Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis

Pistachios are sold as in-shell, shelled, raw, salted, and roasted. Shelled pistachios are often called kernels. Pistachio kernels include Regular, Green and Kall. 
They give rise to several other pistachio ingredients which we will discuss later in this article.  

The green peeled pistachio (GPPK) is the most generous of all kernels. It is the one many food producers ask for, and the one we will discuss in more detail.  We also explain why it is advantageous to purchase shelled instead of in-shell pistachios in the first place. 

 Keep reading!

What are Shelled Pistachios

A shelled pistachio is what remains after removing the hard “shell.” This is often called  a “kernel” by farmers and merchants. There are other terminologies you need to know about this gorgeous nut before discussing kernels. 

Pistachios ripen inside a hard, yellow shell. In some varieties the hard shells are naturally open (NO) on one end, almost like a smile. Other varieties develop inside closed shells. We call these closed-mouth pistachios. Naturally open pistachios can lose their shells readily by pushing the shell edges outward using fingertips. Closed-mouth nuts need to lose their shells by cracking and removing the shells. We do this by mechanically opening the shell (MO).
Noe, let’s summarize.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis | shelled PistachiosIn-shell Pistachios have a hard coat (shell) and green meat (kernel). They are either open- or clothed-mouth.  Shell opening can happen naturally (NO) or mechanically (MO).

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis | shelled PistachiosShelled Pistachio are called kernels, and these are what we eat. Kernels obtained from regular, ripe pistachios are just called “regular kernels”. They are characterized by a large kernel, purple-brown skin, and yellow meat.

There are other two types of kernels.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis | shelled PistachiosKaal Pistachio Kernel are those we obtain by mechanically opening unripe, closed-mouth pistachios.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis | shelled Pistachios Green Peeled Pistachio Kernel (GPPK) are obtained by removing  the purple skin from the Kaal kernels. Green kernels are considered a luxury food item.

How are Shelled Pistachios Made

Shelled pistachios are made in two different ways. They are produced by removing the shells from naturally split pistachios. Or they are made by mechanically opening the shells on closed-mouth pistachios.

🟢 The first method is easy because most pistachios split at the suture when they ripen. You can shell the naturally split pistachios by placing your thumbnail between the two halves (inside the gape) and flipping them.

🟢The second method is used with closed-mouth pistachios. It requires cracking equipment that cracks the shell by applying mechanical force.  This method is used in the factory to obtain pistachio kernels from unripe pistachios. Machines are programmed to remove the shell while leaving the kernel intact.

Shelled Pistachios Size Variations

Naturally open pistachio kernels are significantly larger because they are grown to the size of the shell. But, mechanically open pistachio kernels might not be as large as the natural ones because they are picked immaturely. They have less time to complete their assimilation transport from leaves to the developing kernel. This can impact the pistachio’s size as well as the nutrient content. As a result, they look smaller and thinner than normal.  

Smaller size sometimes results from unfavorable climate conditions such as summer heat. Summer heat causes the pistachios to lose more water than they can absorb. So, they shrink to a smaller size.

Size variation can also happen because of genetic diversity. Genetics control the kernel development independent of cultural or climate conditions. American pistachios, for example, are plumper than Iranian and Turkish pistachios. Turkish pistachios are attractively smaller than the rest.

Pistachio Shell Weight Percentage

Shelling first of all changes the physical characteristics of the pistachio including weight. In general, when you are buying unshelled pistachios, you are paying for the weight of the shells too. Thus, if the kernels are small or even if the pistachios are not open, you won’t know among the lots of other pistachios. Sometimes, you may find empty shells in the pack of in-shell pistachios, which means more shell weight rather than kernels.

The pistachio kernel has the maximum growth and assimilation in favorable climate conditions. Long summer days and genotype also affect kernel growth. The shell comprises more than 50 percent of a pistachio nut’s weight. The other 50 go to the kernel. We would be lucky to find a pistachio sample in which the kernel accounts for 50 percent of the nut weight. Usually, the kernel weighs less, accounting for 48 to 50 percent of the total nut’s weight.

Roughly speaking, there are between 180 -200 shelled pistachios in 100 grams as opposed to 90-100 in-shell pistachios. One pound of in-shell pistachios would yield 2 cups (8.67 ounces) of shelled nuts.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Taste and Nutrition Facts

You probably wonder whether in-shell vs shelled pistachios have similar nutritional value. Shelling only changes the physical appearance of pistachios. Shelling leaves the nutritional values and taste of pistachios intact. The shell is the inedible, hard coat on pistachio nuts and should be removed in a way to access the kernel. 

If pistachios are stored in cool and dry conditions away from direct sunlight and consumed before the “expiration date”, their nutrition and flavor stay the same.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Price

When it comes to price, in-shell pistachios seem more affordable. However, since they don’t undergo the shelling process, it’s normal to be less costly than shelled pistachios.  Some of the cost for shelled pistachio goes to shelling.  

Comparing the weight of shelled vs in-shell pistachios shows that you actually pay less with shelled pistachios. When you buy pistachio kernels, regardless of the type and size, the indicated weight on the label exactly represents what is inside. 

However, when you buy in-shell pistachios, you buy the shell too. Thus, you are paying for the shells and the kernels together. The shell-to-in-shell ratio varies with pistachio type and season. When pistachios grow in severe conditions such as extreme summer heat, the kernel tends to be smaller and weighs less than the shell.

Unshelled vs shelled pistachio: Cost-effectiveness

It’s obvious that shelled and unshelled pistachios don’t have the same kernel mass weight. A whole single pistachio nut weighs about 0.02 ounces (0.57 grams). And the kernel or nutmeat (part of the pistachio that you eat) makes up about 48 to 50 percent of that weight. For example, every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of in-shell pistachios yields 48 to 50 grams of pistachio kernels. And that charges you $1 for every 1.5 ounces of pistachio. 

