Based on my popular dairy-free Italian meringue frosting, this vegan pistachio buttercream is the smoothest, silkiest frosting that's airy and light without being overly sweet.

Perfect paired with my easy vegan pistachio cake, or smothered on vegan lemon cake.

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📖 Recipe Overview

  • Incredibly Light Consistency - Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC) is hands down the silkiest frosting out there.
  • Not Overly Sweet - Unlike most buttercream recipes, Italian meringue frosting is subtly sweet without being sickly or heavy. This really allows the pistachio flavor to shine through!
  • Versatile - Although this pistachio frosting is incredibly light, it's sturdy enough for layer cakes, as well as being suited for sheet cakes and cupcakes.
  • Vegan - Unlike standard Italian buttercream, this pistachio frosting is made without eggs or dairy.

🧾 Ingredients Needed

As promised, you only need a few basic ingredients to make this vegan pistachio frosting:

ingredients for vegan pistachio frosting measured out in bowls on top of a pink marble surface.Pin

Ingredient Notes

  • Aquafaba - This is simply chickpea brine from jarred or canned chickpeas. It mimics a lot of the properties of egg whites and is an incredible swap in vegan baking.
  • Vegan Butter - Stick butter (block butter) is essential for this recipe. Please don't try to swap it for spreadable margarine, as the water content will be too high. My favorite vegan butter brands to use are Violife Block and Flora Plant Butter.
  • Sugar - You can use either caster sugar or regular granulated sugar. If you're based in the US, make sure you opt for organic sugar to ensure that it's vegan.
  • Lemon juice - Helps stabilize the aquafaba and gives it more structure when whipped. You can swap the lemon for another acid such as apple cider vinegar or cream of tartar.

🥣 How To Make Pistachio Buttercream

The trick to making perfect vegan Italian meringue buttercream is to be prepared and read the ingredients and instructions clearly before getting started. Here is how to prep ahead:

  • Reduce the aquafaba at least 1-2 hours in advance of making this vegan buttercream, the night before works as well.
  • Measure out all of your ingredients in advance.
  • Prepare your equipment. You will need a candy thermometer and an electric whisk or stand mixer.
sugar syrup for Italian meringue buttercream in a saucepan.Pin

Step 1: Make the sugar syrup. Bring the water and caster sugar to a simmer and cook until it reaches 116°C (240°F).

aquafaba whipped to stiff peaks in a large clear bowl.Pin

Step 2: Whip the aquafaba. Take a large clean bowl, and make sure it's completely dry and free of any grease. Add the aquafaba and lemon juice to a large bowl and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until soft peaks form.

whipped aquafaba with sugar in a large bowl to make meringue buttercream.Pin

Step 3: Drizzle in the syrup. Slowly drizzle in a little at a time and continue to whisk until the mixture is incorporated. Whisk the meringue mixture for another 10-15 minutes until it has cooled to room temperature.

vegan Italian meringue buttercream in a large clear mixing bowl.Pin

Step 4: Add the butter. Slowly add the chunks of butter to the meringue, one at a time, allowing the mixture to incorporate for about 5 seconds between each one. Once all the butter has been added the mixture will be thick like buttercream, continue to whisk on low for 5 minutes.

vegan pistachio buttercream in a large clear mixing bowl.Pin

Step 5: Flavor the buttercream. Add the pistachio butter and whisk again on low for another 2 minutes.

💬 FAQs

How to store pistachio buttercream?

For best results, use this vegan pistachio frosting when freshly made. You can also store it in an airtight container in the fridge, or at room temperature if you plan on using it on the same day.

When chilled it will harden, which will likely mean you lose some volume. Allow it to come to room temperature and re-whip until creamy.

Do I need a candy thermometer to make Italian meringue buttercream?

When you're working with sugar syrups, I personally highly recommend using a candy thermometer for precise and accurate temperature measurement.

However, if you really don't want to invest in one you can do a "soft-ball test" instead. This involves dropping a small amount of syrup in cold water, when pressed the syrup should come together in a soft ball.

Why does my buttercream appear split?

It's completely normal for IMBC to appear split during the process of adding butter. This is because you need to incorporate all of the ingredients slowly before it emulsifies.

If your buttercream still looks split even after adding all the butter to it, this can be fixed by adding a little more butter. Different brands can vary in water/fat content. Simply continue to add butter, a little bit at a time, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Can you freeze pistachio buttercream?

Yes, you can freeze this frosting in an airtight container for up to a couple of months. Simply thaw it out at room temperature and then re-whip it to make it fluffy before using.

vegan pistachio cake coated in easy pistachio buttercream frosting on a ceramic plate.Pin

🧁 More Vegan Frosting

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📖 Recipe

Pistachio Buttercream

5 from 18 votes
PREP TIME: 1 minute
COOK TIME: 5 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Servings: 16 (approx 4 cups)
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Description

Incredible vegan pistachio buttercream that's silky, smooth, and not overly sweet. This frosting is based on Italian meringue buttercream and is ideal for cupcakes, sheet cakes, and layer cakes.

