Paletas de Pistacho (Pistachio Ice Cream)

Paletas de pistacho (pistachio ice cream) are my dad’s all-time favorite ice cream flavor! I wasn’t planning to add this flavor into the rotation because I already posted my Pecan Paletas (Paletas de Nuez), which is pretty easy to substitute whatever nuts you want.

However, I found that simply substituting the pecans for pistachios didn’t really work as well as I wanted. Pistachio ice cream has a very distinct flavor that I felt was missing, and there was also the issue of color (which I will address later).

This recipe will require a little more work than my paletas de nuez, but the result is fantastic! It’s perfectly smooth and creamy, with a delicious pistachio flavor and texture from crushed pistachios throughout. 

What is the difference between a popsicle and a paleta?

Though similar, paletas and popsicles do have some key differences that make paletas way better, in my opinion. 

Popsicles are mass produced and have lots of preservatives and artificial flavoring. Paletas use natural ingredients like fruits and are made fresh, so they don’t require artificial flavoring or preservatives. 

Paletas also have a rich history and are culturally important to Mexican street snacks. Nowadays, you will find plenty of brick and mortar paleta shops but it is still common to get your paletas on the street from paleteros (ice cream carts). 

Two Types of Paletas

There are MANY paleta flavors & combinations, but there are generally 2 types of paletas made:

  1. Water based- these are typically fruit pops that have a water or juice base. These paletas are more true to the integrity of the fruits, and are also healthier (and vegan too!) 

  2. Cream based- these are creamy paletas with a texture that is more similar to ice cream than a popsicle. They usually have some combination of heavy cream, milk,  mexican crema, and/or sweetened condensed milk. These also tend to have more flavors available because it isn’t limited to fruits- some common popular flavors are coconut, coffee, oreo, and, chocolate. 

Ingredients:

  • Raw shelled pistachios-  I recommend getting your pistachios from the bulk section at Sprouts. These are very expensive nuts, and there’s no need for the shell so the best bang for your buck is going to be shelled pistachios that you can purchase by weight. 

  • Cream- a combination of milk, sweetened condensed milk, and crema Mexicana. Mexican crema is not as sour as American sour cream, so don’t worry about that ingredient- just trust me on this! 

  • Almond extract-  you can use vanilla extract instead if you don’t want to purchase the almond extract! It will still taste like pistachio ice cream, but you may find that it is missing a little something if you use vanilla instead of almond extract.  

  • Cellulose gum (or corn starch)- This is the secret to making the paletas consistently creamy and NOT icy. More details about this below.

About this Cream Base

The cream portion of this recipe can be used as the base for almost any cream-based paleta that is not a fruit flavor.

Two Ways to make a creamy Paleta

  1. Use cellulose gum in your cream base. The cream base has milk, crema Mexicana (creme fraiche), and sweetened condensed milk. If you don’t have cellulose gum,   it’s totally fine to leave it out or see option #2. I highly recommend the cellulose gum because it really helps to stabilize ice cream so it’s super smooth and creamy. 

  2. Heat the cream base and add cornstarch to thicken it. This activates the corn starch to absorb water and prevents icy crystals from forming, instead turning into a custard-like texture. The batch I made with this method was extremely creamy & smooth, but be careful not to undercook the cream base because you can end up with a starchy taste and texture if you don’t fully activate the corn starch. 

Sweetness

I don’t like super sweet desserts so my recipe is a bit on the conservative side with the sugar (sweetened condensed milk). Make adjustments according to your taste. 

Paletas, especially fruit based ones, tend to lose some of its flavor and sweetness when they are frozen, so keep that in mind before you freeze your mixture.

Equipment needed

To make paletas, you will need a popsicle mold, popsicle sticks, and plastic bags for storing. You will also need a blender and electric hand mixer.

I recommend a silicone popsicle mold because they are easier to remove the popsicles from. The exact one I have is no longer available on Amazon, but I found a similar one that you can purchase. It also comes with the popsicle sticks and baggies. Here is the link to purchase:

Popsicle mold, sticks, & baggies

Paletas de Pistacho (Pistachio Ice Cream)

Servings 10 paletas

Ingredients
  

Pistachio Paste

  • 3/4 cup raw shelled pistachios to make the pistachio paste
  • 1/2 cup crushed pistachios for crunch- optional
  • 1 cup Mexican crema
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cellulose gum or 2 tsp corn starch

Instructions
 

  • Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat and blanch the pistachios for 1-2 minutes. Immediately after, place them into an ice bath.
    *You can skip these first two steps if you do not care about color, or if you plan to use food coloring. The reason I blanch them first is because they turn a little brighter green, and it helps to loosen the brown skins for removal. This way I can get a nice bright green color naturally.
  • Using a dish towel, rub the pistachios to loosen the brown skins. After rubbing vigorously for a few seconds, the skins should be relatively easy to peel off.
  • Blend the pistachios in a food processor until it turns into a clumpy paste, like the picture below. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times.
  • Next add a couple tablespoons of milk, and continue processing until it turns into a smooth paste, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Combine the milk, crema, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract, and cellulose gum with an electric mixer. The cellulose gum works as a stabilizer and gives you a paleta that is creamy, not icy. This mixture is not meant to thicken too much after mixing, so don't worry if it looks a little too runny to you.
    Alternatively: This is what I recommend if you're using cornstarch. Combine the milk, crema, salt, and sweetened condensed milk in a small sauce pan. When combined, turn on the heat to low. Stir and do not let it boil, but once it's steaming add about 1/4 cup to a small bowl with 2 tsp cornstarch and mix until smooth. Then add it back to the saucepan and continue cooking over low heat, stirring until it thickens. Then let it cool before continuing to the next step.
  • Add the pistachio paste and mix until combined. It is much easier to use an immersion blender to fully incorporate the pistachio paste.
  • Optional: if you like pistachio chunks in your ice cream, you can fold them in now. I recommend crushing about 1/2 cup of pistachios.
  • Pour into your popsicle mold, leaving a tiny bit of space at the top to allow it to expand.
    It depends on your popsicle mold, but be mindful about the popsicle stick placement when you're sticking them into the mold. You don't want to push them all the way down because it leaves very little room to hold the stick, but you also want to make sure its deep enough to pull them out completely.
  • Freeze for at least 8 hours. To remove the paletas from the mold, place it in warm water for about 20 seconds to loosen. With a little wiggling and force, the popsicles will slide out perfectly.

*This post contains affiliate links to products that I actually use & recommend. I am not sponsored by these brands, but I do make a small commission from qualifying purchases made through these links.

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Hi, I'm Stella!

I come from a multicultural background, and cooking has been one of the best ways for me to stay connected to my heritage. My recipes are tried and tested, many of them passed down through family. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!

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