Homemade nut butter

by sophie on July 10, 2007 · 22 comments

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In our local supermarket you get one type of nut butter, the ubiquitous peanut butter. There is a bit of a choice with texture (crunchy or smooth?) and a choice of which additives you would prefer (would you like extra salt with that or a little palm oil or perhaps a bit of both?) but that’s about it. How about selling me just plain ol’ nuts ground up for a change (nothing added) and maybe a choice in the variety of nuts?

The answer I now know is to make your own nut butter. I’m a recent convert to making nut butter so apologies if you’ve heard it all before! I read a post over on Chocolate and Zucchini about Beurre de Cajou last Summer and then was even more tempted when I read about the upgrade to spiced chocolate peanut butter but somehow it has taken me until now to stop dragging my feed and gave it a go. Its one of those kitchen tasks that sounds like it’s going to be rather drawn out and labour intensive, but in fact only takes about twenty minutes, most of which can be spent online/on the phone/in front of the TV. If only everything in life were so easy!
No more label reading, you can choose your favourite nut and can even perpetually re-cycle the same jar. For me this has meant out with the peanuts and in with the almonds – a more delicate flavour and a better balance between monounsaturated fat (the good stuff) and saturated fat (the bad stuff). The only downside I have found so far is that it does work out a bit more expensive than buying manufactured peanut butter, partly because I chose to use organic nuts and partly because almonds are more expensive than peanuts (you can fiddle with both of these variables to suit your taste and budget).

There’s no real recipe needed here. Just warm the nuts on a baking tray in a medium oven for about five minutes and then blitz in a food processor. Making this is one of those real kitchen alchemy moments; a noisy rubble for what seems like forever and then all of a sudden the oil is released from the nuts and you have a glorious creamy paste. Taste it now, so that you know how fantastic this is while it is still scented and slightly warm, but after that if you are anything like me you will have to hide it away somewhere so that you don’t scoff the lot.
Almond Butter
The nut import industry has a bit of a poor reputation for making sure that producers and hullers get a good deal. In the UK you can find out who stocks the few ethically traded brands on the Fairtrade website, the US equivalent of which is Transfair (you can find out if there is a fair trade labelling initiative in your country on the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International website). In reality, in the case of almonds the biggest global producer is the US who are much more capable of holding their own when it comes to these kinds of issues and at least have such a thing as a minimum wage. This leaves us with the organic/not organic debate. In the US the FDA has recently ruled that raw almonds can no longer be sold because of the risk of salmonella and so all almonds must be in some way ‘pasteurised’. Most will be treated chemically using propylene oxide (not particularly nice) but organic producers will use steam pasteurisation, which I think is what I would prefer for my almonds and so I chose to buy organic.

Bees are currently a big issue when it comes to almond production. I must admit to never really having thought about how nuts are grown until recently but almonds are grown on trees and those trees need pollinating! Some of you may have read in the news earlier this year about Colony Collapse Disorder and the massive decline in bee populations in many parts of the world. The West Coast of the US grows approximately 80% of the world’s almonds according to this BBC news article and severe problems were forecast for this year’s almond crops after a loss of around 60% of the area’s commercial bee population (bees are kept to be commercially hired out to the almond growers). Happily this year’s almond harvest looks like it is going to turn out to be a bumper crop but I doubt that this is the last we will hear regarding the bees.

My almond butter did not last well because I kept having a sneaky spoonful whenever I went past the fridge (you should really keep this in the fridge) but if you can keep it for a little longer there are plenty of good things to do with it. Here are two quick suggestions for almond butter tartines (excuse my lapse into gratuitous french – a tartine somehow sounds so much more sophisticated than an open sandwich!).

– My old favourite, based on a suggestion by Dietitian and Nutritionist Jane Clarke, is to spread nut butter on toasted granary bread and top with mixed leaves, slivers of carrot, sultanas and torn mint leaves, finished off with a drizzle of lemon juice (this was lunch immediately after making the almond butter – see the photograph at the top of this post).
– Heidi Swanson has just posted a recipe for a delicious sounding Plum and Rosewater compote and recommends serving it on bread with almond butter (I’m looking forward to trying this one when my plum tree is ready!)
Ending this post on a completely unrelated note, I’m off to Barcelona next week, yippee! Any foodie tips for what to try and where to go would be very gratefully received!


Wendy July 10, 2007 at 21:02

Fantastic. Make my own satay sauce but never my own peanut butter.
Will have to fight the urge to go out and but large amounts of different nuts to test their buttery-ness!

