Pistachio Milk Is Trending—But How Healthy Is It?
Move over, oat milk: There’s a bougie new plant milk in town, and it’s made from the humble pistachio. Contrary to what you might expect, pistachio milk is not green like the nut (more of an off-brown color, actually), but it is certainly delicious—and quickly becoming a favorite among those who avoid dairy.
Last fall, a brand called Táche launched the country’s first pure pistachio milk into the market. This trendy milk rode the wave of innumerable plant milks and dairy alternatives appearing in supermarkets and coffee shops alike. Since then, a few more brands have gotten into the pistachio milk market, including Three Trees, which makes an organic unsweetened pistachio milk. In addition to store-bought, homemade pistachio milk is easy to make: just blitz and strain a mix of pistachios, water, and optional sweetener.
With pistachio milk lattes emerging as an equally creamy alternative to oat milk ones, we wondered: How healthy is pistachio milk, really? We asked registered dietitians about its nutritional qualities, how to use it, and the bottom line on pistachio milk.
Is Pistachio Milk Healthy?
As a general rule, unsweetened plant-based milks will be lower (or comparable) to cow’s milk in terms of calories, saturated fat, and carbohydrates, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, head of nutrition and wellness at WW (formerly Weight Watchers).
Sweetened pistachio milks contain around 92 calories per cup, similar to the calories in the same amount of skim milk and other sweetened plant-based milks, she adds. The plain, unsweetened varieties of pistachio milk will be less caloric, hovering around 50 calories per cup, but that number varies depending on the brand.
It’s worth noting that store-bought pistachio milk contains very little of the actual pistachio—only about three percent—and is mostly water, says Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN, a nutrition consultant for AI-driven visual diet diary app Freshbit. That’s something to consider when you’re paying a premium for the milk (a quart of Táche is a hefty $8). Plus, drinking the milk means you’re missing out on key nutrients found in actual pistachios, which contain 30 vitamins, including thiamin, manganese, phosphorous, and vitamin B6, in addition to about six grams of protein per serving.
One small benefit of pistachio milk is that it’s a touch higher in protein than other non-dairy milks, averaging around three grams per cup (compared to one gram), London says. Still, that’s much lower than regular milk, which provides around eight grams of protein per cup.
How Healthy Are Plant Milks in General?
Unless you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, or have a dairy allergy, there’s no direct health-related reason to make the switch to dairy-free milks, says London. It’s perfectly fine to choose a plant-based milk like pistachio milk if you enjoy the taste, but know that you’ll be giving up beneficial nutrition found in regular cow’s milk.
“Milk provides potassium, calcium, vitamins A and D (through fortification), and eight grams of protein per cup, while nut milks will average around one gram of protein, require fortification of most vitamins and minerals, and depend on the specific food from which the milk was derived,” explains London. If you must switch to plant milk, try to choose one with no added sugar, she notes. (Although, if you prefer the taste of sweetened pistachio milk, it usually has only about six grams of added sugar per cup—just be mindful of your consumption). And you may want to opt for another alternative to nut milks altogether, such as soy milk, for satiety reasons: with seven to eight grams of protein per serving, soy milk is one of the highest protein non-dairy milks.
In addition, avoiding cow’s milk also means you’re missing out on B12, riboflavin, and phosphorus, all nutrients found naturally in regular milk, says Minchen. These nutrients can be consumed in other foods, though, such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese, she adds. Other animal proteins, like chicken or lean beef, provide protein and B12, while eggs provide riboflavin, whole grains provide phosphorus, and leafy greens offer calcium. “It's possible to achieve optimal intake of these valuable nutrients from other foods when you make sure your diet is varied to incorporate these other essential food groups,” Minchen adds.
All that said, it’s important to note that establishing healthier eating patterns through food choices isn’t a contest. For instance, you shouldn’t feel more or less virtuous ordering a latte made with pistachio milk compared to the person behind you ordering soy or whole milk. “No single food or ingredient in isolation can make or break your health—and that’s true for dairy and plants,” says London. “Neither plant-based or cow’s milk is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choice… it’s completely up to you and your needs.”
How to Use Pistachio Milk
Use pistachio milk in recipes where you can maximize the earthy, distinct flavor of the pistachios and not have it blend into the background, says London. For instance, it works great in overnight oats, as a cereal milk, or as a non-dairy swap for cream in soups. Pistachio milk froths beautifully, making it a natural fit to add to coffee or tea. In particular, London says pistachio milk is especially tasty in matcha lattes with cinnamon, cardamom, or pumpkin pie spice dusted on top.
If pistachio milk is all you have on hand, it also is a perfect substitute for any other type of milk in smoothies and baked goods, says Minchen. London also highly recommends pistachio milk as an ingredient swap for cow’s milk or almond milk in homemade ice cream.