One of the easiest desserts to make, but one that you will get asked to make over and over. This pistachio dessert is a family favorite that was passed down from my husband’s grandma. It’s layers of sugar cookie crust, pistachio pudding and whipped cream. Easy to make and even easier to enjoy! Let me show you how to make this pistachio pudding dessert today!
This recipe was passed down to me from my husband’s grandma. She was technically my grandma in law, but she was just gramma to me. It’s one that she would make for every family event and church get together. I updated the original post, which was a whole story about her and this recipe. You can read the original below. ? ?
What is pistachio dessert?
This easy dessert recipe goes by a couple different names. We always called it grandma’s pistachio dessert (and still do!), but it is also known as pistachio pudding dessert, pistachio layered dessert or pistachio pudding bars. Not to be confused with pistachio fluff dessert which is a no bake dessert.
All mean the same thing – one delicious treat! This pistachio dessert is made with a homemade cookie crust, topped with pistachio pudding and then whipped cream. You can make each layer homemade or you can save some time and use pre-made options as well. It is made in a 9×13 baking dish and then sliced into bars for serving.
Pistachio pudding dessert ingredients
You can break this pudding layer dessert into three parts – the cookie crust, the pistachio pudding layer and the whipped topping. I like to make a homemade crust and topping with instant pudding. For that you will need:
- vanilla extract
- baking soda
- cream of tartar
- instant pistachio pudding mix
- heavy whipping cream
Sugar – Plain white sugar works best for the cookie crust and the homemade whipped cream part.
Butter – Unsalted butter will work here. Make sure to leave it on the counter to soften before starting this recipe.
Cream of tartar – This is the secret ingredient that keeps the cookie crust soft and chewy. You can find it in the baking aisle.
Pistachio pudding – I like to use instant pistachio pudding for this recipe. You can make homemade pistachio pudding, if you have the extra time.
Heavy whipping cream – This is for the homemade whipped cream topping. Feel free to make homemade whipped cream or grab a tub of Cool Whip, whichever you prefer.
How to make pistachio dessert
Once you have gathered all of your ingredients, you will also want to grab – mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, whisk, hand mixer and a spatula.
Step 1 Make the cookie crust Start by creaming the butter and the sugar together. Add in the egg and mix well. Add in the rest of the dry ingredients to form the cookie crust.
Step 2 Bake the cookie crust Press the cookie crust into the bottom of a prepared 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
Step 3 Make the pudding While the cookie crust is cooling, make the instant pudding. Add 2 cups of cold milk to a bowl and whisk the pudding mix until smooth. Allow to set.
Step 4 Add the pudding Pour the chilled pudding over the cooled cookie crust and smooth with a spatula. Place in the fridge.
Step 5 Make the whipped cream Add the heavy cream to a bowl and mix with a handheld mixer until soft peaks form. Add in the sugar and vanilla. Spread the whipped cream over the pistachio layer.
Step 6 Chill and serve Place the finished pistachio pudding layer dessert in the fridge to firm up. I suggest at least 1 hour. Then slice into bars and serve.
Can I use a pre-made cookie dough?
Yes! You can absolutely use pre-made cookie dough for the crust of this dessert. You can either use the stuff in the tub, tube or even the sugar cookie squares. You would just skip the cookie dough prep portion and press the dough into your prepared baking dish.
What size baking dish do I need?
You will need a 9×13 baking dish for this pistachio dessert recipe. I suggest using a clear glass baking dish to keep the cook time the same. Also, be sure to grease your baking dish before adding the cookie dough to the bottom.
How do I prepare my baking dish?
You will want to grease your baking dish prior to filling it with this pistachio pudding dessert. Grease it with cooking spray, oil or even butter. Just make sure to get all the corners so the cookie dough crust doesn’t stick.
How to store leftovers
Cover the baking dish with cling wrap or foil and place in the fridge. The pistachio dessert will stay fresh for 3 days. Remove, slice a square and enjoy throughout the week.
Can this pistachio layer dessert be made ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can make this dessert a few days before you need it. Follow the directions as written and cover the baking dish. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Can I freeze this pistachio dessert?
It is not recommended that you freeze the entire completed dessert. You can make and freeze the cookie dough crust to have for later, but the pudding won’t freeze and thaw well.
Tips and tricks
This is a pretty simple dessert recipe, but some tips to make it even easier are:
- Use pre-made cookie dough to cut your time in half.
- Use a whisk for the pudding mix but a handheld mixer for the whipped topping.
