In culinary school last semester, I spent a couple months in baking lab and bragged about making this fantastic pistachio-crusted citrus cheesecake.

I even promised to share the recipe, soon. Apparently, “soon” means five months later.

It’s worth the wait.

Typically, I don’t order cheesecake because I find it overly rich and cloyingly sweet. In my worst nightmares, I’m being forced to eat a brick of cheesecake in a flavor like mocha-nut-fudge-bomb, or something that might be served at The Cheesecake Factory.

This cheesecake is much lighter and gently flavored with citrus zest, while a thin nut crust replaces the heavy cookie crusts. For those like myself who struggle eating super sweet desserts, I’d recommend serving this cheesecake with a tart berry sauce.

When we made this cheesecake in class, the student in charge of purchasing bought small bags of shell-on pistachios. I spent a long time shelling the nuts until we reached one pound, so buy shelled pistachios if you can. If the nuts are salted, they’ll add further contrast to the sweet cream cheese filling.

Late is better than never, so here’s the recipe, as promised.

Pistachio-Crusted Citrus Cheesecake
Adapted from the recipe for Pistachio Citrus Cheesecake, recipe 35.22, published in On Cooking: A Textbook Of Culinary Fundamentals, 4th Edition.

The original recipe makes 4, ten-inch cakes. I halved the recipe for home use. Use any type of citrus zest and feel free to combine different types of citrus zests. Grate it finely or further chop with a knife because large pieces of zest, though pretty, will remain chewy. The original recipe also instructs one NOT to use springform pans. I suppose springforms might ruin the delicate nut crust.

Butter, melted (salted or unsalted). Enough to coat the insides of the pans.
1/2 lb pistachios, roughly ground. We used a food processor.
3 lb. 5 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 oz. flour, sifted
1 lb. sugar
9 eggs
5 oz. heavy cream
4 Tb. citrus zest, finely grated.


  1. Preheat oven to 325℉.
  2. Generously smear the insides of the cake pans with melted butter. This will help the nuts stick to the pan and form a crust.
  3. Evenly cover the buttered cake pan with nuts, including the bottom and sides. 
  4. Beat the softened cream cheese until light and smooth. Then, mix in the sifted flour and sugar. 
  5. Beat in the eggs, two at a time. 
  6. Stir in the cream and citrus zests. 
  7. Pour mixture into prepared cake pans.
  8. Place cake pans in a larger pan. Create a water bath by filling the larger pan with about an inch of water. 
  9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cheesecake is set. Add more water to the water bath if it evaporates.
  10. Cool, cut, and serve the cake. We cut slices from the pan and served, but you could invert the cheesecake onto a platter and serve crust-side up.