Equipment

Electric Whisk or Stand Mixer

Ingredients

  • 234 g (1 cup) aquafaba
  • 250 g (1 ¼ cups) caster sugar or granulated sugar, separated into 200g and 50g *see notes
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) water, *see notes
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon juice, or cream of tartar or apple cider vinegar
  • 250 g (1 cup + 2 tsp) vegan block butter, room temperature, cut into 1" chunks *see notes
  • 100 g (½ cup) pistachio butter

Instructions

  • Reduce the aquafaba: Add it to a saucepan, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer until it has reduced to half a cup in volume.
    After 5 minutes of simmering, check the volume by pouring the liquid into a measuring cup. If there's more than half a cup of liquid continue to simmer until it reduces to the required half cup (118ml).
    Pour the reduced aquafaba into a jar and refrigerate. This can be done the night before or at least one hour in advance of making the recipe.
  • Make the sugar syrup: Add 200g of the sugar and the water to a saucepan, gently stir and allow the mixture to sit for a minute until the sugar dissolves into a paste.
    Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and allow the mixture to come to a simmer and bubble. DO NOT STIR throughout the entire process. Place your candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches 116°C (240°F) - about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, move on to the next step.
  • Whip the aquafaba: Take a large clean bowl, and make sure it's completely dry and free of any grease. Add the aquafaba and lemon juice or cream of tartar to a large bowl and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until soft peaks form.
  • Slowly add the remaining 50g of caster sugar to the aquafaba, one dash at a time while continuing to whisk and incorporate the sugar into the aquafaba. Continue whisking for another 3 minutes.
  • Drizzle in the syrup: Once the sugar syrup has reached the correct temperature begin to add it to the whipped aquafaba. Slowly drizzle in a little at a time and continue to whisk until the mixture is incorporated.
    Whisk the meringue mixture for another 10-15 minutes until it has cooled to room temperature.
  • Add the butter: Start slowly adding the chunks of butter to the meringue, one at a time, allowing the mixture to incorporate for about 5 seconds between each one. The mixture will flatten as you add the butter, just continue to add the butter as it will stiffen when the full amount of butter is incorporated.
    Once all the butter has been added the mixture will be thick like buttercream, continue to whisk on low for 5 minutes.
  • Flavor the buttercream: Add the pistachio butter and whisk again on low for another 2 minutes.
  • Storage: You can store this Italian meringue buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge. It will harden when chilled, so before use, allow it to come to room temperature until it comes back to a creamy consistency.

Notes

  • Aquafaba: Drain 1-2 cans of unsalted chickpeas until you have the required amount of liquid. Use only the liquid part.
  • Sugar: Use organic if US-based to ensure the sugar is vegan.
  • Vegan Butter: I recommend Flora plant butter or Violife block.
  • I highly recommend using a candy thermometer. However, if you can’t wait to get one you can do something that’s called a softball test, you can read more about it on cooksinfo.com.
  • If your buttercream looks split even after adding all of the vegan butter to it, this can often be fixed by adding a little more butter. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 211kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 2g | Sodium: 103mg | Potassium: 66mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.3mg
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5 from 18 votes (15 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




18 Comments

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your website.
    I live in France.
    I used one of the Vitaquell margarines which is very very hard whereas the others are soft.
    The cream has been in the fridge for 2 hours but it hasn't hardened and is a little liquid.
    I don't have a freezer.
    Should I reheat it to evaporate the water and then put it back in the fridge?
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Adélaïde!

      Do you mean the finished buttercream is liquid? This should not be the case, is it a block-style butter you used? If so, you could try adding more vegan butter whilst whipping and it should come together, I'm sorry I'm not familiar with that particular brand so I'm not sure how it behaves!

  2. 5 stars
    This was my first attempt at Italian-style buttercream, and like Amanda, I'm now converted! Yes, it's a bit more work, but the texture (so silky) and flavour are more than worth it. I also had that slightly alarming experience of seeing the buttercream suddenly split when adding the butter, but trusted that with a bit more whipping it would come back together, and it did!

    1. Hi Sara!

      Amazing, I´m happy to hear that and thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  3. I often mess up vegan buttercream (usually American-style vegan buttercream). This is the first recipe I tried with aquafaba and sugar syrup and it is by far the most stable and pipable buttercream I've ever made! And of course it's delicious too. I'm fully converted to using this method to make all my frosting. It's worth the extra steps for the professional, silky smooth, delicious result.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Thank you so much for your lovely review! I appreciate that so much, and totally agree, this is my favorite style buttercream too 🙂

  4. I would like to try this recipe!, is it possible to substitute the aquafaba with something else?

  5. 5 stars
    I thought that I messed up the buttercream once I added the butter, but I decided to go with a 'patience is a virtue' mantra and voila! It's amazing and delicious! Since I only needed half of the recipe for the Pistachio Cake I thought about halving this recipe. Glad I didnt' since I can freeze the remainder!

  6. 5 stars
    Christina, this buttercream is simply gorgeous. I used it to make the pistachio cake (btw made a passion fruit coulis which paired up beautifully with pistachio flavor) and had some friends over - it was a hit. My husband also loved the cream and its fluffy consistency. He mentioned he'd use less sugar, so I'll try to make it again tomorrow and slightly reduce the amount of sugar and compensate with a bit more butter. Hope it turns out as my very first one. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

    1. Hi Darko,

      So happy you loved the recipe and the combination with passion fruit sounds amazing! Please do let me know how it goes with less sugar 🙂

  7. Hi - the method mentions cream of tartar but it is not listed in the ingredients. How much do you add? Thanks!

    1. Hi Hannah,

      Apologies, that should say lemon juice or cream of tartar, the amount is a 1/4 teaspoon

  8. This was so good. It was the first time I used aquafaba this way and it was impressive. I did it with your pistachio cake recipe which was amazing. It was a bit runny(maybe because of the butter I used) so I had to put it in the freezer for a little while but other than that it was absolutely perfect thank you for this recipe!

    1. Hi Lila.

      Thank you for trying the recipe and leaving your feedback. I'm happy you enjoyed it! The pistachio cake is my favorite 🙂 Yes, that could well be down to the butter, may I ask which brand you used?

      1. I'm from so France so I used Vitaquell because I couldn't find the one you mentioned where I live.