- You can also use pre-made whipped cream instead of homemade.
- A spatula works best for spreading the pudding and whipped topping.
- Add chopped pistachios to the top of your dessert.
- To keep your slices clean, pull the knife up after each cut and wipe it off.
Other pistachio desserts to try
Love this easy pistachio dessert? I suggest trying:
Grandma's Pistachio Dessert
- Cookie crust:
- 1¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2½ cup flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 package instant pistachio pudding mix - http://amzn.to/1DUL8n1
- 2 cups cold milk
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
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Did you make this recipe? I’d love for you to leave a review in the recipe card above or the comments below. Want to make it later? Pin the image below to your favorite dessert board. THANK YOU so much for the support!
Original recipe back story
This is a family recipe and the original post was updated March 2022. I want to remember the words and story from the original post forever so I added them below. Feel free to read them. To grandma’s everyone.
When I was younger, my grandma was my best friend in the whole world. We would shop together, do our nails, cook at home and dream about the future. She always said she couldn’t wait til I was 16 so that I would be able to drive over whenever I wanted. It makes me so incredibly sad to think that never happened. She passed away when I was still in middle school and gah I still miss her something fierce.
I still have dreams about her though. Her coming down the stairs in her house and saying hello. And her sitting in front of her vanity in the bedroom doing her hair just right. I literally cling to those dreams when I wake up.
It also makes me sad that my kids will never know my grandma. She would have spoiled them even more then she did us, if that is possible. I am so incredibly happy that my kids got to know Ryon’s grandparents before they passed though. They called them “grandma and grandpa” even though they were their great grandparents.
And boy did they get spoiled. Grandpa would love to send the kids gifts for every holiday. We will have stickers for many, many, many years to come because those were his favorite thing to send.
Grandma was known for her cooking and gardening. This pistachio dessert was her specialty. I’m sure it has another name, but everyone has called it “grandma’s pistachio dessert” for as long as I’ve known. It is a treat when we make it and we love to talk about grandma and grandpa while we take bites.
It’s easy to make and whenever we had a church potluck or family event, grandma would have this dessert in tow.
When grandpa passed away, we took the kids to the funeral. We explained to them that grandpa was with Jesus and was no longer sick. Ryley, in her beautiful innocence looked up at the casket and said “He went to Jesus in his treasure box!” That sentence. That sweet sentence from my 4 year old baby girl. It still makes me tear up and it probably always will. Yes, my love. He went to Jesus in his treasure box.
Grandma passed away a few months after grandpa. She just couldn’t be without him. At her funeral, pastor pulled out a giant picture of Jesus pulling caskets from a field and placed it in front for us all to see. The message was so beautiful – Jesus would come back for all of us, even after we left this world in our treasure boxes. Pastor crafted a whole sermon around what Ryley had said just a few months earlier.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44
The kids still remember and talk about grandma and grandpa. Mostly because they had an old Mickey train set that all the great grandkids loved to play with when they visited. But Ryley always mentions their treasure boxes. “They are with Jesus in their treasure boxes, right mommy?” Oh sweet girl. They are.
I am so glad that my kids have sweet memories (aside from the treasure boxes and train set) of their great grandparents. We will do whatever we can to carry on their memory as well. Like with grandma’s pistachio dessert and fun stories of grandpa putzing around the yard.
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Andi @ The Weary Chef says
I’m so sorry that you lost your grandma so young. Thanks for sharing her recipe with us. This looks so delicious, Kelley!
Thanks Andi! Recipes have a way of keeping great memories alive. So glad I have both recipes and memories 🙂
Kelley Jose says
Thank you for sharing your sweet memories of your Grandparents! Both sets of my Grandparents have now passed away but I am so pleased that I have inherited cookbooks from both of my Grandmothers 🙂 The recipes in those books and memories surrounding them are precious indeed! Your recipe has been pinned!
That’s so awesome that you have their cookbooks! Such a special gift for sure!
Grandma loved you to the moon and back Kelley….you were her girl! She would be so proud of you and all your accomplishments as I am. And it is so awesome that you are writing all these memories and stories for all to enjoy for years and years to come.
Thanks momma! I need to write them down so I don’t forget.. I’m getting old ya know!
Kacey @ The Cookie Writer says
What an inspiring and touching story. I never got to know my grandmother but I hear she was a great cook. It is so wonderful you still have her recipes 🙂
Recipes have a way of keeping family memories alive. I’m so thankful for the recipes AND the memories! 🙂
[email protected] says
What a nice tribute to your grandma, Kelley! I feel the same way….my kids never got to meet either of my grandmas and it really is sad! I love that you are sharing one of her recipes, which looks amazing, by the way. What a great way to keep her memory alive!
