularly partial to that very pretty measuring spoon, of course.
    Einen schönen Montag und liebe Grüße aus dem sehr sehr sonnigen Bonn!

    1. Andrea - co-posting is fun - and I like doing it so that we each have a different recipe or something that connects the two. My friend Susan (from the Modern Trobdors) and I co-post often on a theme that doesn't involve us both cooking. She will write about something to do with Provence, or France, and I will do a recipe. Up for a German co-post?

  9. What an interesting post! I love to read about interesting flavor combinations and this looks wonderful. I've never heard of barberries before.

    Off to visit Ahu's blog - I adore Baklava!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I first bough barberries for this recipe and then have used them in Persian jeweled rice, as well as a few other dishes. They are very high in antioxidants, so quite good for you. The ones I used here are goji berries, which are a type of barberry.

      And I can assure you that Ahu's baklava will NOT disappoint!

  10. such an interesting and beautiful blend of ingredients. as always, the result looks divine.

    1. Valentina - I have to say that this tasted so different from what I expected. Yet I loved it! You hit the nail on the head when you said "blend of ingredients" - it really is about how they blend!

  11. What a gorgeous soup! I would never have known about this flavour combination! Love it, love it, love it!

    1. Anna - this would be the perfect winter soup for you now! Can you get sour (Seville) oranges easily?


Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.