The Foolproof Way To Open Stubborn Pistachio Shells

Vibrant green specks of pistachios are often found in sweet treats, but can also make an appearance in savory recipes. Although there is an abundance of ways to enjoy the bite-size nut, the reality is that pistachios also make for excellent snacking on their own. Not only do they provide a fair amount of vitamin B6, potassium, and antioxidants (via Healthline), but the nuts also deliver a great crunch factor. 

But, in order to get to that little seed inside, its beige shell must first be removed — something that can often be easier said than done. Thankfully, there's an easy way to open shells that prove to be too tough to crack. Not all pistachios are sold with their shells intact. While shelled nuts can provide convenience and even allow the seasoning to better fully coat the pistachio, shelling isn't necessary even if they're meant to be roasted or salted.

Where a nut like cashew requires its protective shell to be removed, How Stuff Works explains that because most pistachio shells naturally split as they grow, there's no need to completely separate the shell from the nut meat as it's still able to be heated and seasoned. That said, unshelled nuts do add an extra step for consumers, but most pistachio lovers would agree that the act of cracking shells apart to reveal the delicately woodsy, yet sweet pistachio within is half of the fun, that is unless the shells are too stubborn to pry open.

To crack a tough nut, use a spare shell

Since matured nuts will always open partially, sealed nuts indicate that the pistachio hasn't properly developed or was simply harvested too early. While you might be tempted to toss nuts that have teeny little gaps, Livestrong shares that fully unopened pistachios can still be eaten, even if they might not have the same rich flavors as matured nuts. Persuaded to keep the nearly sealed-shut nut? The next challenge is figuring out the best way to crack them open.

Despite the fact that it might be tempting to try prying open a pistachio with your nail — or, worse yet, your teeth — it's wise to refrain from doing so. Instead, the best tool to grab is actually another pistachio shell. According to Sweetish Hill, all you need to do is wedge the thin end of a spare shell in between the pistachio shell's gap, giving it a quick twist. The shell should pop open with ease, eliminating the need for any further invention. Of course, if all else fails, you could also reach for something heavy like a cast iron skillet and give the nut a gentle tap, but that could cause shattering, which isn't ideal.

As for what to do with all those leftover shells once they're served the purpose of helping pop open tough pistachios, Rural Sprout suggests giving them a soak and then adding the leftover shells to compost, mulch, or even to potted plants for improved drainage.