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Pistachio Dessert

This pistachio dessert is cool, creamy and a family favorite! Made with layers of shortbread crust, cheesecake, pistachio pudding and whipped topping, it’s simple and delicious!

If you love easy desserts with pudding, a few other favorites include banana pudding, rice pudding and watergate salad.

Layered pistachio dessert on plate.
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Layered Pistachio Pudding Dessert

Of all the no-bake desserts to choose from, creamy layered desserts are a favorite in my house. I’ve made chocolate lasagna and strawberry lasagna and they are always crowd-pleasers!

This pistachio dessert has four tantalizing layers that start with a shortbread crust, a light cheesecake layer, followed by pistachio pudding, and then topped with whipped topping and crunchy pistachios. It’s creamy, sweet, salty and an overall delicious layered pudding dessert.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Classic: Creamy pudding desserts like pistachio lush or banana cream pie have a retro vibe. I imagine mom or grandma may have whipped up this to serve guests.
  • Year-round dessert: A chilled layered pistachio dessert is great in summer and is a green-themed dessert just like pistachio bread for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter or even Christmas!
  • Easy dessert recipe: The secret to the pistachio layer is using dry instant pudding powder. These pistachio cookies and snicker salad both use pudding mix as well.

Ingredients for Pistachio Layered Dessert

This easy pistachio dessert has 4 impressive layers, and all the ingredients should be easy to find in your local grocery store. Here are the simple ingredients you’ll need:

Pistachio dessert ingredients on the counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Shortbread cookies: These cookies form the base. You can buy store-bought, like Sandies, or make homemade shortbread cookies. If you can’t find shortbread, any crumbly cookie will do.
  • Ground pistachios: I buy unsalted shelled pistachios. If you can’t find the shelled kind, you can shell them yourself.
  • Cream cheese: I use brick-style cream cheese at room temperature. 
  • Cool Whip: Make sure you thaw the Cool Whip before using it. If you prefer a homemade cool whip, it is fairly easy to make. For the top layer, you could also use homemade whipped cream.
  • Pistachio instant pudding: Make sure it’s the instant pistachio pudding mix. Do not use the cook-and-serve variation and don’t follow the directions for making instant pudding on the back of the box.
  • Milk: Whole milk will give you a creamier pudding, but 2% or even 1% will work.

Substitutions and Variations

Once you start making this creamy layered pistachio dessert, your imagination will run wild with ideas for putting your own spin on it!

  • Crust: Use another cookie of choice or even try using pecans. Try an Oreo crust with regular or Golden Oreos.
  • Pudding: This pistachio dessert is all about the pistachio flavor, but you can really make it with any pudding flavor. Try chocolate pudding or butterscotch.
  • Toppings: Chopped pistachio nuts are the classic topping for this dessert, but you can sprinkle over some chocolate chips, crushed cookies or shredded coconut, too. Red maraschino cherries would look great at Christmas!

How to Make Pistachio Dessert

There are 4 layers in this recipe and while there’s no baking involved, there is chilling time for each layer and once you’ve assembled everything, you’ll need to chill the entire dessert for an additional 2 -3 hours before serving.

Showing how to make pistachio dessert in a 6 step collage.
  1. Make the crust. Use a food processor or blender to pulse the cookies and nuts into fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs stick together when pressed between your fingers. Press into the baking dish and place in the refrigerator or freezer for 5 minutes.
  2. Make the cream cheese layer. Whip the cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined then gently fold in the Cool Whip.
  3. Assemble the first layer. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust and place in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes.
  4. Make the pistachio pudding layer. Whisk the pudding mix and milk together until thick.
  5. Assemble the next layer. Gently spread it over the cream cheese layer. Place the dish back into the fridge for another 10 minutes.
  6. Add the topping. Spread the remaining Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Chill the entire thing for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

Expert Tips

  • Softened cream cheese. Take cream cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before you need it. It needs to be softened to whip it properly.
  • Adhere to chill time. Take the time to chill each of the layers in this dessert. The chilling time helps to keep each layer distinct, so they don’t all run into each other.
  • How to cut. If you want clean slices where you can see the individual layers, wipe off the blade of the knife after each cut.
  • Creamier. For an even creamier pudding in your pistachio dessert, substitute the milk with half and half.
Layered pistachio dessert in a glass dish.

