Cardamom Pistachio Muffins

In my house, we adore feasting on store-bought pistachio muffins with an outrageously, and questionably, bright green hue.

Vertical image of individual baked goods lined with paper and topped with nuts and sugar, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

But the long ingredient list of these 4-pack grocery store options comes at a cost to one’s pursuit of a fit and wholesome lifestyle.

This healthier recipe for cardamom pistachio muffins isn’t that type!

Normally, to obtain the Jolly-Green-Giant color, sweet flavor, and tender texture of store-bought pistachio muffins, there are a few cheats food production companies might adopt.

Food dyes are an obvious and very quick choice to achieve the bright colors. Drops of green food dye E142, or a mix of Blue 1 and Yellow 5 dyes, yield a perfectly vibrant shade of green.

Vertical image of a tray full of muffins and pistachios next to slices of lemon.

And the other ingredients on the list?

Every bite you take could potentially include a cringe-worthy mix of assorted emulsifiers, stabilizers, a high sugar content, and vaguely explained artificial ingredients or flavorings.

I love sweet treats in the morning, I really do. But in order to keep my body in a state of health and happiness, they need to be an indulgence to dive into every now and then.

Most mornings, when my body is craving a sweet and fluffy baked good, I’m grabbing something homemade, like one of these healthier pistachio cardamom muffins.

Vertical image of lined muffins topped with nuts and sugar on a metal tray.

The brilliant green color may be missing, but this recipe has a lot going for it.

Made with a self-explanatory list of ingredients that you don’t need a code (or a web browser pulled up on your phone) to decipher, this recipe is simple and straightforward.

With a mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour, you’ll get the hearty taste and fiber-rich benefits of the whole wheat while still enjoying a softer and lighter texture that won’t be disappointingly dense.

Vertical image of a tray full of muffins and pistachios next to slices of lemon.

The hint of bright lemon zest, tang from the buttermilk, and subtle floral spice from the cardamom are lovely companions to the chopped nutty pistachios dispersed throughout the batter.

There is still some sugar in this recipe, a must-have for a little sweetness. With its molasses content, a small amount of light brown sugar provides enough flavor and some interesting complexity as well.

Vertical image of individual baked goods lined with paper and topped with nuts and sugar, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

And, at least when I’m in the kitchen baking my favorite batch of muffins for the morning, a crunchy topping is another must-have feature!

Sprinkled with just a little sanding sugar and some extra chopped pistachios, those crunchy bites on top are irresistible!

Perhaps irresistible enough to make you, at least momentarily, forget about any and all grocery store baked goods.

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Horizontal image of individual lined baked goods topped with chopped nuts and sanding sugar on a pan next to lemons.

Cardamom Pistachio Muffins

  • Author: Nikki Cervone
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 muffins 1x


Bring nuanced flavors to a classic breakfast treat. Our cardamom pistachio muffins feature hints of lemon zest and floral spices.


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup shelled raw unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped and divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon (about 1 heaping teaspoon)
  • 1/8 cup sanding sugar (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, 1/2 cup chopped pistachios, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, brown sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet, folding with a spatula until a batter forms.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the liners. The batter will reach close to the top of the liners. Evenly sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the sanding sugar and remaining 1/4 cup chopped pistachios.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Muffin
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Baked Goods

Keywords: cardamom, pistachio, muffin, whole wheat

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.

Horizontal image of assorted wet and dry ingredients in different sizes of white bowls.

Microwave the butter to melt it in a heatproof bowl, and set it aside to cool slightly as you measure and prep the other ingredients.

Measure out the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cardamom, kosher salt, buttermilk, brown sugar (don’t forget to gently pack it!), vanilla, and sanding sugar, if using.

Roughly chop the pistachio nuts using a sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board.

Break the egg in a separate bowl and lightly beat it.

Zest the lemon, reserving the rest of the lemon for another recipe. Some lemony chicken thighs, perhaps?

Step 2 – Whisk Together Dry Ingredients

Place the flours, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Horizontal image of a mix of dry ingredients in a white bowl.

Place 1/2 cup of chopped pistachios in the bowl, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for the topping.

Whisk everything together until all of the ingredients are evenly dispersed, and the nuts are coated well in the flour mix.

The flour coating around the nut pieces will help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter.

Step 3 – Whisk Together Wet Ingredients

Add the buttermilk, brown sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest in a separate large bowl bowl.

Horizontal image of a light yellow liquid mixture in a white bowl.

Whisk until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Is your brown sugar very lumpy? Before whisking into the other ingredients, sift the brown sugar to remove any large lumps.

Step 4 – Combine

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Fold everything together with a sturdy spatula just until the batter just comes together, and you can no longer see any streaks or lumps of flour.

Horizontal image of a light brown batter in a white bowl.

Undermixing is better than overmixing for any muffin batter! Overmixing can result in a tough and chewy baked product.

Step 5 – Portion and Sprinkle with Topping

Once mixed, divide the batter evenly among the liners in the prepped pan, filling them close to the top edge of each liner. For cleaner portioning, use an ice cream or cookie scoop.

Horizontal image of unbaked batter in a pan topped with nuts and sugar.

Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped pistachios. Repeat with the sanding sugar, if you decide to use it.

Sanding sugar has large crystals that won’t melt when baked – they’ll remain as a sweet and crunchy topping on baked goods.

Step 6 – Bake

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the muffins are puffy and lightly golden brown on top, and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Horizontal image of baked muffins in the pan.

You know your oven best! For the most even baking, you can rotate the pan halfway through the baking process.

Step 7 – Cool and Serve

Immediately remove the pan from the oven. Leave the pan as is to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before transferring each muffin from the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Horizontal top-down image of individual baked goods topped with chopped nuts and sugar surrounded by whole nuts, sugar, and slices of lemons.

To prevent steam from forming on the bottoms of the muffins, it is important to transfer them from the pan to a cooling rack instead of allowing them to cool fully in the pan. You need to provide as much airflow as possible from all directions as they cool.

Once cooled completely, serve, and enjoy!

Don’t Stop at Cardamom

When you have a delicious muffin batter with this particular mix of ingredients, you have the opportunity to play with a variety of spices.

Horizontal image of individual lined baked goods topped with chopped nuts and sanding sugar on a pan next to lemons.

The lemon and pistachios work incredibly well with far more than just cardamom.

Review our ultimate guide to kitchen herbs and spices to discover a wide range of individual spices as well as spice blends to gather some potential ideas.

Do you need a few suggestions? Gotcha!

Reduce the cardamom in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon of a spice blend like homemade pumpkin spice, Chinese five spice powder, or garam masala.

How will you change the flavors in this muffin recipe? What are your store-bought weaknesses that you could potentially make at home from scratch? Leave a comment and let’s swap some ideas.

Pretty, pretty pistachios! These nuts are delectable in both savory and sweet applications, playing among the realms of snack foods, baked goods, and light dinners. After baking a batch of muffins, you’ll be just as pleased when you make these other recipes featuring pistachios:

Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lorna Kring on March 26, 2015. Last updated on August 3, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Nikki Cervone

Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

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