Shelled pistachios are less costly than in-shell pistachios. Because you know that you only pay for the kernels, not the shells or closed pistachios, which are hard to open. 

Many consumers prefer shelled over unshelled pistachios due to convenience. However, some people also may like to crack the nuts open. They adore the cracking sound of the evening snack. This process is more enjoyable to them and may make them eat less because they spend some time opening the in-shell pistachios. That’s what some nutritionists recommend to people who want to lose weight and who need to take care of the number of pistachios they eat in a day.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Diversity

Food diversity increases with shelled pistachios. Think of all the food ingredients you can make from pistachio kernels. More than several dozen different types of pistachio ingredients derive from pistachio kernels. Let’s describe a few options together. them one by one. 

Start with fully ripe pistachio “kernels.” If you take a naturally split pistachio and flip the shell open, then you have a pistachio “kernel.” The number of pistachio kernels equals the number of pistachio types globally. In the case of Iranian pistachios, there are more than five types of commercially available pistachio kernels. 

The number almost doubles if you count in the unripe pistachios. Let’s say you have five different types of early-picked pistachios. If you remove their shells mechanically, you obtain five types of unripe or Kaal kernels. Now, if you remove the skin in addition to the shell, you will have a green peeled pistachio kernel (GPPK). GPPK increases your options exponentially when you factor in color preference. 

Some manufacturers take the processing further by cutting, splitting, and chopping pistachio kernels.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Versatility

In-shell pistachios are a good healthy snack. They are available in roasted, salted, and raw forms. You can also order raw pistachios and roast them at home but the result may not be the same as when a professional chef does it. But it can be a fun experience. 

You have more options with pistachio kernels than you do with in-shell ones. There is almost one type of pistachio kernel derivative for each type of dish or recipe. These include kernels, GPPK, slivered, splits, finely chopped, coarsely chopped, paste, and powder.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Shelf life

In-shell pistachios have a longer shelf life than pistachio kernels. Unshelled pistachios can last for two years under favorable storage conditions. Shelled pistachios tend to have a much shorter shelf life because they have lost their protective shell. 

Manufacturers recommend a dry and cool place away from the direct sun for shelled and unshelled pistachios. But even in similar conditions, in-shell pistachios can last longer than shelled ones.

Shelling affects the pistachio kernel’s durability to a great degree. Shelled pistachios are exposed to conditions that can ruin them by humidity, mold, or staling. That’s why we recommend asking for freshly shelled pistachios when shopping for them.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Amusement

You pay considerably less in comparison to when you buy shelled pistachios. But you may also miss all the fun of cracking pistachio shells in the afternoon. While ready-to-eat pistachio kernels are convenient, part of the amusement with eating pistachios lies in opening the pistachio shells. Also, the salty taste of pistachio shells can even enrich the experience. 

You choose to miss on all of that when you opt for shelled pistachios.

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Consumption

Consumption is defined as the number of pistachio kernels you swallow in one sitting. Consumption tends to be much lower within in-shell pistachios than in shelled ones. It is straightforward. Part of the time is wasted on cracking pistachios. The overall consumption tends to reduce by ¼ with unshelled pistachios. And it requires closer attention and more work if you are dealing with closed-mouth pistachios. 

There is also a psychological attachment to consuming in-shell pistachios. Empty shells on the coffee table work as a signal to slow you down or take a break. You can keep track of your consumption by seeing how many shells you have left on the table. You can also turn it into an enjoyable game by counting how many pistachios you have eaten in a day.

The picture shows some shelled pistachios in a mass of pistachio shells
The presence of shells may stop you from overeating pistachios

Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachio: Availability

In-shell pistachios are readily available in almost every supermarket or food store. They are sold as raw, roasted, and salted in various sizes and packages. Generally, they are preferred as a healthy snack over similar nuts. 

If you enjoy eating pistachio ingredients in your meals, desserts, or ice cream, buying shelled pistachios can save you a great deal of preparation time. They can be ordered online from retail stores in the form of slivered, shopped, splits, powder, and green peeled (GPPK). 


Many of us crave pistachios before lunch or in the afternoon in our family and friendly gatherings. We like shelling pistachios to slow down our consumption. However, many people like pistachios more as ingredients in their dishes and desserts than snacking on them. Shelled pistachios are convenient and increase food diversity. Yet they have the same taste and nutrients as in-shell pistachios. However, they are liable to go bad if exposed to air.

Which one do you prefer; in-shell or shelled pistachios? Why? Tell us about your preferences in the comment section below.


6 thoughts on “Unshelled vs Shelled Pistachios: A Cost-Effective Analysis

  1. Benyamin says:

    Me and my boyfriend really enjoyed reading this article together. Great job Danny!

  2. Danny you lamer – The article said that the shell and the nut weigh almost the same so if you go to the store and see how much per ounce or pound for in shell or shelled you can figure out what is the best deal.

  3. Danny Heaver says:

    Huge read, & you still didn’t give an approximate cost of either !!! Good way to lose readers !!

    1. Nathalie says:

      I enjoyed the read and actually learned something, An approximate cost wasn’t the point of the article. Sorry the article wasn’t to your satisfaction.



  5. Harvey H Liss says:

    I was hoping for a discussion on the nutritional value of the pistachio skin vs. the pistachio nut. Shelled pistachios seem to have had the skins removed, whereas they are intact in unshelled pistachios. What are the nutritional comparisons comparing–the nut with the skin or without the skin?

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