Homemade Nut Butters
I love peanut butter… with chocolate, on pretzels and crackers, on bananas, on carrot sticks, on sandwiches, in ice cream, pie, or cookies, in curries, as peanut sauce for a slew of Asian dishes (and yes I'll even eat spoonfuls straight from the jar). I’m not limited to peanut butter though. Any nut will do. I actually prefer cashew butter to the typical peanut, but almond, hazelnut, pecan (or any combination of these) are equally delicious.
There is nothing quite like spreading warm, fresh cashew butter onto a piece of toasted bread. In fact, once you make and taste your own nut butter, anything store-bought seems to pale in comparison.
There are plenty of good reasons to make your own. Most of the regular peanut butters available in the grocery are highly processed and packed full of salt, sugar, and preservatives (though a growing number of "natural" peanut butters are free of these). Then there are those 400 or so peanut butter products that are being recalled by the FDA in lieu of salmonella outbreaks. But the best reason of all is taste and freshness. Plus, it's so quick and easy.
Here's how I do it: Simply spread out the nut of your choice in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes until nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Throw them into a food processor and blend away! In minutes (or less) the nuts will turn into a paste.(Note: this is my personal recipe, which has not been run through the formal Test Kitchen tasting and testing.)
Salt is optional, but ¼ teaspoon for every two cups of toasted nuts heightens their flavor. Once processed, the nuts will reduce to about half of the original measurement. Give it a try warm, but keep the butters stored covered in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature for easy spreading; they may require a good stir.
The fun part is the variety and creativity involved. Experiment with different nuts and different combinations; you can also try adding in various spices and seasoning (e.g., chili powder or cumin). The results can be surprising and exciting. I do not often think of using Brazil nuts in most cooking, but blended with hazelnuts or almonds, they add a nice richness to nut butters.
Check out our nut butter story for other tips, plus recipes that incorporate butters made from walnuts, pistachios, macadamias, and other nuts.