Making nut butters at home is an act of faith. It is as simple as a recipe could be, but it requires perseverance, stubbornness and a large helping of patience.
The method is pretty much the same for all nuts, and even some seeds like sunflower and pumpkin; you lightly toast the nuts/seeds in the oven, dump them into a food processor and blend blend blend till they can’t take it anymore and surrender into a creamy, smooth mass of utter deliciousness. That is ALL. It is the closest thing I’ve seen to pure magic.
In fact, it is so spectacularly magical that every single time I make it I go through several stages of doubt:
Will this really work?
…Why is it taking so long?
Oh God these nuts look so lumpy…
There is NO way this catastrophe is turning into nut butter!
Will my food processor die? Oh please don’t die…do I smell smoke???
Should I add some oil to help it along? It looks like IT NEEDS HELP PEOPLE!!
Like a mantra, I keep telling myself to trust the process and believe in the power of nut butter. To resist the urge to add oil or give up, and hold onto that glimmer of faith that somehow, both my food processor and I will make it.
…And we always do.
Every single time, eventually & quite suddenly, just when I feel like I am on the verge of despair…the magic happens. The nuts give up and release their glorious oils, turning into a shimmering sea of pasty goodness that is like NOTHING you can buy at a store.
Remember when I talked about making things from scratch in that Hummus post? The same applies here. Making nut butters at home is HEAPS healthier, cheaper and more delicious. Not to mention how fascinating it is to watch!
All you need is good quality raw nuts, a DECENT food processor (sadly, flimsy cheap ones won’t do the job here…it needs to be a relatively strong machine), a pinch or two of salt, and a whole lotta patience. Depending on the type of nut, the process can take anywhere between 5-15 minutes.
Being the stubborn glutton that I am, I once (ok FINE, more than once) tried to make almond butter with my really crappy food processor back in Cairo a couple of years ago. FYI, almond butter is the toughest and most time-consuming one to make, because of how hard the nuts are and because they have their skins on. Let me just say that the process of blending took TWO DAYS. The food processor kept heating up and emitting smoke and almost dying on me, so I had to stop and let it rest for hours before starting again…I could barely keep it going for a minute at a time! It did kinda sorta work in the end, but long story short: DON’T use a lousy food processor!
I know it can be pretty expensive to purchase a decent one, but I honestly cannot live without mine. . Buying my current Phillips (which isn’t even one of the very pricey ones, it was pretty affordable) was definitely one of the best investments I’ve made in my kitchen, and I use it almost daily.
Another great thing about making nut butters, as with making things from scratch in general, is that you can always customise them by mixing different combinations of nuts/seeds, adding spices (think cinnamon, ginger or turmeric) or a drizzle of honey for extra sweetness. In this version here for example, which happens to be my current favourite, I combined beautiful buttery cashews with real vanilla seeds. Funnily enough, I was never really a fan of salty cashews as a snack…however, cashew BUTTER is a whole other story. Completely blew me away! I am always surprised at how SWEET it is, without having to add a drop of honey! And the addition of fresh vanilla? HEAVEN I tell you.
I’ve made three types here because I am greedy to show you what the process looks like for different nuts. The method however, is exactly the same each time, with the only difference being the time it takes to reach nut butter status.
Let’s start with the vanilla cashew butter. Cashews turn into butter pretty fast, about 6-7 minutes.
You lightly toast the raw cashews in an oven at 180 C for 5-10 minutes, then let them cool slightly. While they are still a bit warm (this helps them release their oils easily), you put them into the processor with a few good pinches of sea salt. DO NOT skip this; salt is crucial for bringing out the lovely flavours & sweetness of the nuts. That is ALL you add at this stage. Commence blending.
First, it will look like chopped nuts (and be alarmingly loud). Then it will turn sandy, kinda like wet sand. After that, it will start to clump up and climb up the sides of the bowl slightly. Keep a spatula in your hand and stop the machine to scrape down the sides as needed. Keep going.
You will notice the bowl of the processor will be quite warm, you may even see some steam forming inside; that is normal. If, however, you see any SMOKE, or the machine itself gets very hot or makes strange noises, STOP the motor and let it rest for a while before attempting to carry on.
After a few minutes of whizzing, the miracle will happen, and you will witness the once dry pile of nuts transform into a buttery spread before your very eyes. Give it a taste, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if you want and any spices/flavourings you like and continue to blend a couple of minutes more till totally smooth. As I said, all I added here was some gorgeous fresh vanilla seeds (I find that cashews really don’t need any honey). Done!
Next up is the ever-popular peanut butter, which always takes the least time to make…about 5 minutes!
Toast. Cool slightly. Salt. Blend. Scrape. Blend. Taste. Add-ins (here, I only added a tiny bit of honey). Blend. Done.
Same goes for those stubborn (but SO delicious and nutrient-packed) almonds, which take quite a bit longer, up to 15 minutes. But hey, don’t fret! Remember…act of faith. You’re all over this.
Toast. Cool slightly. Salt. Blend. Scrape. Blend. Taste. Add-ins (just a bit of honey this time). Blend. Done.
I love adding a dash of cinnamon to the almond butter sometimes…they go beautifully together!
Now, while the butter is still warm and loose and drippy, pour it into a container with a lid (I love using glass jars) and store them at room temperature for up to two weeks. Some people like to store their nut butters in the fridge (a crime against nut butters in my opinion). I find it unnecessary and causes them to harden too much for my liking.
Use them as you please! I adore spreading them on fresh fruit for the perfect quick and nutritious breakfast or snack; bananas with peanut butter, apples or pears with cashew or almond butter. Dollop them on oatmeal, blend them into smoothies, spread them on toast…I even love to whisk a spoonful into salad dressings or marinades for extra richness and creaminess!
Just try not to eat the whole batch with a spoon (trust me, it’s harder than it sounds!).
…Or do it. Who am I to judge?
- • 400-500g raw, plain unsalted nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, macadamias etc.) or seeds (such as pumpkin or sunflower) OR a combination.
- • 3 generous pinches of sea salt
- • a drizzle of honey or maple syrup (optional)
- • spices or flavourings of choice (such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla seeds), optional
- Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)
- Spread the nuts/seeds onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in the oven for 7-12 minutes, until just fragrant and very lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes.
- Place toasted nuts/seeds into a food processor while they are still warm to the touch (this helps them release their oils faster and become smooth). Make sure you are using a relatively strong and reliable food processor (or a high speed blender such as a Vitamix).
- Add the salt and start to blend on high (DO NOT omit adding the salt, it is essential to bring out the flavours). Continue to blend until the nuts/seeds turn into a shiny, smooth paste, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. This can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, just keep going and don’t worry too much about it.
- Have a taste. Add a drizzle of honey/maple syrup if desired (always start with a small amount, you can add more easily after tasting!). If you are adding spices, start with just ¼-1/2 tsp. Blend, taste and add then more if you want to. If you are adding fresh vanilla, the seeds from half a vanilla pod are enough for a batch this size. Blend briefly for another minute or two until smooth, then pour into suitable airtight containers or jars. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
• If you are making hazelnut butter, you will have to peel the nuts first. After roasting them as per the instructions above, wrap them in a clean tea towel and leave them for 5 minutes, then rub them vigorously while inside the towel. You will find that most of the brown papery skin will fall off easily this way. Keep in mind that you can never get rid every single bit of skin, so just remove as much as you can.