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Pistachio – Cocoa Nib Macarons With Bourbon Buttercream

Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macarons With Bourbon Buttercream

Thank you all for the kind thoughts, good vibes and uplifting words. Thank you also for reading what I had to say about our dear friend. Today we officially said goodbye and I can’t stop thinking about what she used to tell me all these years: "Live hard. Love harder. Work the hardest…and always, always eat good food!"

Yes…eating good food that is inevitable with us. If we become friends, you will come over for dinner. And again. And again. I was raised this way. That’s the one thing my grandma did that I knew to count on when I was growing up. Sunday suppers around a full tables of nibbles and sweets were not just tradition. They were second nature happenings. Sometimes there were four people, sometimes ten. Did not matter. Same is true of our Sunday table.

Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macarons With Bourbon Buttercream

The idea was to end the weekend on a comforting note and to send you off into the new with a warm meal and a handful of sweet treats. In my case, both my pockets…ehehe!
Rum babas, petits fours, mini eclairs, financiers, madeleines, name it. In my pockets. Good thing we lived across the streets from my grandparents.

Did my grandmother or mother made all these fine treats? Heck no! I think David will confirm this but French people rarely make their babas, eclairs or macarons from scratch. Unless they are foodies. Or unless they have a blog. Or unless they are really into patisserie. If you ask a French person on the street if they make their own eclairs, they’ll probably answer "why the heck would I? That’s why pastry shops were created you idiot!" (side note: have a French friend say "idiot" for you…I hear it makes you smile – not that would know anything about that?!!)

Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macarons With Bourbon Buttercream

And you can imagine that the last thing on that list of things-people-would-not-make-from-scratch-because-someone-at-the-bakery-will-do-it-better-than-they-would-isa macaron. And if you ever ventured to master macarons, you can certainly relate. It might have taken quite a few tries to get them right. Or you got lucky the first time and it’s been smooth sailing since. One sure thing, they never leave anyone indifferent. You either love or hate making them or you either love or hate eating them. In my family it’s love on both counts if you wonder.

I love making them during the holiday season. They are the perfect size to finish a meal with, they fit perfectly in treat box and I have never heard anyone exclaim "well look at those ugly little things.." Now, I do see a lot of friends rush with passion to eat a few in one sitting and I have to quickly explain that back home, macarons are treated like confections not cookies. We eat them slowly and one at a time, like a good marron glace, or a crunchy meringue.

Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macarons With Bourbon Buttercream

I tend to favor macarons balancing sweet and strong usually keeping the buttercream on the sweeter side while adding citrus zest or spices to the shells. Nothing too crazy but playing well on opposites. This time I got inspired by a cookie I posted a few years ago and that make their way to our Christmas goodie boxes year after year. And for good reason. They are the perfect balance of sweet and salty, buttery and crunchy. The exact play of flavor and texture I like in macarons.

By judging the last two of twenty five made for Sunday supper, I’d say the flavor combination was a success and makes me wonder who among our friends had their pocket full when they left the house….!

Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macarons With Bourbon Buttercream

Pistachio Cocoa Nib Macaron With Bourbon Buttercream:

Makes about 25 macarons (more or less depending on the size)

Note: having spent the last 13 years in America, I got completely used to using cups while still using grams. There are times I favor one over the other but really, it’s more about ratios than anything else, in either system
To convert easily from one to the other, use this conversion table from Gourmet Sleuth.

For the shells:
200 gr powdered sugar
55 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
55 gr pistachios (roasted, unsalted)
90 gr egg whites (use egg whites that have been preferably left 3-4 days in the fridge)
25 gr granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa nibs

For the buttercream:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons Bourbon

Prepare the macarons:
Place the powdered sugar, almonds and pistachios in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift if desired.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with cocoa nibs. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 280F.
Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store the shells in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (longer and the sugar starts to seep out which makes them sticky).

Prepare the buttercream:
Place the yolks in a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
Bring the sugar and water to 238F in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Slowly pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks and continue to whisk until cold. Change to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add the bourbon to the buttercream. Continue to beat for a few seconds until completely smooth.

Assemble the macarons:
Fill the macarons with the buttercream (pipe or spoon about 1 tablespoon per macaron) and store in the fridge for at least 48 hours before eating (the shell should be crisp without shattering in your hands and the center soft without being too mushy).

