I absolutely adore pistachios. Something about their greenness and creamy taste is so fulfilling and reminds me of summer days spent watching old Arabic movies as a child. (I have a similar obsession with toasted pumpkin seeds – check this post for the homemade recipe.) My stubby little hands would crack open each pistachio shell in anticipation, eager to put another in my mouth to intensify the lingering taste left from the last one. And then there would be those stubborn pistachios that would be clasped shut with only a tiny little crack separating the shells — those were the worst. So uncooperative! A sturdy nutcracker lay on my grandparents‘ coffee table, waiting for opportunities like this one. Using the nutcracker while watching the movie was too distracting (the Egyptian actor Rushdy Abaza deserved my undivided attention, after all); so I’d just collect the stubborn pistachios in a separate plate, and continue with the snacking until the movie was over. Their time would come though … I’d use the metal nutcracker to open every last one. No pistachio left uneaten; that was my rule.
Little did I know at the time that I was addicted to one of the healthiest nuts around; its nutritional profile is amazing, and a recent study showed that only a handful of pistachios a day “can help destroy bad cholesterol, ward off heart disease and prevent cancer.” Not a bad deal, eh?
Since I love pistachios so much, I naturally love the flavor of pistachios in desserts as well. Middle Eastern, Armenian and Turkish desserts such as ma’amoul (Middle Eastern cookies stuffed with pistachios, dates and walnuts) are often made with a good amount of pistachios. Growing up, we usually had ma’amoul during gatherings or on occasions like Easter. When I came to the States, I had for the first time a pistachio-flavored ice cream — pairing two of my favorite things was a win-win for me, and I was a convert! A sort of nostalgia came upon me recently, and I was really craving a pistachio-based dessert. However, there were a couple of big issues: I’ve gone about 95% gluten-free since last year; I limit my refined sweets and grain intake; and I’m trying to fast from animal products for Lent. So, my craving had to be fulfilled with these restrictions in mind.
Enter: raw desserts. Over the past year or so, I’ve discovered the beauty of raw desserts. By definition, raw desserts are made of raw ingredients and are not baked. Before you start imagining me tricking myself into thinking raw apples qualify as a “raw dessert”, let me point you to a few successful recipes for awesome raw and almost-raw desserts I’ve made over the course of the past year: chocolate mousse balls, grain-free apple pie, grain-free pumpkin pie, and chocolate pudding are just a handful. I like raw desserts for a few reasons: they’re absolutely delicious, very healthy, and very difficult to mess up. Making a raw dessert mixture is more akin to cooking than it is to baking, so precise measurements aren’t as dire, and reasonable substitutions (when it comes to nuts and fruits) are possible without ruining the recipe!
I decided that I would satisfy my overwhelming pistachio craving by making a pistachio-based vegan dessert that wouldn’t require any baking. “Just what would I pair it with?” I wondered. Then, it hit me: if I really wanted to emulate a pistachio-flavored Middle Eastern dessert, I needed to hunt down some rosewater. Now, before you crinkle your nose up in disapproval, let me explain: pure rosewater and pistachios are a match made in heaven. Kind of like chocolates and hazelnuts, the mixture just can’t be beat! Even if you don’t think you like rosewater, you really will like it in this recipe, because it’s so subtle and incredibly complementary. The brave souls out there can attempt making rose water at home, but for the lazy like me, a ready-made kind like this Damascus rosewater will suffice. If you decide to buy it, make sure you get a pure kind from actual roses; no artificially-flavored preservative-filled “water” for me, please!
