Growing up, peanut butter was a sandwich standard (of course) and I only encountered other ‘nut butters’ as an adult. Almond butter could be found in the health food aisle as an expensive alternative to peanut butter, and later we could find cashew butter and macadamia butter.
Nut butters are a convenient and delicious way to get a good dose of healthy fats, and protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals into your diet. They still count as whole foods, even though they’ve been processed into a different form (the whole nut is processed, literally, in a food processor). They’re not “refined” because but no part of the nut is removed to make nut butter (although commercial options with additives aren’t exactly healthy).
Despite their high calorie-density, nuts are so satiating that they make us eat fewer calories later in the day — and they can assist in weight loss if included in a varied whole food plant-based diet. Plus, some studies have shown that regular consumption of nuts can significantly reduce one’s mortality risk (compared to not eating them at all).
[By the way — did you know that nuts are actually seeds?]
While peanut butter is wonderfully nutrient-dense, store-bought options often come with added sugar, oil (usually palm oil), salt and other additives. But nut butter doesn’t need anything but nuts. Somehow, our overstimulated tastebuds have become desensitised to the natural flavour of singele-ingredient peanut butter. Other nut butters like almond or macadamia butter, typically catering to a niche, health-focused market, are less adulterated with weird stuff, but they’re pricey.
The good news is that you can retrain those tastebuds to enjoy natural nut butter, and you can even make your own at home – if you’re fortunate enough to have a food processor. It’s super easy. (If this is new to you, you might feel like you did when you first found out how easy it is to make hummus.)
Make your own nut butter
- Step 1: Pick your nut (or seed) of choice. e.g. peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds (my current fav!), macadamia nuts, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, sesame seeds (homemade tahini ftw).
- Step 2: Roast in the oven for about 15-20 min at 180ºC (this step is optional, but it gives a great full flavour to the nut butter).
- Step 3: Process the nuts in a food processor for 5-10 minutes, scraping down in between.
It’s fun to watch: you’ll see the nuts go into a fine powder, then start to clump up, maybe into a big ball, then collapse into a viscous liquid. I was mesmerised the first time I saw this happen! You’ll see — there’s no need to add oil: the fats inside the nuts are released after a few minutes of processing, then you’re done. If you really want to, you could add some sugar and a touch of salt to enhance the flavour, but give your tastebuds a chance to enjoy the simple, natural flavour.
Store your nut (or seed) butter in a jar for a few weeks, if it lasts that long. Besides enjoying it on fresh sourdough, you can add a spoonful to your smoothies or oatmeal, snack on it with apple slices or Medjool dates, add a hearty creaminess to your dinner recipe, bake it into cookies (see below!), or feed it to your pup as a droolicious treat.