Gorgeous Layered Pistachio Dessert is the most amazing old-fashioned sweet treat passed down from my grandma! It’s easy to make with a nutty cookie crust that’s topped with layers of cheesecake filling, pistachio pudding, and Cool Whip. It’s always a hit at potlucks, parties and holiday gatherings!

Slice of pistachio dessert with a fork in it.

This layered pistachio dessert with pudding is light, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Not only does it have a wonderful classic pistachio flavor, but the textures are amazing. You have a crunchy pecan cookie crust to complement a layer of tangy cheesecake, then you taste the creamy pistachio pudding layer and your bite finishes with fluffy Cool Whip. It’s a combination of flavors and textures that will have your tastebuds and tummy so satisfied!

Even though there are several steps to make this stunning green and white layered dessert, they’re all super easy and straightforward. Most of the prep time is spent waiting for this to chill in your fridge! So, it’s a great make ahead cake for parties or holiday gatherings. The pretty color and the light and airy texture make this pistachio dessert perfect for springtime celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day, Easter or Mother’s Day!

We love layered desserts, like this pistachio lush, especially for the holidays! It’s similar to our Chocolate Delight, which is also a must try!

Large pan with one serving of pistachio dessert removed.

Ingredients needed

This pistachio dessert recipe is made with simple ingredients, some of which you probably already have in your kitchen. Here’s everything you’ll need to make it:

For the crust

  • Flour: All-purpose flour will yield a tender crust with a shortbread cookie texture.
  • Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter that is melted to give the crust rich flavor and bind all of the ingredients together.
  • Pecans: Make sure the nuts are finely chopped so they bind easily.

Cheesecake layer

  • Cream cheese: Use a brick of real cream cheese, not cream cheese spread. We like Philadelphia’s cream cheese best. You will want the cream cheese softened to room temperature, so it’s easy to mix with the other ingredients.
  • Confectioners’ sugar: Powdered sugar perfectly sweetens the cream cheese filling.
  • Whipped topping: You can use any variety but we like the fluffiness that Cool Whip adds.

Pudding layer

  • Instant pistachio pudding mix: You’ll need two 3.4 oz boxes. Be sure to use the instant pudding mix, so the pudding layer sets up quickly.
  • Milk: For the richest pudding, use whole milk.

Topping

  • Cool Whip: Our preferred topping is Cool Whip because it stays light and fluffy, whereas canned whipped cream will melt and not have the best consistency.
  • Nuts: Add a sprinkle of chopped pecans or pistachios over the top for a lovely finishing touch. It’s an optional extra step, but it gives this dish an elegant presentation.
Packets of pudding mix, bowls of melted butter, milk, pecans, powdered sugar, flour and cream cheese.

How to make this recipe

The cookie crust is the only component of this layered pistachio pudding dessert that needs to bake, making this an almost no-bake dessert. You could use a graham cracker crust to avoid any baking, but we really love shortbread texture and nutty flavor of this one.

  1. Make the crust: Mix flour, butter and pecans and press the dough into the bottom of a 9×13-inch dish or pan. Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let the crust cool completely.
  1. Cheesecake layer: For the cheesecake layer that tops the crust, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and Cool Whip in a medium bowl. This is easiest to mix with an electric mixer. Spread over crust. Chill each layer for about 20 minutes in the freezer before adding the next to give everything a chance to firm up.
  1. Pudding layer: Whisk together the pudding and milk. Mix according to package directions. Spread over cream cheese layer. Then, you can chill for another 20 minutes in the freezer to make spreading the Cool Whip easier.
  1. Cool Whip topping: Top with remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired. Let the dessert chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Expert tips

This layered pistachio pudding recipe is super easy to make, but here are a few tips so it turns out perfect every time!