The other ingredients didn’t require that much thinking. A sweetener was needed, so I went for the mild-tasting pure maple syrup (Grade B is thicker and more nutrient-dense than Grade A). You can also use raw honey, but some honey varieties have a more distinct flavor that you may not want interfering with the pistachio-and-rosewater taste. Also, keep in mind that honey is not vegan, because it comes from bees. Something to give it moisture and yet helps it harden when refrigerated was also necessary, so I added coconut oil and shredded coconut. A tablespoon of vanilla extract for flavor and little pinch of salt to balance it all out, and that’s it! It really can’t get any easier than this …
If you’re making this for a party or get-together, make sure you prepare the ingredients from the previous day. You will need to soak the pistachios, because unsoaked nuts aren’t well digested and the phytic acid therein can interfere with nutrient absorption. In my opinion, it isn’t absolutely necessary to soak, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. Think ahead and prepare the pistachios ahead of time. Once ground into flour, leave a few tablespoons for ‘dusting’ the cookies, and leave enough time — at least 3-4 hours, but overnight is better — for the mixture to harden in the fridge. Once you have assembled the raw pistachio “cookie dough” into flattened out cookies or balls (or really, any other shape you want), add shredded coconut and/or dried cherries or cranberries for garnish and put back in the fridge until ready to serve.
Have these with tea, with milk (either raw milk or homemade nut milk) or just by themselves. As a midday afternoon snack, an early morning dessert to jump-start your day, or as a final post-dinner bite to sweeten your mouth. Really, have them anytime you want! But I wouldn’t advise setting a platter of those in front of you while watching a movie … that can be disastrous, my friends; you may realize you inhaled about four or five in under five minutes!
So, I bet you’re wondering: did these no-bake pistachio cookies satisfy my craving and live up to expectations? Oh, you bet they did! They hit every sweet spot, and I was incredibly sad when the last one was eaten (all gobbled up by my family members and me in a matter of hours). But no worries; I’ll be making these soon and often!
Rosewater-Scented Pistachio No-Bake Cookies (Grain-Free & Vegan)
Prep Time: soaking time + 1 hour
Cook Time: none – it’s raw
Keywords: raw dessert snack gluten-free low-carb low-sodium soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian pistachio rosewater Orthodox Christian Fasts cookie Middle Eastern spring summer winter fall
Ingredients (20- 25 cookies)
- 2 cups raw shelled pistachios, divided
- 4 tablespoons unsulfured, unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut + more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons pure rosewater (buy online or make your own)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1/3 cup 100% pure Grade B maple syrup or local raw honey (honey is not vegan)
- 1 tablespoon fair trade pure vanilla extract
- a pinch of unrefined salt
- small handful of dried cranberries or cherries, for garnish (optional)
(1) Soak pistachios and dehydrate: If you have pistachios in their shells, crack them open and clean from their shells until you have about 2 cups. Alternatively, you can simply buy some shelled pistachios. Soak the pistachios overnight in warm filtered water with half a teaspoon unrefined sea salt. Rinse the pistachios, dehydrate in the oven until dry, but not roasted.
(2) Grind pistachios: In a food processor (I used a small bullet blender), add the dry pistachios and pulse until ground into flour. Take out a few tablespoons (3-4) of the flour and set aside. Keep the rest of the pistachio flour in the processor.
(3) Add other ingredients, blend and refrigerate: Add 4 tablespoons shredded coconut, 3 tablespoons pure rosewater, 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 1/3 cup or so pure maple syrup, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and pinch unrefined salt, and blend until all ingredients are well integrated. Refrigerate mixture overnight for flavors to intensify and for mixture to harden.
(4) Dust with pistachio flour, garnish, refrigerate and serve: Take out mixture from fridge, use a tablespoon to scoop out a little less than a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and roll each piece in leftover pistachio flour. You can shape into flattened out cookies or round balls. I mixed it up. Garnish with shredded coconut or dried read cherries or cranberries for color contrast. Arrange on serving platter, add back to fridge to set, and serve with tea or as an afternoon snack. Enjoy!
*This recipe has been submitted to Very Good Recipes’ St. Patrick Recipe Challenge. This post has also been shared on Real Food Wednesdays, Whole New Mom’s Allergy Free Wednesdays, and Real Food Freak’s Freaky Friday.