Nut butter is a super fashionable product at the moment, particularly in vegetarian and vegan circles. It’s delicious, versatile, and high in protein and healthy fats – what’s not to like? As someone not raised consuming PB & J (or PB & anything for that matter), I was a little late to this party. Only when I moved to London, having seen it in countless influencers’ breakfast bowls, did I properly try peanut butter, and henceforth was hooked on all things nut butter.
I began making my own nut butter because I am a #StingyLegend. I was in Hong Kong and craving it, but couldn’t bring myself to pay £10 for a jar of almond butter. Given that my mum owns a powerful food processor in any case, it was a bit of a no-brainer to try making it myself. The results were such that I’ve never looked back.
It’s a healthy option – not all commercially available nut butters are created equally. Peanut butter is the cheapest nut butter on the market, for the straightforward reason that peanuts are cheap (did u know – they’re technically a legume, not a nut); however, its widespread popularity makes it the most prone to being filled with nasty added ingredients such as sugar and palm oil. While there are plenty of healthy & sustainable brands available on the market, these don’t tend to come particularly cheap.
It tends to work out cheaper – per weight the price of most nut butters is much greater than the price of the nuts themselves. The cheapest almonds available on Tesco.com, for example, retail at 90p per 100g (currently on offer), and the cheapest almond butter (100% almonds) is £1.76 per 100g. That’s not a particularly heinous markup – it’s nothing compared to the price differential in Switzerland (which I calculated was roughly 4x) or Hong Kong – but it’s still nearly double the price. Even taking into account the price of a food processor, I reckon that I’ve already saved money by making it myself.
You can be creative with it – while above I bemoaned the presence of additives in nut butters, I’m now going to flip that and say that making your own is an opportunity to try mixing it up with different things. A personal favourite creation was a homemade ‘Nutella’ with dark chocolate, cacao nibs and roasted hazelnuts (I’d have to make it again to post the recipe and I’m not done with the first tub, so consider it pending). You can also make nut butters that aren’t widely commercially available, like pistachio or macadamia.
It’s fun and satisfying – yes, maybe I have a weird definition of fun. I also certainly have a lot more time on my hands at the moment than most people. Still, interest in home baking piqued during lockdown for a reason – it’s a wholesome & satisfying way to spend time at home – why not make nut butter production your next project?
On to the point of equipment – making your own nut butter will require a decent food processor, and as I learned after attempts in London, a blender simply will not do.
The good news is that food processors are not particularly expensive these days (depending on where you are, of course). I bought mine from galaxus.ch, a ‘warehouse deal’ (basically one that had been bought and returned with damaged packaging) for 60chf. In the UK, a quick search on Amazon found some pretty decent ones for as little as £40.
The other good news is that food processors are an endlessly useful addition to your kitchen arsenal. I have 100% gotten my money’s worth out of mine – not least because nut butter is so obscenely expensive here. For example, while you technically can make hummus in a blender, using a food processor has enabled me to make it quicker, smoother and better. I’ve made a point of using every attachment, for example to make this gorgeous fennel salad and taking advantage of a lazy way of grating root vegetables and cheese.
And finally, now that I’ve told you my life story, the recipe…
Step-by-Step Almond Butter
An issue I face with a lot of recipes, particularly baking ones, is that at certain stages of production, I worry that I’m going horribly wrong. When the texture of the mix looks too dry when making a cake, for example, it would help to have the reassurance of knowing that that is how it’s *meant* to look. I had a similar issue the first time I attempted nut butter – it just didn’t seem to be getting buttery for so long. I’m here to tell you that this is normal!
Side note: I’d like to thank Prisca for her input on the basis of my last post that I need to use more images from throughout the process, and I’d also like to blame her if you get bored of seeing millions of images of almonds in a food processor.
You can sub in pretty much any nut for almonds with this ‘method’ (inverted commas because I’m aware that said method involves pretty much just blending). I’ve successfully made hazelnut, peanut and cashew butters – pistachio is next on my list.
250g raw almonds
1/8 tsp salt
1- This step isn’t compulsory, but I find that it adds a greater depth of flavour to toast the almonds before blending them. You can do this in the oven, but I personally prefer dry toasting them in a frying pan on medium heat until they’re fragrant. Keep an eye on them, though burning them a little doesn’t mean game over – Manilife has a whole product based on this mishap!
2- Remove almonds from pan and place in a bowl, allowing to cool for at least 15 min – still warm is fine but you don’t want them to break your food processor by being too hot (the act of blending already heats them up, so beware).
3- Configure your food processor with the blending attachment, place the almonds and sea salt in the bowl and turn it on!
4- Do you want smooth or crunchy nut butter? If you want crunchy, remove about 2 tbsp of the chopped almonds once they reach the desired consistency of crunch. See below for the level I’d go for, although for almond butter specifically I prefer smooth. If you want smooth, just keep blending!
5- Use a spatula to push down almonds stuck to the side every so often (turning off the food processor to do so if that wasn’t obvious). This may not be necessary if you have a state-of-the-art food processor but it is with mine…
6- Put some noise cancelling headphones on and dance around the kitchen – refrain from panicking because it will take some time (ca. 10 minutes) to reach that ‘buttery’ consistency.
7- Once the almond butter has reached the desired consistency, taste and consider adding more salt (I use more than I put in the recipe, because I didn’t want to give everyone hypertension and I know that my penchant for salt is very strong).
8- If making crunchy nut butter, the above image is the stage at which you should add back the 2 tbsp of crunch you reserved earlier, and pulse with the butter to until satisfactorily mixed together (a couple of seconds, not too long or you’ll lose the crunch).
9- Leave to cool for a bit, then decant into your chosen storage vessel (see below).
Depending on where you live and how quickly you consume it, I find that mine keeps well outside of the fridge in a dark cupboard in a sterlized and sealed jar. I get through it alarmingly quickly so personally don’t really have to worry about it going off!
My top tip here is to wash out and keep old glass jars (jam, peanut butter, pickles, mustard… whatever) to be used for nut butter storage. It’s eco friendly and saves you money! If not, Tupperware will do, just make sure that it seals effectively.
Spread on toast is the obvious method of consuming nut butter, but I’m not a big toast eater, so I primarily enjoy my nut butters atop my porridge and yoghurt bowls, and in smoothies.
On the savoury front, they also make great cooking ingredients for all manner of things – namely sauces (Asian-inspired peanut sauces are the one), dressing and bakes.
And that’s it, another ‘recipe’ which involves very little creativity and effort! Most of all, I hope that this post serves as somebody’s inspiration to give it a go for themselves, rather than a prescriptive recipe. Get that dusty food processor out of the cupboard (or scour amazon warehouse for a new one) and let me know your thoughts!