Recipe FAQs

Does pistachio pudding contain nuts?

Yes, the boxes of instant pistachio pudding contain tiny pieces of pistachio and almonds.

Does the shortbread crust have to be baked?

Nope! The crust is made with prebaked shortbread cookies mixed with melted butter and nuts, so there’s no need to bake it. It’s like making a no-bake graham cracker crust.

Can I make pistachio layer dessert with a graham cracker crust?

Absolutely! Follow the instruction for making the shortbread crust, but swap in graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs instead. You can also follow directions for my graham cracker crust.

How can I make the green layer greener?

The pudding layer is a pastel color, but if you want to intensify the greenness, you can add a drop or two of green food coloring to the milk before you add it to the pudding powder.

Make Ahead and Storing

  • Make ahead: This pistachio dessert recipe can be made 24 hours in advance. The crust will get softer the longer the pudding sits, so don’t prep it more than 48 hours in advance. You can also make the crust and then keep the layers in separate bowls until ready to assemble. 
  • Store: Always store this layered pistachio dessert in the refrigerator. Tightly cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or transfer the dessert to an airtight container and store for up to 3 days.
  • Do not freeze: Because there’s milk in the pudding layer, it will form icy crystals when frozen which will then turn watery once thawed. Stick to storing your pistachio dessert in the fridge only!
Pistachio dessert on a white plate.

Looking for more no-bake desserts? Don’t miss my easy no bake cheesecake, no bake peanut butter bars, and no bake mandarin orange pretzel parfait.

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Layered pistachio dessert on plate.

Pistachio Dessert

5 from 10 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
This pistachio dessert is cool, creamy and a family favorite! Made with layers of shortbread crust, cheesecake, pistachio pudding and whipped topping, it's simple and delicious!
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 18

Video

Ingredients 

Crust

  • 20 shortbread cookies , (11-ounce package)
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachios
  • 4 Tablespoons salted butter , melted

Cream Cheese Layer

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese , softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup Cool Whip , thawed

Pistachio Layer

  • 2 (3.9-ounce) packages dry pistachio instant pudding
  • 2 ½ cups cold milk

Topping

  • 2-3 cups Cool Whip , thawed, or whipped cream
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachios , crushed

Instructions

Crust

  • In a food processor or blender, pulse cookies and pistachios into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and mix until combined and will stick together when pressed between your fingers. Add an additional Tablespoon butter if needed to help the crumbs come together. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish and place in the freezer or the refrigerator 5 minutes.

Cream Cheese Layer

  • In a medium bowl, whip the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Fold in the Cool Whip. Gently spread the mixture evenly over the crust. Place in the freezer or fridge 10 minutes.

Pistachio Layer

  • In a separate medium bowl, whisk the pudding and milk together until thick. Once thickened, spread evenly over the top of the cream cheese layer. Place back in the fridge for another 10 minutes to allow the pudding to set.

Topping

  • Once pudding has set, spread the remaining Cool Whip on top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Chill 2 to 3 hours. Slice just before serving and enjoy while cold.

Notes

Pudding: Make sure it’s the instant pudding. Do not use the cook and serve variation or follow the ingredients/instructions on the box. 
Cool Whip: If you prefer a homemade cool whip, it is fairly easy to make. For the top layer you could also use homemade whipped cream, if preferred. 
Make ahead: This dessert can easily be made 24 hours in advance. The crust will get softer the longer the pudding sits, so I don’t like to prep it more than 48 hours in advance. You can also make the crust and then keep the layers in separate bowls until you are ready to assemble. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 146kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 92mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 261IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

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