Salty Smoked Pistachio–and-Honey Shortbread Cookies

If you passed my house over the last couple of years, chances are there was a plume of smoke rising from my grill. When neighbors (who have become accustomed to the rib eye aroma and the glowing embers) see me snipping rosemary, they ask what wine to bring for dinner. When I kiss my kids goodnight, they say my hair smells like a campfire. The culmination of all these home fires, Thank You for Smoking, my new cookbook, just hit the stands.To develop the recipes, I rigged my PK Grill as a smoker to season everything from cocktails to quinoa with a whiff of wood smoke. Based on their moisture or density, a few ingredients quickly rose to the top as favorites for smoking: namely, nuts. Thanks to their natural fat content, nuts like walnuts, cashews, and pistachios absorb the seductive qualities of wood smoke almost as well as steak. The process deepens their color and infuses them with a rich, bacon-y note. Smoked nuts are delicious on their own (pass the smoked cashews at happy hour, please), but they’re a true game-changer when used for pesto and for baked confections like quick breads, cakes, and cookies.Enter: the smoked pistachio shortbread cookie. The swoony flavor of smoked pistachios permeates the meltingly tender cookies the way a cross breeze whisks through a lakeside cabin. Lemon zest adds a balancing brightness, but you could also swap in lime zest, chopped fresh rosemary, or coarsely ground pink peppercorns. Use a European-style butter to create a depth that will transport you to a hike through the heather-covered hills of Scotland. Finishing the cookies with a lemony honey and a pinch of flaky salt creates a subtly savory edge that’s delicious with steaming mugs of tea, a nip of single-malt Scotch, or vanilla bean ice cream.

Smoked Pistachio Shortbread
Photo: Antonis Achilleos
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
2 dozen cookies


  • 3/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)


  1. Soak pecan or cherry wood chips in water for 20 minutes; drain. Light charcoal chimney starter filled halfway with briquettes. When briquettes are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill, and push to one side of the grill. Scatter soaked wood chips over the hot coals. Adjust vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 200°F to 250°F. (If using a gas grill, place soaked wood chips in an aluminum foil packet; poke several holes in packet. Place packet directly on burner on one side of grill. Turn on the gas on that side to medium-high heat [350°F to 400°F], keeping the other side unlit.) Place the pistachios in a disposable aluminum pan or atop two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil (crimp the edges of the foil upward to create a rim and prevent the nuts or sees from sliding off) on unoiled grates over the side without the coals (or unlit side of gas grill). Grill, covered, until pistachios are slightly darkened and fragrant, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes.

  2. Combine the flour, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt in bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter, smoked pistachios, and egg yolk, and pulse until the mixture forms a moist, sticky ball, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the dough to a work surface, and use a bench cutter to divide the dough in half. Form each half into an 8- x 1 1/2-inch log, then wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm, at least 4 hours or up to 5 days.

  3. In a small bowl, whisk together honey, thyme, and lemon juice; set aside.

  4. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the logs into 1/2-inch rounds, rolling the log as needed to retain its round shape. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. Sprinkle lightly with flaky salt, if using, and bake the cookies in preheated oven until lightly golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cookies cool on pan for 5 minutes; drizzle with honey mixture. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and honey mixture.

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