ExperiencePlus! Blog

Recipe: Pistachio-Lemon Bars

pistachios in a cup

While hunting for a recipe to feature this month, I came across a lovely pistachio-lemon bar recipe from Molly O’Brien at The New York Times. The gorgeous photo adorning the easy-to-make treat made me longingly sigh, “Ahh, pistachiooohhs.” Then I thought of pistachio gelato (my favorite), which made me think of Italy, which made me dive headlong into a rabbit hole of compounding curiosity: could the pistachio tree be a Mediterranean native???!!!

As much as I deeply wanted this to be the case, it turns out that pistachios originated in central Asia, principally Iran and Afghanistan. Their westward movement has been attributed to the spread of Islam, the conquests of Alexander the Great (334-323 BC), and the travels of Roman Emperor Tiberius, who “debuted” the nut in Rome in the first century A.D., and took it further west to Spain. The Venetian Republic also gets significant credit for pistachio distribution in northern and central Italy, thanks to its close trade ties with Syria, which became one of the main cultivation areas for the pistachio.

Imported pistachios became popular in the United States in the 1880s. Their experimental cultivation in California began in the 1930s and farmers didn’t begin growing them with confidence until the 1960s. Today the United States leads the world in pistachio production. For more interesting history, especially related to the growth of the U.S. pistachio industry, see the pistachio Wikipedia page.

And so I share with you what promises to be a crowd-pleasing and easy-to-make treat that offers a refreshing take on one of my favorite sweets to enjoy with an afternoon coffee. I scoured reader comments for recommendations on recipe alterations and have therefore adapted Molly’s recipe to the following.


The Crust

  • 1cup all-purpose flour
  • Scant ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup shelled salted pistachios, roughly chopped

The Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup shelled salted pistachios
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper
  • Place flour and sugar in food processor and pulse a few times. Add butter and process until combined. Add pistachios and pulse until texture you prefer.
  • Firmly press mixture into the bottom of the lined pan using the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup (if it sticks, place a piece of parchment paper on the dough before pressing).
  • Bake until lightly browned, about 23 minutes.
  • Whisk together the filling ingredients.
  • When the crust is baked, pour the filling into the pan, reduce oven temp to 325 degrees and bake until set, about 25 minutes.
  • Let cool completely.
  • Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and cut into 2-inch squares.