Small serving dish of pistou
Alternative namesPistou sauce
Place of originFrance
Region or stateProvence
Serving temperatureCold
Main ingredients
Similar dishespesto

Pistou (Provençal: pisto (classical) or pistou (Mistralian), pronounced [ˈpistu]), or pistou sauce, is a Provençal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil and sometimes almonds, bread crumbs or potatoes. It is somewhat similar to the Ligurian sauce pesto, although it lacks pine nuts and cheese; some versions include cheese and/or almonds.

Etymology and history

The Dictionnaire de l'Académie française dates "pistou" from the 20th century, and defines it as a Provençal word denoting a condiment made from fresh basil, crushed with garlic and olive oil; the term derives from pistar (to grind) itself derived from the Latin pinsare (to pound, to grind).[1]

The sauce is similar to Genoese pesto, which is traditionally made of garlic, basil, pine nuts, grated Sardinian pecorino, and olive oil, crushed and mixed with a mortar and pestle. The key difference between pistou and pesto is the absence of cheese in pistou.[2][3]


Soupe au pistou (pistou soup)

Pistou is a typical condiment from the Provence region of France most often associated with the Provençal dish soupe au pistou, which resembles minestrone and may include white beans, green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, potatoes, and pasta. The pistou is incorporated into the soup just before serving.[4]

Gruyère cheese is used in Nice.[2] Some regions substitute Parmesan cheese or Comté or sheep-cheese in Corsica . Whatever cheese is used, a "stringy" cheese is not preferred, so that when it melts in a hot liquid (like in the pistou soup, for instance), it does not melt into long strands.

See also


  1. ^ "pistou", Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. Retrieved 5 February 2024
  2. ^ a b Root, Waverley (1992) [Originally published 1958]. The Food of France. New York: Vintage Books. p. 369. ISBN 0-679-73897-5. It seems undoubtedly to have come from across the border from Italy, deriving from a Genoese sauce called pesto ... [made] by using a pestle and mortar to mash together leaves of sweet basil, Sardinian sheep's milk cheese, butter, garlic, and olive oil ... The Nice formula ... uses cheese of the Gruyère type.
  3. ^ About French Food. Pistou...or pesto? Debra F. Weber Archived 2006-10-26 at the Wayback Machine[self-published source]
  4. ^ Root, Waverley (1992) [Originally published 1958]. The Food of France. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 369–370. ISBN 0-679-73897-5. The soup in which the pistou is placed, giving it its flavor and its name, is a form of minestrone. One Nice recipe gives the vegetables that go into it as white beans, tomatoes, and summer squash. Another names string beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and vermicelli [Into the soup]; you put the pistou ... at the very last moment.