Joanna July 10, 2007 at 22:02

Just added your blog to my feedreader and straightaway there’s a post I’m really interested in – I’m also fed up with reading the small print on nut butter jars, only to find palm oil, endless palm oil, not to mention too much salt. Years ago, in Somalia, I made peanut butter, but it was only good because we were hundreds of miles from the nearest source of the palm-nut-oil-type .. it put me off going for it again. Now I will.

kathryn July 11, 2007 at 07:07

I’ve never thought about making my own nut butter – but what a good idea.
Most of the local health food shops have machines that mash up peanuts, so you can get fresh peanut butter. But I’m always a bit suspicious about how often they’re cleaned. Plus peanuts are the only option.

Lucy July 13, 2007 at 00:02

It’s horrible about the bees…
This is fantastic – I hate peanuts. You can, as you say, make it to your own specifications.

sophie July 18, 2007 at 22:54

Wendy – if you do try out some different types of nuts please report back and let me know what’s good :-)
Hi Joanna – I’m glad you had a worthwhile trip over here – I know what you mean about all the extra stuff on the labels, that’s what persuaded me to give making my own a go. I’ve really been enjoying yours and Ilva’s heart of the matter events by the way!
Kathryn – I quite like the idea of “grind your own” in the shops as I’m not sure how long my little blender will hold out. Mind you, old peanuts doesn’t sound good (I think it’s nuts that can produce nasty toxins when they get too old don’t they?)
Hi Lucy – yep, that’s the fun part, pick your own! I guess you could even blend your own and use a few different types of nut

Dayna August 20, 2007 at 04:58

This looks great & your pictures are fantastic!
Who knew it could be so easy?
No more will I have to fork over the $11 for the almond hazelnut blend; my absolute favourite.

Anna August 29, 2009 at 04:36

Wow!! I cannot wait to try this one! I knew the old recipe for peanut butter with oil… yuck! I never thought I could make the nuts into butter with no oil added… I am excited!

Diane September 16, 2009 at 03:13

Does anyone have a suggestion on where to find organic nuts in bulk, at a good price? I want to buy a commercial grinder and start selling nut butters at our local farmers’ market. Can’t wait to get started!

Sophie September 18, 2009 at 21:25

Hi Diane – I’m afraid I’ve no experience of bulk buying organic nuts (small packets always seem to be fairly pricey don’t they?).
If anybody else reading has any suggestions for Diane then email me and I can put you in touch.

JoAnn Gray April 21, 2010 at 01:17

I have been struggling with the fact that Almond Butter [even Whole Foods 365 brand Organic] is not Raw & expensive! So I tried to make my own in my Vita-Mix machine & I pretty much made chopped nuts :( Then I tried it in a food processor & got it a bit more smooth consistency but still not creamy… So I thought maybe I needed to add oil but olive oil in Almond butter doesn’t taste so good & I have a 6 yr. old that has to like it!
I have read here that I need to heat the almond up… but I’m big on the raw/no heat ways! So is the key to releasing the oil & making it creamy?

Sophie April 25, 2010 at 18:22

Hi JoAnn, it can be hard work getting the right texture out of your food processor. I haven’t tried making the nut butter raw but I primarily heat the nuts up to release more of the flavour. I don’t think this step is too key to the texture.
Adding a little bit of oil does seem to help when the nut butter seems to stay ‘chunky’ forever. Maybe a less strongly flavoured oil such a vegetable oil or even a dash of almond oil would work for you?

Giyah June 5, 2011 at 16:22

I love almond butter so much and its a great great idea.
I am going to make it .
Thank You

susi June 15, 2011 at 15:23

so I’m wondering does this work with all nuts or just almonds have you used this with pistachios? i’ve looked up recipes and they actually say tu use butter. yech! don’t get me wrong i love butter but pistachios have a good concentration of oil so i don’t see how it is necessary. anyways thanks for the healthy recipe have fun in barthelona

Sophie July 14, 2011 at 18:00

Hi Susi, I haven’t made this with pistachio but I can’t think why it wouldn’t work. Maybe rub off some of the skin first for a better texture?

Indi February 13, 2012 at 10:43

What grinder/ mixer do you use? Mine broke over the weekend due to the time and effort required to make nut butter :( really want to make more nut butters! Thanks!

sophie February 15, 2012 at 14:27

Hi Indi,

I’m using a Bosch combined hand blender / mixer at the moment which will do a small batch of nut butter. I also add a tiny, tiny drizzle of olive oil which seems to help get the blending process started. But if you’re doing this on a regular basis you might be better off with something really sturdy like a vitamix or food mill. Let us know if you find something good!

Rosemary Rowe May 17, 2012 at 20:23

I really enjoyed this post! So it’s as easy as that to make your own nut butters, eh? Who knew?! I shall have to try it for myself! Speaking of which, have you made sunflower seed butter or butter using seeds as opposed to nuts?
I hope you had a marvellous trip to Barcelona! =)

sophie May 21, 2012 at 19:31

Hi Rosemary – no, I haven’t tried making seed butter. I guess that’s what tahini is thinking about it logically. Do report back if you give it a go!

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