Pistachio Aillade

aillade with pork chop recipe

When I lived in San Francisco, we used to joke (lovingly) that whenever we went to Zuni Café, that there would be at least three things on the menu that you had to ask the server what they were. On the other hand, I think if you asked ten people in Paris what aillade is, ten out of ten wouldn’t know either. Unless they were from the Languedoc, where aillade is from.

Pistachio Aillade

I had made plans to cook up a simple pot of beans when I noticed a few knobby jarrets de porc demi-sel, salted-cured pork knuckles, at the charcuterie stand at the market, so I picked up a trio to make pork and beans. I’ll get to that recipe in a few days or so, but for now, I want to share this lovely aillade before another minute passes, which has a distinctive nuttiness of pistachios with a persuasive hit of garlic, suspended in a generous pool of good olive oil.

Pistachio Aillade

I had some lovely Iranian pistachios on hand, which don’t have that thin papery skin on them, and are usually reserved for special uses, where you want each pistachio to look pristine (such as on top of a chocolate dessert), but to heck with it, I was ready to make aillade, to heck with the cost.

Pistachio Aillade

I opened my copy of The Zuni Café Cookbook and using the sage advice from the author, the late Chef (and occasional co-worker) Judy Rodgers, I warmed some pistachios, just enough to encourage them to soon release their precious oil, but not enough to toast them through, which would cause them to lose their color. (And appeal.)

Using a chef knife, I ran the knife over them a few times to break them up, checking for any “clunkers” along the way. (If you’ve ever tasted a bad nut, you know how important it is to take a moment and inspect the nuts you’re putting into anything.) Then I pounded up the precious green beauties in my mortar and pestle with garlic, a bit of salt, and a dash of eau-de-vie, with a swipe of tangerine zest added at the end. I made a double batch, which I was glad I did, because I kept sticking my finger – um, I mean – sticking my clean spoon in, (and yes, a clean, new one each time – I swear), because I couldn’t stop taste-testing it.

Pistachio Aillade

While the nutty aillade went nicely with the beans, swirled over the top, not enough to fully disperse, but enough to provide a nutty, garlicky contrast to the silky beans. However it was even better the next day on some pork chops that I fried up for lunch. The good news is that you can use any shelled, unsalted pistachios to make aillade, or use another nut, such as hazelnuts or walnuts. Although I have to say, there’s something especially good – and extra special – about it when made with pistachios.

Pistachio Aillade
Print Recipe
Inspired by The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers Be sure to use very fresh pistachios. They go off quickly, so give them a look-see before using them. If you don’t have pistachios, or want to use another nut, you could use walnuts or hazelnuts. For those with a nut allergy, pumpkin seeds might make a good substitute. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, this can be made in a food processor. Just be sure to stop the machine a few times to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is getting incorporated properly. Although pistachio aillade is a terrific condiment with meat, poultry, fish (such as salmon or halibut), it’s also nice served with grilled or blanched vegetables, fresh tomatoes, tossed with pasta, and swirled into soup or a bowl of beans. As an appetizer, it can be smeared on toasts spread with fresh goat cheese.
2/3 cup (110g) shelled pistachios, unsalted
3-4 medium cloves of garlic peeled, green germ removed, and coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons water
6-8 tablespoons (90-125ml) olive oil
kirsch, eau-de-vie, or brandy
1 orange or tangerine, preferably unsprayed
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180º).
2. Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and put in the oven for 3 minutes, just long enough to warm them through. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then coarsely chop them.
3. In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the salt until the garlic has become a paste. Use 3 cloves of garlic if you want it mildly garlicky, 4 cloves if you want it stronger. (If not sure, add one now then add more later.)
4. Add the pistachios and pound them in the mortar and pestle until they are very well smashed up into little pieces. Because they have a lot of oil, you may need to scrape down the sides of the mortar with a rubber spatula and stir it a few times, then continue pounding.
5. Add the water, stir a few times to mix it with the nuts, then add the 6 tablespoons (90ml) of oil, one tablespoon at a time. Add a splash of kirsch, eau-de-vie, or brandy, and a few swipes of orange or tangerine zest, zested right into the aillade. If the aillade is too thick (it should be thick, but still runny), add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Storage: Aillade is best made at least a few hours before you plan to serve it. It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. It will likely thicken up as it sits and can be thinned with a little more olive oil or warm water.

Related Posts and Links

Garlic and Walnut Sauce/Sauce aillade (La Varenne)

Grilled Red Onion Salad with Hazelnut Aillade (Gourmet Traveller)

Summer Vegetable Soup with Walnut Aillade (Cuisine)


  • December 17, 2014 5:12pm

    Yumm! Seriously Yumm!

