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.
Perfectly paired with my easy vegan pistachio cake!
📖 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.
Love all things pistachio? Make sure you try my pistachio tiramisu, pistachio cheesecake, creamy pistachio tart, pistachio donuts, and dairy-free pistachio ice cream!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
As promised, you only need a few basic ingredients to make this vegan pistachio frosting:
- 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
Find the complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post.
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.
Step 1: Make the sugar syrup. Bring the water and caster sugar to a simmer and cook until it reaches 116°C (240°F).
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.
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.
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.
Step 5: Flavor the buttercream. Add the pistachio butter and whisk again on low for another 2 minutes.
📝 Recipe Tips
Make your own aquafaba. Skip the store-bought cans and make reserve the water the next time you are cooking up a batch of chickpeas. You can actually use the water from other white beans such as cannellini or butter beans too.
Use clean and grease-free equipment. Aquafaba does not like grease, even the smallest amount present on your utensils can make it more difficult to whip up nice and fluffy. To make sure your bowl and whisk are clean, wipe them down with a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
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.
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.
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.
🧁 More Vegan Frosting
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- 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
- 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 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.
- 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.
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