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Rachael Hutchings December 7, 2010 um 11:42 pm

This macaron flavor combo sounds like a match made in heaven! Plus, could your photos be any more gorgeous? I want to just climb into them for a sit. They're the perfect combination of comfort and elegance. Thank you for inspiring me as always! XOXO

christelle is flabbergasting December 7, 2010 um 11:42 pm

Les contrastes et la lumière de la première photo sont superbes ! (et celle où les macaron sont ouverts en deux aussi !) (et toutes en fait !)
Je me garde la lecture de ton billet dès que j'ai un plus long moment ! Merci !

Lizzie (El Moorish) December 7, 2010 um 11:52 pm

I love the sound of this flavour combination – boozy fillings always seem so festive too. I'm particularly taken with the look of the cocoa nibs – gorgeous!

Anonymous December 8, 2010 um 12:09 am

Oh my, these look so delicious! I was one of those lucky people for whom macarons worked perfectly the first time (but not the second or third boohoo). These make me want to have another attempt!!

Thank you for sharing those words to live by! Definitely agree about always eating good food!

Ravenous Rowie December 8, 2010 um 12:46 am

Beautiful photos, delicious sounding recipe! I have bookmarked this so I can make it closer to Christmas! Can't wait!

Victoria December 8, 2010 um 12:48 am

Looks delicious – like all your other macarons. I haven't tried a yolk-based buttercream but might have to try with your precise instructions. You are the best!

Anonymous December 8, 2010 um 12:53 am

these look absolutely divine! quick question! when storing them in the fridge, should they be wrapped in saran wrap? or just placed in a tupperware? thanks so much!

Helene December 8, 2010 um 12:56 am

demosthenes: if you are not afraid of crushing them I guess plastic wrap is fine.

Katie December 8, 2010 um 2:22 am

These look delicious! I would really like to master the macaron, but I tend to give up in frustration, waiting until my fiancé comes to visit from Paris and brings a little box from Pierre Hermé!

Megg December 8, 2010 um 2:34 am

Hello Helene,
I'm going to be trying to make macarons for the first time soon. I was thinking about making some with pomegranite being the main flavor component. But I'm having difficulties trying to figure out how I'll do that. Would you have any suggestions?

Thanks for the awesome post by the way.

Helene December 8, 2010 um 2:40 am

Megg: you could do juice or seeds in the buttercream. Maybe 2-3 tb of juice or 1/3 cup seeds folded by hand.

Ilke December 8, 2010 um 2:47 am

Tasty looking! I am one of those people who would rather go to the bakery for macaroons:) Thankfully there are two French bakeries in Charlotte!

Anonymous December 8, 2010 um 3:08 am


Its the people that push us hardest, that hold us to higher standards that make us the people we become….. I am sorry for your loss

Thank you for sharing your recipes for macarons. I discovered them when I was in Paris, and have never seen the same in US (Boston area, no less). I will have to try making them


A Plum By Any Other Name December 8, 2010 um 4:11 am

I definitely can identify with your post. I find myself baking things late into the evening (often for my blog) that have me questioning my ability to live rationally. BUT it's always worth it in the end.

Though macarons do terrify me slightly (they seem to scream "baking project that will end with cursing and/or crying") yours look beautiful … and are inspiring. And so I set out … to conquer the macaron.

Thank you!

Jennifer (Delicieux) December 8, 2010 um 4:38 am

Your macarons look fantastic. I love the use of bourbon cream, which my boyfriend would adore.

I've not yet tried making macarons, but plan to over the holidays when I take a break from work for a couple of weeks. I will definitely have to try these.

Sean Grey Hanson December 8, 2010 um 5:02 am

Looks so delicious.

Nicolette December 8, 2010 um 5:08 am

This sounds like a divine flavor combination. I think it was the bourbon that tipped me over the edge of bliss. Beautiful post!

Megg December 8, 2010 um 7:31 am

Thank you so much. I will definitely try that.

Amber December 8, 2010 um 7:52 am

Very,very beautiful.Fantastic photos!

Patricia Scarpin December 8, 2010 um 9:52 am

I would not attempt making macarons if I could just run to Pierre Herme's shop, of course (oh, I miss Paris). 😀
I love these, Helen! And I have a small bag of cocoa nibs begging to be used!

