Make your own nut butter
Almost everyone loves nut butters: almond butter, cashew butter, not to mention good old peanut butter. But many brands are loaded with salt and sweeteners, as well as chemical stabilizers and preservatives. So if you want to avoid all that, make nut butter yourself. There’s nothing to it. All you need is a food processor, 500gm of nuts and a little patience. You can control the salt and sugar — or even customise the nut butter by adding spices, honey, maple syrup or even chilli.
The basic recipe
Place about 500gm raw, shelled nuts — you can use pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pistachios, as well as any nut pretenders like cashews or peanuts — in a large food processor. Cover and process until creamy and smooth, scraping down the interior of the canister frequently while waiting patiently for the whole mixture to morph into a classic nut butter. This will take anywhere from 12 to 18 minutes depending on the oil content of the nuts.
There are distinct phases to a nut butter as it processes: After a minute or so, it looks like a dry, loose sand; next, that sand begins to clump; then the clumps turn oily, almost like sticky cookie batter; and finally, the released oils emulsify the mixture into a creamy paste. Stop the processor at least once during each phase to scrape down the canister — or anytime the mixture clumps to the side or bottom of the canister and is not actively mixing with the blades.
Some tips and tricks
- Toast the nuts for 10 minutes in a moderate oven first for a deeper flavour, but be aware that the butter will be a little coarser and even drier.
- Hazelnuts need to be skinned first as their papery coating can be bitter
- A homemade butter will never be a creamy as a commercial one so there will always be flecks and specks of nuts.
- If you want a crunchy butter, don’t stop the processor early, add ½ cup toasted chopped nuts after the butter has become creamy and smooth.
- Salt will make the nut butter taste better, but you don’t need too much. Add it after the butter has reached a good consistency and process for about 30 seconds to get the salt blended into the paste.
- Consider using honey, maple syrup, brown sugar or agave nectar for a bit of sweetness. Add between 2 and 3 tablespoons to the nut butter after it reaches its final consistency — then let the food processor do the work for another minute or so to incorporate the sweetener. Plus there’s an added benefit: Any of these sweeteners will improve the texture of the nut butter you make.