Thanks so much friend! It is such a great dessert. I’m glad so glad I got to meet and know the lady who made it!
It is just the right time of year for such a dessert. Thank you for sharing your family recipe and the story behind it.
Oh my pleasure Debra! Hope you enjoy!
Ashlyn @ Belle of the Kitchen says
Kelley, it sounds like you and your grandma were very close, and this dessert looks so perfect. I’m going to make it soon; it reminds me of something my grandma would’ve made, too. Your little one’s sweet words just melted my heart, by the way. I know you will always cherish that precious memory of her saying that! Hugs to you, friend!
Thank you sweet friend! Ryley always seems to know what to say to melt this momma too. Hope you enjoy if you make it! HUGS!
Laura O|PetiteAllergyTreats says
Aww, Kelley… You’re making me cry! Such sweet memories that will be with you forever. My boys never met my grandparents either but I tell stories. I’m so glad you shared this and the AMAZING dessert.
Grandmas are the best. So glad my kiddos got to know Ryon’s grandparents before they passed. Plus they gave us such great recipes too!
Kate @ Diethood says
GRANDMAS are the best thing in the world!! I miss mine so much! Beautiful post and recipe!! ?
Agreed Kate! Grandmas are the best! Thanks so much lady 🙂
Thank you Kelly for the nice recipe.
My please Liz! Hope you enjoy!
This was one incredible dessert! Kudos to your Grandma! I have one question, do you think it would work well with other flavored puddings? I adore the pistachio but my cousin makes a pistachio dessert and don’t want her to feel I’m nudging her out of her specialty at family events (although this recipe puts hers to shame but I’d never tell). Thank you!
Oh I bet it would be great with other flavors. Chocolate.. or coconut would be great!
Those both sound incredible! I decided to try lemon pudding after seeing it in the store and my goodness, incredible! The best lemon bar I have ever had by far! Thank you and you Grandmother so much for an amazing recipe. Bravo!
Woohoo!!! So glad you liked it Julie! I will have to try it with lemon soon!
courtney hennagir says
Holy moly this looks amazing! Grandmas always have the best recipes.How awesome to be able to share her with so many of us. I will be making this tomorrow.Thank you!
Thanks Courtney! It is one of our favorites for sure!
Alisa Doddie says
Pistachio is my favorite dessert flavor hands down! I cheated a but and will be making with sugar cookie dough, but can’t wait to try it!!
Hope you enjoy! It’s one of our favorites for sure!
Diane Gervase says
Where is the recipient?.
The recipe is at the bottom of the post below all the pictures 🙂
I was scouring the internet for a delicious potluck dessert to take to my work Christmas party pot luck. I -ame across this! I think I found the winner recipe to make and take.
I started to read your story and kind of had to skip through it. I apologize it’s just, it hit me in a soft spot. My grandma raised me and was also my best friend. She is getting up there in age and I fear the day I get the call about her passing. So even thinking about that had me in tears. I feel you, even though mine is here today. I have dreams of her passing away and her spirit hugging me, telling me to not cry. That I’ll see her real soon.
I hope everyone loves the dessert! And I understand the skipping through the post – it was a bit heavy but it was grandma’s dessert so I wanted to honor her. I pray your grandma lives many more happy years with you! Thank you for the heartfelt comment Tiffany!
Victoria Walsh says
I love a recipe that makes cry because about the immense amount of love involved. This is the first one to ever do that to me. I loved my grandmother more than anything as well. The story of your daughter and the treasure box is a sweet reminder about the innocence of life and loss. I will be making this recipe this weekend so know that your grandmother’s tradition still lives on through your work. Be proud. Thank you so much for writing this. It truly made my day 🙂
Thank you very much Victoria! I love your comment and I hope you enjoy the dessert! THANK YOU!
Kelley, your grandma’s dessert looks absolutely delicious! Do you think gluten-free flour or a gluten-free flour blend could be substituted for the regular flour? If so, would other changes need to be made to the recipe? Thanks.
Hey Sharon! You can totally use a gluten free flour blend! I love the King Arthur blend (https://amzn.to/2YNRydD) or the Krusteaz blend (https://amzn.to/31nAbOG) for baking. They both bake just like flour and have a great texture. No other changes need to be made. I hope you enjoy!