When Paul Peguero’s father planted pistachios on part of the family’s Central Valley almond orchard more than 25 years ago, everyone thought he was nuts. Thankfully, he persevered and paved the way for his son to launch The Pistachio Factory, a line of gourmet products that’s gotten its start with pistachio butter.
Peguero graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in landscape architecture and began selling his family’s roasted and flavored pistachios at farmers markets in the Bay Area.
Already familiar with pistachio paste from spending some time in Italy, Peguero wanted to take it a step further and produce a smoother product, more along the lines of peanut butter.
“If it’s a ‘paste,’ people aren’t going to be familiar with that; I wanted it to be an actual ‘butter’ that people would understand,” he said.
However, pistachios have less oil than other nuts, so usually they’re only ground to the point of paste consistency unless additional oils are added. Peguero didn’t want to do that; he wanted his product to be all pistachio, and that proved a tough challenge to crack.
“I kept experimenting to find a machine that could break down the pistachios, but I still kept getting a chunky paste,” he recalled. After going through a couple of food processors and mixers, he found the right equipment, but, because no additional oils or even heat are added, he discovered that it takes about eight hours of steady, slow grinding in two steps to get to a butter-like consistency.
Peguero began bringing his butters to the farmers markets, where they were a predictable hit. In July 2013, “I made the decision to move back (to the Central Coast) and do The Pistachio Factory full time. I love the area, and it’s a perfect location for distribution.”
Because the pistachios take so long to grind, renting a production facility became unsustainable, so Peguero began work on his own facility in Paso Robles. With that nearly complete, he’ll be able to develop other products, such as pistachio milk, as well as get more butter to the market. Nonetheless, he’ll still be using his family’s pistachios, and — at least for now — he’s still a one-man show.
The Pistachio Factory’s lineup currently includes three flavors of butter: raw, roasted unsalted, and roasted and salted. Except for the bit of sea salt in the third version, all are indeed 100 percent pistachio, and as such are gluten-free and vegan. (Peguero is also working on getting kosher certification.) Pistachios are also one of the lowest calorie nuts, and they’re high in fiber, protein and antioxidants.
As far as using the pistachio butters themselves, Peguero explained that you can use them much like other nut butters, and “a little can go a long way.”
Uses range from mixing some with a neutral tasting oil to make a dressing for salads or grilled vegetables, to combining the butters with herbs to make a dipping sauce and sandwich spread, to grinding them with more pistachios and garlic to make a pesto sauce. The butters can also be used as marinades for chicken or fish, although because they’re so low in oil, they will pull some of the oil out of something such as salmon.
Arguably, though, one of the best ways to enjoy The Pistachio Factory’s butters is plain, on their own, with a spoon!
The Pistachio Factory
The pistachio butters are available at select retail locations and online.