Pistachio-Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

There are some food flavors that stay with us all our lives, and haunt us when we haven’t met them in a while. The flavor of these Crumbly Pistachio-Cardamom Shortbread cookies is, for my hubby Desi, something like that.

Growing up in India, one of the fanciest cookies you could buy was a Nankhatai, a shortbread-textured cookie with an incredibly soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture and hints of cardamom and nuts. I loved these cookies, as did Desi who has a sweet tooth to beat all others.

For days now, he had been asking me to make him a cookie flavored with cardamom and pistachios, but I held back. While I have, in my pre-vegan days, made Nankhatai using ghee, I was not sure how it would turn out with vegan ingredients.

Yesterday, I decided to throw my fear to the winds. Drawing upon my own recipe for No-Butter Almond Shortbread Cookies, which have the same crumbly texture as Nankhatai, I substituted with pistachios instead of almonds and added a teaspoonful of cardamom.

A few small changes of ingredients, and the cookies turned out perfect! The pistachio gives these cookies a lovely, barely-green color and the flavor is to die for.

Desi loved them, but I too couldn’t keep my hand out of the cookie jar!

Crumbly Pistachio-Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

2 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp cardamom powder

1/4 cup (4 tbsp) zero-trans-fat vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (8 tbsp) canola oil

2/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp of cornstarch mixed well with 2 tbsp water

1/3 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pistachio nuts, powdered fine in a food processor or spice grinder, and a few whole ones

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the shortening, canola oil and sugar together until light and white and fluffy

Add the cornstarch-water mixture, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and blend well until mixture is smooth.

Add flour, cardamom powder and pistachio powder and mix.

Roll into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter, and place on a greased cookie sheet, one inch apart. Press down slightly to form discs. Press a pistachio, whole or half, into the center of each cookie.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 11-12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking. Remove when the cookies have a hint of golden-brown color on top.

Place the baking sheet on a rack and let the cookies cool completely before removing them gently with a ladle.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

17 thoughts on “Pistachio-Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 3, 2008 at 1:17am

    Great Looking cookies. Love pistachios

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    February 3, 2008 at 5:14pm

    these look wonderful. glad you managed to create them in their vegan version and your hubby loved them :-)

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 6, 2008 at 1:33pm

    Shortbread has always been for me the cookie to beat. As a kid, I adored “Lorna Doones.” These look impossibly special!

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    February 16, 2008 at 11:17am

    They do look crumbly, Vaishali:) What is a pastry flour, please? Is it the normal whole-wheat flour or with baking powder added?

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    February 16, 2008 at 8:14pm

    Hi Latha, Thanks! Whole-wheat pastry flour is made using the whole grain of a soft white wheat. It has lower gluten content and is therefore perfect to bake cookies, cakes and muffins (it’s not delicate enough for really white cakes, though). Also, since the whole grain is used to make this flour, it has lots more dietary fiber and protein, unlike all-purpose flour.
    If you don’t have access to whole-wheat pastry flour, though, just use all-purpose flour or even maida.
    I hope that helps :)

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 17, 2008 at 8:55am

    Thanks for the clear explanation:) I think i know now what you mean. Because I live in Germany the flour names are a bit confusing… but now I know what I should use.

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    April 3, 2008 at 5:13pm

    hey i loved ur blog
    thanks for ur comments. will add ur blog to my fav blogger’s list :)
    hope to see more of u.

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    April 4, 2008 at 8:34pm

    Anjali, Welcome! I look forward to seeing you around too.

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 6, 2009 at 10:46pm

    Hi Vaishali

    I read online 1 tbsp cornstarch can be replaced by 2tbsp all purpose flour. In that case do you think I need to increase the quantity of water as well?

    Thank you

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 7, 2009 at 2:33am

    Hi Anonymous, Yes increase the water proportionately — 4 tbsp of all purpose would need 4 tbsp water. I haven’t tried replacing cornstarch with all-purpose flour in a cookie recipe before, but hope it works! :)

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    December 14, 2011 at 5:01pm

    Thank you Vaishali, these are delicious!! Yes, they are crumbly when you eat them – short as anything – but they don’t fall to bits in your hand.

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    April 5, 2012 at 4:20am

    Vaishali, I’m a great fan of your recipies, creativity using all Indian spices into vegan baking. One small concern though, isn’t shortening unhealthy? I’m not 100% vegan, I follow your recipes 99% time, occasionaly do eggless baking, that time use butter/yogurt. If I don’t want to use shortening, can I substitute with exact amount butter in this recipe? In that case, do I need to have cornstarch in it, can I skip that?

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      April 5, 2012 at 1:25pm

      Hi Jan, yes you could. The shortening does give it that great crumbly texture though and you won’t get the same effect with the butter.

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