How To Open Pistachios When The Shell Is Completely Closed

If you've ever bought a bag of pistachios, you've probably noticed that not all of them crack open the same way. Usually, some have a wide-open split that makes them easy to shell, some have a narrow crack that requires extra effort, and some are sealed completely shut. This variance is determined by nature, not the company that packaged your nuts. Only about 70-90% of pistachios crack open as they grow; you'll have to split the rest on your own.

When faced with a completely closed pistachio shell, there are a few things you can do, and two things you should definitely avoid. First, don't give up. Second, don't use your teeth. (No matter how tempting the pistachio may be, it's not worth a broken tooth.) Your easiest option is to use a sturdy kitchen tool you already own — such as a cast iron pan — to shatter the shell. Simply wrap your closed pistachio in a towel, then gently pound on the nut until it cracks open.

Tips and tools for shelling pistachios

You can purchase a tool specifically designed for shelling pistachios online or at stores that sell specialty culinary equipment, but the reality is you likely won't use this tool often enough to justify owning one. Keep things simple and use what you already have on hand, such as a cast iron pan, rolling pin, or meat tenderizer. When in doubt, opt for a heavy tool capable of cracking those pesky pistachio shells without getting damaged. For example, you wouldn't want to use glass food storage containers for this task — while they're sturdy, they run the risk of shattering.

To begin, lay a kitchen towel on your counter and wrap the pistachios inside it. Use your chosen heavy tool to gently pound the shells, aiming to break the exterior without completely crushing the nut inside. After you've cracked the shells, make sure to carefully separate any broken pieces from the nuts to ensure safe snacking.

How to make use of your pistachios and shells

Once you've successfully shelled all your pistachios, there's no end to the ways you can enjoy them. They're delicious on their own, but these small green nuts can also take center stage in savory dishes like green beans with pistachio pesto, as well as in sweet treats such as an apricot and pistachio crumble. Be sure to check whether your pistachios have already been roasted and salted before you cook or bake with them. To maintain optimal taste, texture, and nutritional content, store shelled pistachios in an airtight container in a dark place, and consume them within five to six months.

Don't just toss the shells, by the way — they have their uses, too. Pistachio shells can serve as fire kindling or find a new purpose in the garden, where they improve soil quality and deter pests. Alternatively, you can toss pistachio shells into the compost bin.