Make nut butters at home (and flavor with maple syrup and honey)

The most scathing complaint I can think of is that something tastes like it’s “from a mix/can/jar/etc,” yet there are many prepared foods that I don’t think twice about buying.

Take, for instance, peanut butter. I have eaten stacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sometimes with homemade bread or jam, but somehow it had never occurred to me to make peanut butter. So I decided to whip up a couple of test batches to see if homemade nut butters are worth the effort.

To make peanut butter, simply blitz roasted peanuts with salt and a drizzle of oil. This is a job for a fancy-pants blender; I first tried out my mom’s old food processor from the Dark Ages but it started smelling like burning plastic. In my “good” blender, it took about 10 minutes for the nuts to get to a smooth texture, but even then it was not nearly as creamy as store-bought peanut butter.

Dismayed, but not deterred, I tried almonds and pecans with much better results.

Though almonds are my favorite nut, I had never liked almond butter until now. Grocery store almond butter is slightly astringent, while my homemade, albeit not as smooth, had a much nuttier flavor.

The pecan butter was by far my favorite, probably because pecans are the least healthy of these three nuts and the high fat content made it the creamiest of the bunch.

I enlisted the help of my parents, who are nuts themselves, in a nut butter taste test. My dad preferred the almond butter, my mom loved the peanut butter, and my dog, when presented with a spoonful of each, finished the pecan butter first. Everybody and every butter wins!

Homemade nut butters may actually be better for you. Store-bought nut butters are frequently made with hydrogenated palm oil and too much salt and sugar. Making it yourself, a process that takes about as much time as comparing the ingredient labels on supermarket peanut butters, gives you control over what you add. I decided to spice up my butters with additional flavors; I added a pinch of cinnamon and maple syrup to the pecan butter and a teaspoon of honey to the almond.

As far as price is concerned, it depends on the nut. I compared the prices of Trader Joe’s bagged nuts with their nut butters to see how cost-effective it is to make your own.

The price differences between store-bought and homemade peanut and almond butters are negligible. Homemade peanut butter is four cents more per ounce than store-bought; shelled peanuts are 21 cents per ounce while peanut butter is 17 cents per ounce. Store-bought and homemade almond butters are also about the same, though homemade is five cents less at $0.32 per ounce compared with $0.37 per ounce.

The real savings is with pecan butter. Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell pecan butter, I averaged the prices of five different pecan butters at nearby health food stores, which came out to a whopping $1.74 per ounce while homemade was only 50 cents per ounce.

Would I make them again? Probably not peanut butter – homemade was underwhelming from both a texture and cost perspective. But the almond and pecan butters were wholly worth the very short while it took to make them.

Now all I need to do is make salt from scratch to add to my next batch of pecan butter.


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