Pistachio Pudding Bars
One of my favorite childhood desserts was one that my mother would make with a nutty crust topped with sweetened cream cheese, pistachio pudding from a mix, and frozen whipped topping. I loved everything about it and would request it fairly often.
My own baking preferences are very decidedly in the from-scratch direction. That makes recreating those bars a bit more challenging. Well, let’s not say challenging. We’ll go with time-consuming instead. No part of this dessert is difficult to make. But, if you’re making everything from scratch, it will definitely take longer than using shortcut ingredients. But! It will be so, so worth it.
I’ve been wanting to make a homemade version of this long-time favorite for years. My motivation to do so went way up recently when I happened upon a recipe for homemade pistachio pudding. The very first thing I thought about was this dessert. Starting with that pudding recipe and my mother’s old recipe, I set out to make my own version of my beloved pistachio dessert.
Let’s have some real talk. If you want to go with a pudding mix, I will cast no stones. Making this pudding is in no way difficult, but it will certainly add to your prep time. As for the whipped cream layer, though, I do encourage you to make your own. It takes less than 5 minutes, and it is infinitely better than the frozen stuff.
If you do go the homemade route for the pudding (yay for you!), then I do recommend making it a day in advance. That gives it plenty of time to set, plus it breaks up the preparation to make assembling the entire dessert a bit easier. Either route you take will lead you to an amazingly delicious, cool, creamy, nutty dessert that’s sure to become a favorite for you, too!
Pistachio Pudding Bars
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Pistachio Pudding Bars combine a nutty crust, sweetened cream cheese, pistachio pudding, and sweetened whipped cream for an unforgettable, irresistible dessert. All from scratch!
For the pudding:
- 1/2 cup pistachios (salted or unsalted)*
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided into 1/3 cup portions
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios*
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- For the cream cheese layer:
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- For the topping:
3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- chopped pistachios, for garnish
To make the pudding:
- Place the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the pistachios are finely chopped. Add 1/3 cup sugar and water, and pulse until smooth. (The mixture won’t be completely smooth, but you’ll get close.)
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt until smooth. The mixture will be thick. Set aside.
- Transfer the pistachio mixture to a medium heavy saucepan. Add the milk, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is steaming.
- Take about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and pour it into the sugar mixture. Whisk to combine. Add about another 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, and whisk to combine. Pour back into the milk mixture on the stovetop.
- Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to boil. Allow the mixture to boil for about a minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and vanilla, and stir to combine.
- Pour the pudding through a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg. Return any pistachios from the sieve to the pudding, and stir to combine.
- Cover the pudding with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Combine the flour and pistachios in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, and stir to combine. Press the mixture evenly in the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.
- To make the cream cheese layer:
- Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined and smooth.
- Place the cream in a separate bowl.** Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until you can lift the whisk out of the whipped cream and a peak that curves downward forms in the cream. This should take 4 to 5 minutes.
- Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Spread evenly over the cooled crust. Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Then, spread the chilled pudding evenly over the cream cheese layer.
To make the topping:
- Place the cream in a large mixing bowl.** Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Sprinkle the sugar over the cream.
- Continue beating until you can lift the whisk out of the whipped cream and a peak that curves downward forms in the cream. This should take 4 to 5 minutes.
- Spread the whipped cream over the pudding. Garnish with pistachios.
*I use unsalted roasted pistachios throughout the recipe. With unsalted nuts, you may want to add a pinch more salt to the pudding and crust.
**To save a bit of time, you can whip the total amount of cream at once. Just add another 2 teaspoons of sugar. Then just use about 2/3 cup of the total volume to add to the cream cheese mixture. If I make the whipped cream in two batches, I don’t sweeten the whipped cream that is folded into the cream cheese layer. But it’s fine if it’s sweetened.
Pistachio pudding recipe slightly adapted from Cooks.com via Joy the Baker