  • Deb
    December 17, 2014 5:29pm

    Zuni Cafe/Judy Rodgers anything has got to be delicious! I’ve always wondered if chefs always use a clean spoon when they taste dishes they are making(or maybe I don’t want to know…)

  • witloof
    December 17, 2014 5:56pm

    I have been trying to think of something besides bread crumbs to serve on top of beans, and this is perfect. Wonderful! Do you ever eat at Lupa when you’re in NYC? One of my favorite things to order there is beets with pistachio. The color is amazing, of course, but the taste is beautiful. Can’t wait to try this!

  • December 17, 2014 5:57pm

    David, this is the first I’m hearing of aillade! Thank you! I’m going to make some to spread on my toasted homemade sourdough bread. I’m going to go a bit easier on the garlic though.

  • December 17, 2014 6:06pm

    WOW! this sounds amazing, thank you for sharing! I love pistachios so much and am always looking for new ways to use them.

  • sillygirl
    December 17, 2014 6:24pm

    I would need to taste each nut personally – just to be sure a bad one didn’t sneak in there – oops – all gone. Is this why I sometimes don’t complete a recipe?

  • December 17, 2014 6:30pm

    This looks wonderful – love the luscious oily green of it. Pistachios are one of my favourite nuts and this looks like a great recipe to try to enjoy it in a different form. Like the versatility of the aillade as well, and that pumpkin seeds can be used as a substitute. Thank you, and Merry Christmas! :)

  • December 17, 2014 6:32pm

    I’m bookmarking this. I can taste it already. Love Zuni Cafe and I have the cookbook. The simple things in life are simply the most delicious.

  • Stephanie
    December 17, 2014 7:10pm

    I am so going to make this during the holidays and serve it with shrimp or scallops!

  • December 17, 2014 7:22pm

    Very nice.

  • Sarah La Touch
    December 17, 2014 9:02pm

    Lovely to see your Aillade today! As a long time resident of the Languedoc but now living in New Zealand it inspired me to make some with local hazelnuts for Christmas to serve with a side of salmon or some Paua a gorgeous native shellfish here. Thanks David I love your blog keep up the fabulous inspiration. Sarah

  • December 17, 2014 9:24pm

    oooooh, this is so right up my street – I love pistachios, garlic, virgin olive oil, and being Swiss, I also – bien sûr – have always a bottle of Eau-de-Vie handy… the fun can begin!
    You’re such a wonderful person, so generous and kind with your advice and such a terrific photographer, I would forgive you the repeated use of your finger for tasting… :) Thank You so much

  • Querino de-Freitas
    December 17, 2014 10:15pm

    ….dont tell me what chefs does,,,backstage…..one told me that never throw away anything,,,,,they mince up steaks that sometimes fall on the floor….shocked !!! be a fly on the wall and you would think twice in eating out…….cheers

  • December 18, 2014 12:20am

    Need to get a mortar and pestle for myself; it looks so handy!

  • Linda
    December 18, 2014 12:59am

    Thank you , thank you …..
    You are so generous to share your cooking with us !

  • Colin
    December 18, 2014 1:30am

    The best pistachios I have ever tasted come from central Syria. They are smaller than Iranian and tougher to open. While the nut is also smaller it beats ALL other pistachio nuts. While they are mainly for local consumption, like their seasonal cherries from only one village area: the unfortunate war in Syria means they are even unobtainable to most of Syria.
    I will certainly try this “sauce”

  • Katharine
    December 18, 2014 1:59am

    Judy Rodgers…GENIUS

  • December 18, 2014 5:40am

    Very nice…another excellent recipe!

  • Jim
    December 18, 2014 5:44am

    This looks amazing – almost sniffed my iPad. We’ve recently bought a place in Languedoc and are loving learning the food and wine traditions….this one is a new one and it will get tried over the holidays – maybe on some shrimp or perhaps on mussels….

  • Bob Blesse
    December 18, 2014 9:34am

    Thanks, David, I’m going to make a pot of Tuscan beans today and Aillade to go with it! There are good pistachios in Florence’s Mercato Centrale right now. Can’t wait to try it!

  • December 18, 2014 10:51am

    What a wonderful idea to use pistachios at this time of year, David – and the touch of brandy and tangerine zest is oozing that Christmas touch. So easy and tasty – brilliant. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season – cheers to you and yours!

  • Emily
    December 18, 2014 4:30pm

    How do you make your beans? I’m still searching for the best way to cook dried beans. Thank you for your wonderful website- I trust recipe you post to be delicious!.

  • December 18, 2014 4:46pm

    Wow! This is perfect as alternative to pesto on my dinner pasta! Will def try (ideally with some Sicilian pistachios, because what the heck!)

  • December 18, 2014 10:30pm

    This sounds intriguing! I bet it would go nicely on a pasta, too!

  • Russ
    December 19, 2014 10:09pm

    How would using Grand Marnier or Triple Sec work in this recipe since it already calls for orange zest?

  • AJPeabody
    December 28, 2014 1:08am

    My lucky day!

    I’m trying to come up with a recipe for a New Years Eve appetizer with shrimp and pistachios and I am reading your blog and … Behold! The answer!

    Although I think I’ll use some dill aqua vite for the eau de vie.