Fragolina December 8, 2010 um 9:53 am

Your macarons looks amazing, and I bet they taste scrumptious too. I first knew about macarons through the blogs,yours specially, and found they are delicate exquisite desserts. Last week was my second try of macarons at La Durée who opened in Beirut 2 months ago,(my first was at a wedding earlier,although it wasnt as I expected) The macarons were soooo delicious(specially the coffee one),I tried different flavors. I would love to make them at home one day, although I find they are a bit risky (I need the right tools & oven) Thank you.

♥peachkins♥ December 8, 2010 um 11:20 am

my sister will try to make macarons, I hope its as good as this..

David December 8, 2010 um 12:54 pm

I agree. With so many great bakeries in France, most people wouldn't think of making their own croissants, éclairs, macarons, or baguettes. Plus the small kitchens make baking a bit more of a challenge.

Although I would say that your macarons look a lot better than most of the ones sold in Parisian bakeries!

Anonymous December 8, 2010 um 1:15 pm

Dear Helene,

Thanks to you and your fantastic recipes, I too make macarons! Some perfect, some not so much, but always yummy tasting….. I even dared to give some away as presents, always with good reviews. This combo looks and sounds perfect for Christmas gifts.
But since I live in the Netherlands, can you give the amount of butter in the cream in grams? Many thanks and love reading your stories and looking at the gorgeous pictures, Christa

Rut December 8, 2010 um 1:38 pm

Favoloso!Sublime!Non ci sono parole.Degno dell'autrice il suo blog.Sono una mamma mi chiamo Rut e scrivo ricette senza glutine per mio figlio celiaco da 5

Mabel December 8, 2010 um 2:01 pm

Thank you for another beautiful post. The notion of Sunday dinner, surrounded by family, is so lovely… something I have never experienced. I've lived away from my family for so many years but have recently made plans to move back to them. The first thing I'll do when I'm finally there is start the tradition of Sunday dinners.

Again, thanks for your continual inspiration!

linda December 8, 2010 um 4:59 pm

this is such a great post & timely for me…
tomorrow i am taking my 3rd baking workshop
@ a 3rd venue as i try to master macrons!
i am up for the challenge!

i do love your posts (this combo seems divine!)…

btw: love your new head shot! tres chic!

Lourdes December 8, 2010 um 7:40 pm

Dear Helena
I see that in the last recipe appears cocoa nibs, where this type of cocoa, or I can replace it, perhaps because nuts?
I know I'm abusing a little of your kindness, but those bowls green fror completely in love with me, I've spent all afternoon searching for all web sites that you recommended, and no way to find, from where are they? are old?
Thank you very much for your kindness. A greeting lourdes
Leer fonéticamente
Diccionario – Ver diccionario detalladoconjunción0.and

Gen December 8, 2010 um 9:04 pm

Quels beaux macarons! Les coques sont vraiment parfaites!

Vicki Wilde December 8, 2010 um 10:59 pm

On my third try I finally perfected my macaron method (using a french cookbook nonetheless!). Thanks for the recipe, these sound fabulous.

Le Brunette Pistolet December 9, 2010 um 4:07 am

these sound and look amazing!
Going to try my hang at making some tomorrow!

So sorry for your loss.

Lexie | Lexie's Kitchen December 9, 2010 um 4:49 am

Ahhhhhh. I land on sites like yours and just take a deep breath and take it all in. Lovely. Beautimous! And the food looks great, too 🙂

An admiring fan,

Anita (Married… with dinner) December 9, 2010 um 4:50 am

you always come up with the most amazing flavor combinations, but this one might just be my absolute favorite.

Denise Michaels @ Adventurous Foodie December 9, 2010 um 5:42 am

Today I was doing a lot of running around town – when about 5-ish in the afternoon, just before heading home I realized I was in the neighborhood of a very nice little French bakery.

I stopped in and bought a croissant and a macaroon for my husband. They are both wonderful – I've had 'em before. I thought the croissant would be nice with breakfast in the morning. But it wasn't meant to be. The minute he discovered the croissant he wolfed it down in less than five minutes.

I told him it was for breakfast tomorrow. He replied, "It won't last that long." *wink*

As for the macaroons – the man I love is originally from India and so anything w/ coconut is like a taste from his childhood.

LimeCake December 9, 2010 um 5:43 am

Extraordinarily beautiful! Thanks for the detailed recipe. They'll certainly help when I one day endeavour to make these!