  • Whipped cream: If you don’t like the flavor of Cool Whip, make your own homemade whipped topping by whipping heavy cream into stiff peaks and sweeten with sugar. We don’t recommend using canned whipped cream because it won’t stay light and fluffy.
  • Chill time: It’s important to chill in the freezer after each layering step. By getting each layer super cold, it helps make the next layer spread easily of top without mixing the two! It’s really key to creating that neat line between the layers.
  • Clean slices: To keep your slices clean as you’re serving, pull the knife up after each cut and wipe it off. It’s also a good idea to freeze the dish for about 30 minutes before you plan to slice it. This will help firm up the layers even more and keep them intact as you cut into the dessert.
  • Adding the topping: Wait to add any topping like chopped nuts until right before serving, so they don’t become too soft!

Frequently asked questions

What does boxed pistachio pudding taste like?

Pistachio pudding is smooth and creamy with a delicious nutty flavor. It’s the perfect complement to the tang of the cream cheese filling and the sweet Cool Whip topping.

Can I make this pistachio cake with a no-bake graham cracker crust?

Yes! Combine 15 graham cracker sheets or use about 2 cups of crumbs with 1/2 cup shelled pistachios and 10 tbsp of butter in a food process and process until fine crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9×13-inch cake pan/baking dish. Place the pan inside the freezer for 20 minutes while you prepare the other layers.

Does pistachio pudding contain nuts?

Yes, the boxes of instant pistachio pudding contain tiny pieces of pistachio and almonds.

Variations

  • Nuts: You can sub the pecans in the crust with 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios if you’d like even more pistachio flavor.
  • Different topping: Try using something other than nuts for the topping like mini M&Ms, mini marshmallows, toasted coconut, crushed cookies, festive sprinkles or chocolate or white chocolate shavings. You could even do red and green mini M&Ms for Christmas!
  • Crust: Make a different crust! You can use crushed shortbread cookies (like the Keebler Sandies)! Put them all in a ziplock bag and crush them up with a rolling pin, or grind them up in a food processor. Mix as directed with the butter. You could also use Oreo cookies as well! For a 9×13-inch pan, use a 19 ounce package Oreo cookies double stuff or original or Golden Oreos. Mix those, crushed, with 10 tbsp of melted butter.

Storage recommendations

  • Make ahead: You can make this easy pistachio pudding dessert about 24 hours in advance. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until serving time. 
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. We do not recommend freezing the dessert as the taste and texture will not be as pleasant.
Layered pistacho dessert on a plate with a bite eaten.

If you try this, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves this recipe as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.

Slice of pistachio dessert with a fork in it.
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Layered Pistachio Dessert

Gorgeous Layered Pistachio Dessert is the most amazing old-fashioned sweet treat passed down from my grandma! It's easy to make with a nutty cookie crust that’s topped with layers of cheesecake filling, pistachio pudding, and Cool Whip. It's always a hit at potlucks, parties and holiday gatherings!
Author: Kim

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the first layer:

  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature for easier mixing
  • 1 cup confectioners’ powdered sugar
  • 2 cups Cool Whip or whipped cream

For the second layer:

  • 2 (3.4 oz) packages pistachio instant pudding
  • 3 cups whole milk

For the topping:

  • remainder of 16 oz Cool Whip container, about 2 cups, or whipped cream
  • Optional: 1/4 cup chopped pecans or 1/4 cup shelled pistachios sprinkled over the top

Instructions 

  • Crust layer: Mix flour, butter and pecans and press into the bottom of a 9×13-inch dish or pan. Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  • For the cheesecake layer over crust, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and Cool Whip. This is easiest to mix with an electric mixer. Spread over crust. Chill each layer for about 20 minutes in the freezer before adding the next to give everything a chance to firm up.
  • For the pudding layer, mix together pudding and milk. Mix according to package directions. Spread over cream cheese layer. You can chill for another 20 minutes in the freezer to make spreading the Cool Whip easier.
  • Top with remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired. Let the dessert chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Notes

  • Make ahead: You can make this easy pistachio pudding dessert about 24 hours in advance. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until serving time. 
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. We do not recommend freezing the dessert as the taste and texture will not be as pleasant.
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 446kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 25g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 0.5g, Cholesterol: 63mg, Sodium: 433mg, Potassium: 196mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 35g, Vitamin A: 776IU, Vitamin C: 0.05mg, Calcium: 145mg, Iron: 1mg

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