Shamrock Green Pistachio Muffins (with ricotta!) for St. Patrick's Day by Cleo Coyle

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Here in New York City the St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of the biggest of the year. Hot coffee is a must for me and my husband on those cold March mornings when we line up with our fellow New Yorkers to watch the parade. 

Portable food is also a good idea, especially when it’s green, which is why I developed a special St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Green Pistachio Muffin using ricotta cheese. 

Why ricotta? Because even though everyone is Irish on March 17, I’m Italian every other day of the year, and this sweet, soft Italian cheese is a fantastic ingredient for making a tender, delicious muffin. The ricotta gives the muffin a nice substance without making them dry or heavy, so they're satisfying as well as delicious. (Try them warm, right out of the oven, split open and slathered with butter or cream cheese, ahh....)

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To continue reading this post, scroll down or click here or on the Read More link below.

A Recipe Note from Cleo 🍀

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to learn more.
Our readers may recall these outstanding muffins from a scene in our 18th Coffeehouse Mystery, Brewed Awakening, a culinary murder mystery where a batch of these fresh, warm muffins played a role in helping our amateur sleuth, coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi, flee a frightening situation. Her baristas used these tasty treats, along with a hot pot of Kona, to lure away an entire floor of witnesses, allowing Clare to escape to safety. To learn more click here.

As for the recipe...

If this muffin were a book, I would title it A Tale of Two Pistachios. The finely ground pistachios give the batter its pale green color. They also distribute the pistachio flavor through the batter (like an almond or chestnut flour), so there’s no need to add artificial pistachio flavoring. 

At the same time, the roughly chopped pistachios give your mouth a contrasting experience, providing bursts of crunchy nut flavor like a good pistachio ice cream. In fact, that's exactly what this batter tastes like, so if you like pistachio ice cream, you will enjoy these muffins immensely. And there's no guilt involved because of a special ingredient: ricotta cheese! 

This sweet, soft Italian cheese brings nutrition and incredible moistness to these muffins without adding high calories that would come from using more butter or oil. The ricotta also gives the muffins a nice substance without making them dry or heavy, so they're satisfying as well as delicious. Try them warm, right out of the oven, split open and slathered with butter or cream cheese, aahhh...

May you bake them with joy! 

~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a
PDF document that you can
print or share, click here.

Cleo Coyle's Shamrock 🍀 Green 
Pistachio Muffins 

Makes 12 muffins 

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 

1-1/2 cups sugar 
2 large eggs 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/3 cup milk (whole or reduced fat) 
1 cup ricotta (whole milk or part-skim) 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (measure after sifting)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole pistachios (measure after removing shells)
1 teaspoon green food coloring (optional for shamrock shade) 


Step 1 – Prepare pistachios: Remove the shells by hand and measure out 1 cup of whole pistachios. (I use natural, dry roasted California pistachios, available in most grocery stores.) 

A - ½ cup should be roughly chopped. You can pulse them once with a food processor or grinder or simply place them in plastic bag and bang away with a meat hammer or another fun smashing device. 

B - The remaining ½ cup of whole pistachios must be ground finely using a food processor or blade grinder. *See my tips at the end of this recipe for getting the best results on this. 

Step 2 – Make batter: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs, vanilla, milk, ricotta, and salt. Add sifted flour, baking powder, and the finely ground and roughly chopped pistachios from Step 1. (See note below on optional addition of food coloring.) Blend all ingredients only enough to make a smooth batter. 

Optional: To make your muffins "wear the green" for St. Patrick’s Day, add 1 full teaspoon of green food coloring when adding the final ingredients to your batter. This will turn the batter a shade of shamrock green. 

IMPORTANT: Resist the urge to continue adding food coloring and playing with the dough’s shade. Every time you work that batter, you are developing the gluten in the flour and ruining the muffin's texture. Add the food coloring once and let it go or your muffins will be tough instead of tender.

(See photo below) The batter on the left was made a shamrock shade with green food coloring. The batter on the right is au naturel.

Step 3 – Prepare muffin pan and fill cups: Preheat oven to 375° F. Line muffin cups with paper holders. Fill each muffin cup to the very top with batter. This will give you a nice, rounded muffin top. You can bake the muffins naked or add a sprinkling of some roughly chopped pistachios.

Step 4 - Bake and cool: Bake the muffins about 25 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (with no batter on it). Allow pan to cool for a few minutes and transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Do not allow muffins to stay in the hot pan or the bottoms may steam and become tough. 

(See photo below) I topped this batch of muffins with a sprinkling of roughly chopped pistachios, but these muffins are just as good with plain tops. If you want to try something deliciously decadent, finish the baked and cooled pistachio muffins with cream cheese frosting...oh, baby!


When a recipe asks you to finely grind nuts, you are creating a "nut flour," which can give a lovely flavor to any dough or batter. But be careful not to ruin that wonderful flavor by over grinding. Make sure to pulse the grinder or food processor, running it in short bursts. And be sure to stop the grinder as soon as the nuts are pulverized. Why do this? Grinding without pause will create a high RPM on the blades and the friction will overheat the nuts and burn them, imparting a scorched taste to your finished product. If you over-grind, you’re facing the same issue. So pulse, baby, pulse. Do not over grind, with joy!  

Now that we're all set for the 

Eating of the Green,  here's a bit about wearing it...


New York's St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of our favorites. Both the New York Fire and Police Departments march in large numbers, and the spectators are often dressed as colorfully as the marchers. If you've never seen it in person, put it on your bucket list. The New York "wearin'-of-the-green" experience is worth its weight in a pot of gold!

Update: While this legendary New York parade was cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic years (2020 and 2021), the dark clouds are set to part in 2022. 

🍀 Our spirits will rise with those
stout Irish hearts once again. 🍀

Here are a few of the many photos
I've snapped over the years at
New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

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Eat (and read) with joy!

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