Lenka – Beaute December 9, 2010 um 8:53 am

Wooooow, your macarons are beautiful! I also fell macaronsmania! So far, so I'm learning:) Greetings from the Czech Republic Lenka

Helene December 9, 2010 um 1:15 pm

denise: these are macarons not macaroons. If you look at the recipe you will see that there is no coconut listed in the ingredients. They are two different confections indeed. One is almond based and one is coconut based.

Kathryn December 9, 2010 um 4:04 pm

Oh my gosh- those look so incredibly amazing! I just recently tried cacao nibs for the first time- wonder if they're much different from cocoa nibs… Also, would you mind me asking what kind of camera you use? I'm thinking of getting a new one for Christmas and your photos are all so gorgeous!

Unknown December 9, 2010 um 5:21 pm

I love the add of the coco nibs. It looks wonderful.

Helene December 9, 2010 um 5:50 pm

Kathryn: not sure I understand your sentence asking if cocoa nibs are much different from cocoa nibs.
All equipment is in my about page but remember that the camera does not make the photographer or the photograph.

Chelsea December 9, 2010 um 7:24 pm

Beautiful pictures. Macarons are some the most graceful cookies I think!

Tiffy December 9, 2010 um 7:48 pm

These look so amazing! I wanted to make macarons for Christmas this year, but Is it safe to send macarons in the mail that might take about 3-4 days to be delivered? Would I have to freeze them beforehand?

Miriam Leigh December 9, 2010 um 11:47 pm

I'm so into macarons right now… I buy them at every decent bakery I happen to be passing by. So happy to have a great recipe for them now! Can't wait to try.

Amy at The Scene From Me December 10, 2010 um 2:56 am

Wow, those look decadently delicious!

The InTolerant Chef ™ December 10, 2010 um 10:35 am

I love cocoa nibs too. Macarons are truly something to be proud of wether you get them just right or not. You should be proud you tried!

Unknown December 10, 2010 um 10:49 am

Macarons, I love them but my first trial was a complete disaster!!!! yours look perfect and surely they taste divine!!!! I will try your recipe thanks!!!!

Kucina di Kiara December 10, 2010 um 3:53 pm

Ciao cara!!!! Il tuo blog è strepitoso! Bellissime le foto!!! Complimenti davvero di cuore! Bacio!!! Kiss!!!!

Victoria December 10, 2010 um 7:07 pm

Helene, that last reply is the funniest thing I've seen all day. HA!

The Short (dis)Order Cook December 10, 2010 um 7:30 pm

It's always such a delight when you do a macaron post. They are always so beautiful. You keep inspiring me to try making them myself – although I haven't actually done the deed yet.

I'm LOL about the comments that French people won't do their own baking. I guess when you consider the sheer number of bakeries and baked goods available, I guess there is less temptation to do the dirty work. This fall I visited Paris for the first time and was always blown away by the sweets.

T and T December 10, 2010 um 11:22 pm

Your macarons are simply beautiful. It made me happy to see them. I love macarons and while I always can't say no to baking something I love, I haven't been brave enough yet to try making macarons….. but someday I will 🙂

The InTolerant Chef ™ December 11, 2010 um 12:16 am

Hi Helene, I didn't mean the "you" as in You, Helene. I meant it as a gerneral public 'you'. LOL, but you, Helene, should certainly be proud of all that you have achieved. Some of the other commentors seemed a bit fearful and I thought they just needed to be proud of giving it a go! That pdf sounds great thanks, [email protected] Thanks for your comment on my blog, and sorry for the confusion.

Eléonora December 11, 2010 um 12:57 am

A very nice little envy. Bon week-end !

Hilda December 12, 2010 um 4:01 pm

Marvellous, really perfect.

Anonymous December 13, 2010 um 2:21 am

i made macarons for the first time today. i didn't get feet, but they tasted incredibly delicious. i must try your recipe. i just need to convert it to US measurements LoL

Helene December 13, 2010 um 5:27 am I would not. I'd go and buy a scale to make macarons.

Anonymous December 13, 2010 um 11:27 pm

i hope this hasn't been asked already, i read the comments and didn't see it. but i can't find cocoa nibs, could i use mini chocolate chips instead? or perhaps rough chop some chocolate in my food processor? or will the chocolate melt and make a mess out of the macarons?

Helene December 14, 2010 um 5:54 am

Demosthenes: I'd say no because the chocolate chip would melt.

