Nut Butter Primer

Tips on making―and serving―various nut butters

Cashew: The smooth butter forms after about 2 minutes of processing. It is ideal for sandwiches. Try it with avocado and other vegetables in a pita, or substitute it for tahini when you make hummus.

Almond: Roasted whole almonds have skins that will fleck the butter. When the almonds start to come away from the sides of the food processor, the butter is ready. Slivered, toasted almonds take about 3 1/2 minutes to form a butter, but roasted whole almonds have additional oil and will be ready in just 2 1/2 minutes. This mild, sweet butter is adaptable in sweet and savory dishes. Try almond butter on a sandwich with apples and brie or Gouda cheese.

Macadamia: Hands down, this is our favorite nut butter―we actually licked the spoon. Because of maca­damias’ high fat content, the nuts grind into a butter too thin for spreading on bread in just 2 minutes. Chill to thicken it. Its buttery flavor is great for desserts.

Hazelnut: This grainy, thick butter with brown specks is fruity and naturally sweet. Processing it takes about 2 1/2 minutes. Bags of chopped nuts have few skins, so don’t worry about removing them. If nuts are whole, toast them in a 400° oven for 5 minutes or until they start to look shiny and the skins begin to loosen. Rub them in a dishtowel to remove skins. Mix a 1 to 1 ratio of chocolate syrup and hazelnut butter for a delicious spread that’s great on toasted honey wheat bread with bananas or on apple wedges.

Pecan: With a rich, hearty flavor that stands up well, pecan butter is great over meats. Pecans process into butter in about a minute. The loose paste spreads easily, but skins give it a slightly bitter aftertaste, so it’s best for recipes.

Peanut: Use plain roasted peanuts, rather than dry-roasted peanuts, which are seasoned with paprika, garlic, and onion powder. This smooth nut butter has distinctive fresh peanut flavor and the nuts take about 2 minutes to process. It is lighter in color than commercial peanut butters and is grainier than commercial hydrogenated brands.

Pistachio: A very dry, crumbly butter, it’s best combined with something else, like softened cream cheese. Cream cheese―pistachio spread is nice on French or egg bread. It takes about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes to grind into butter. It tends to clump during processing.

Walnut: Like pecan butter, this soft, oily butter is ready in about a minute. It, too, has a bitter aftertaste from the skins, making it good for recipes but not on sandwiches. Walnut halves are expensive, so look for pieces.