A randomised, cross-over, controlled-feeding study was conducted to evaluate the cholesterol-lowering effects of diets containing pistachios as a strategy for increasing total fat (TF) levels v. a control (step I) lower-fat diet. Ex vivo techniques were used to evaluate the effects of pistachio consumption on lipoprotein subclasses and functionality in individuals (n 28) with elevated LDL levels ( ≥ 2·86 mmol/l). The following test diets (SFA approximately 8 % and cholesterol < 300 mg/d) were used: a control diet (25 % TF); a diet comprising one serving of pistachios per d (1PD; 30 % TF); a diet comprising two servings of pistachios per d (2PD; 34 % TF). A significant decrease in small and dense LDL (sdLDL) levels was observed following the 2PD dietary treatment v. the 1PD dietary treatment (P= 0·03) and following the 2PD dietary treatment v. the control treatment (P= 0·001). Furthermore, reductions in sdLDL levels were correlated with reductions in TAG levels (r 0·424, P= 0·025) following the 2PD dietary treatment v. the control treatment. In addition, inclusion of pistachios increased the levels of functional α-1 (P= 0·073) and α-2 (P= 0·056) HDL particles. However, ATP-binding cassette transporter A1-mediated serum cholesterol efflux capacity (P= 0·016) and global serum cholesterol efflux capacity (P= 0·076) were only improved following the 2PD dietary treatment v. the 1PD dietary treatment when baseline C-reactive protein status was low ( < 103μg/l). Moreover, a significant decrease in the TAG:HDL ratio was observed following the 2PD dietary treatment v. the control treatment (P= 0·036). There was a significant increase in β-sitosterol levels (P< 0·0001) with the inclusion of pistachios, confirming adherence to the study protocol. In conclusion, the inclusion of pistachios in a moderate-fat diet favourably affects the cardiometabolic profile in individuals with an increased risk of CVD.