Baking with Olivia and Caroline

December 2021 Recipe – Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies

By Published On: November 29th, 2021


Okay, folks, we really feel like we are giving you a special holiday gift by sharing this recipe! It was introduced to us about 14 years ago when my (Olivia’s) kids were younger, and we went to my friend’s house for a holiday cookie swap party. All of us moms (six or so in total) brought our favorite cookie recipe to make with our kids. I brought a sugar cookie recipe and my friend Kim brought this recipe. She said that it contained pistachio instant pudding mix. Huh, what’s that? We had no idea such a thing even existed. Kim is a great cook and baker and said that she normally doesn’t make anything from a box, but these cookies were an exception. Now none of us can even recall any of the other cookies made that day except for these!

These cookies do require a few steps, but trust us, they are not difficult – just a little time consuming, and totally 100% worth the effort. It is better to make these cookies on the smaller side so you can just pop them into your mouth. We can guarantee you can’t eat just one!

We’ve made these Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies every year since and we share them with family and friends, and get the same response each year, “oh my god, these are sooooooo good.” The pistachio mix itself isn’t inherently nutty, so if you are ambivalent toward nuts, you don’t have to roll all (or any) of the dough balls in them. They are just as good without the pecans (we know this because we’ve forgotten them more times than we’ll admit).

*Public service announcement.* We have two “counter surfers,” our dogs Georgia and Otis. You’d think “mystery solved, it’s definitely Otis the puppy who’s snatching the goods,” but he’s only 20 lbs. and cannot reach on his own. But somehow, they get it done. So, if you’re like us and you store the leftovers in your oven, always remember to check it before preheating. I guess you can say this is our holiday baking tip! RIP granola x3, bread, muffins, cake, and the OG plastic cutting board that now makes the house smell like glue any time we use the oven.

The cookie dough

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package instant pistachio pudding mix
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 cups finely chopped pecans

The filling

2 tbs butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs whole milk

The glaze

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp shortening

Makes about four dozen cookies.


Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Combine flour and dry pudding mix in a separate bowl, and gradually add to creamed mixture until there are no more pockets of flour. Fold in chocolate chips.

Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in chopped nuts. Place two inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Make a thumbprint in center of cookie. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

For filling: beat the butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to achieve desired consistency (should not be runny). Spoon into center of cooled cookies. We had to use 3 tbs, you may only need two.

For glaze (highly recommended): melt chocolate chips and shortening, you can do this in a microwave or in a double boiler, drizzle over completely-cooled cookies with a spoon, fork, or plastic bag with a hole cut in the corner. Let stand until set. Happy holidays, see you in 10 lbs – we mean in 2022.

Olivia and Caroline are enthusiastic foodies and bakers who are constantly in the kitchen, as well as explorers who create their own adventures in our area – and did we mention they are mother and daughter? Follow Olivia on Instagram to see her many creations at @oliviawvalentine.