Angela December 15, 2010 um 11:27 pm

Hi Helene, thanks for some lovely recipes and beautiful photographs. I've had a go at making macarons and am determined to persevere until I get it right! Do you have any suggestions as to why mine came out chewy and a bit soft rather than nice and crunchy? Many thanks.

Helene December 16, 2010 um 3:02 am

Angela: I don't think you did anything wrong since they are not supposed to be crunchy at all but a mix of crisp and chewy. No one wants crunchy shell buts falling on the floor as they eat 🙂

haribo sweets December 17, 2010 um 6:13 pm

I'm one of those people who never make macaroons from scratch or make macaroons out of anything at all. I simply buy them. My reason, why mess with something delightfully and decadently created? I'm very sure I'd make bad macaroons I'll have nightmares of them. Ew.

Helene December 17, 2010 um 8:06 pm

haribo sweets: i see your point but it could apply to a lot of treats in this world depending on the person…in which case no on would bake or cook. Tragedy 🙂

JennyJenJen December 20, 2010 um 3:02 am

I bow to thine skills..

I attempted these today, and they taste wonderful, but are flat as a pancake. Any clue what I might have done wrong? Maybe overmixed?

any help would be appreciated.

Helene December 20, 2010 um 4:26 am

JennyJenJen: that's difficult to troubleshoot without seeing what you do. Could be the folding, could be the moisture/oil in the oil, could be the meringue, etc…
Have you read the macaron making tutorial in the side bar? It could help.

Amanda December 25, 2010 um 4:11 pm

Hello! I'e made your macarons for 5 times already and I still can't succeed. My macarons always end up with frilly feet and are kind of flat. Can you help me find out what's the problem? I try not to over mix but after I add in my dry mixture, it becomes that "flow like magma" stage very quickly and I can't beat the air out of the meringue without sacrificing some of the consistency.

Helene December 26, 2010 um 5:45 am

Amanda: do you have the macaron tutorial?
Could be the egg whites if they are not aged enough. Also, you should not be trying to fold the air out of the meringue completely when in that stage. Maybe you are going one step to far in your folding.

Amanda December 26, 2010 um 8:11 am

I've read your macaron tutorial:) I see. I'm going to try again. Hope I succeed!

pinky-yin December 29, 2010 um 7:05 am

Hi Helene, love your blog and thank you for your generosity for sharing 🙂 I've made your recipe a couple of times and they almost always turn out pretty ok (although not quite picture perfect) but taste pretty good none the less. I do have the problem of them being quite sticky on the bottom and sometimes having a large hallow between the shell and the chewy cookie – any feedback on where i could have gone wrong?

pinky-yin December 29, 2010 um 7:13 am

Hi Helene
I love reading your blog and have to say thank you very much for your generosity in sharing
I have tried your macaron recipe a couple of times and please to say they are all well received. They are far from perfect and I will keep practicing. I do find I have very sticky base and have a bit of trouble removing them (even when using silpat) and there is quite a large pocket of air between the shell and chew almond cookie – any ideas what I am not doing right? Would be grateful for your feedback 🙂

Caroline January 26, 2011 um 11:20 pm

Hey, I tried this recipe today and the shells turned out just fine very perfect. But the buttercream did not turn out looking so good. The eggyolk broke down as soon as i poured in the syrup. The texture was very runny and I had to drain it down. What could have gone wrong? I followed the recipe.

But nervertheless, I love reading ur blog. Im from Germany and I enjoy re-cooking ur stuff and my friends and family love the macarons!

Helene January 27, 2011 um 3:28 am

pinky-yin: fold the batter a few more strokes and let them sit in the oven off for a couple of minutes.

Caroline: sounds like the syrup was too hot.

Monica February 9, 2012 um 1:09 am

Hi Helene- I love your blog, the food, the pictures and all! My family and I love macarons and your recipes have been very helpful. I was wondering if there's a particular reason why when we make macarons with nuts other than almonds (like pistachio flavor), why we generally stick with half almonds/half the other nut. Just curious…thank you!!

Helene February 9, 2012 um 4:43 am

Monica: other nuts have the higher fat content compared to almonds which is not ideal for macarons making. The drier kind such as almonds absorb the extra moisture and fats which is key to success.

Monica February 9, 2012 um 12:28 pm

Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my question, Helene! I had a feeling there was a scientific reason like that. It makessense now!

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