How are you enjoying my pantry staples series? I hope you're finding them useful! These simple basics are some of my favourite recipes, as once you've got a few up your sleeve (or in the fridge as the case may be), they really make cooking healthy meals so much easier and quicker. And if you're like me, with family, friends, kids, career and the rest, one thing you're always short on is time!
Before we dive into this week's recipe though (a deliciously creamy Homemade Nut Butter), here's a quick recap of the tasty pantry staples we've covered so far:
Even if you've only tried making one of the above so far, you're a star! Taking a spare half hour on a Sunday to make one or two of them will make your week flow so much smoother, I promise. Pour Homemade Nut Milk over your muesli in the morning, spoon Coconut Cashew Chia Cream over fruit salad for a snack, dollop Cashew Nut Cheese on top of a roast vege salad at lunch, drizzle Creamy Cashew Aioli on corn fritters for dinner, and finish off with an instant banana split made with sliced banana, a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and sprinkle of cacao powder. Before you know it, you'll be filling your plate with the benefits of plant-based wholefoods, without having to spend all day in the kitchen!
This week though is all about the nut butter. Nut butter is one of my all time favourite ingredients as it has so many uses, and lends a creamy richness as well as binding element in place of butter, cream or eggs. If you haven't made nut butter before you're probably thinking, yeah right, like I have time for that?! But this recipe is really so easy, super quick to make, will save your pennies (nut and seed butters can get a tad expensive if you're a monster consumer like us), and most importantly tastes incredible. I'm going to share with you three different ways to make it, my top tips and tricks for the perfect silky consistency, as well as some of my favourite flavour blends.
Nut Butter, Three Ways
My two favourite ways of making nut butter are by either lightly roasting your nuts, or if you have time, soaking and dehydrating (drying) them before blending. Soaking and dehydrating is the best way to eat nuts and seeds, as it removes any difficult to digest nutrients such as phytic acid, as well as initiates the sprouting process. This changes the nut/seed from a dormant entity to a living growing food, and the nutrient profile in terms of vitamins, minerals and particularly protein greatly increases. Think of it like watering a seed to plant a tree - the seed is completely dormant and stagnant until you add water, upon which the transformation of that seed into a fully fledged tree begins.
After soaking your nuts/seeds you can often use them straight away in recipes - particularly my Creamy Cashew Aioli, Cashew Nut Cheese, Coconut Cashew Chia Cream and Homemade Nut Milk do this. These are easy as all you need to do is put the nuts/seed in a bowl, fill it up with double the amount of water, and leave on the bench overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse, then add to your recipe or put in a container in the fridge for up to two days.
If you however want to use your nuts in a recipe that calls for dry nuts (such as nut butter), you need to remove the added moisture from your nuts/seeds before starting. The easiest way to do this is to use a dehydrator, which gently heats the nuts at a low temperature for 24-48 hours (kind of like an oven). I use an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator (this one here), and it's amazing. So if you're planning to soak and dehydrate your nuts on a regular basis, its definitely worth getting and is really energy efficient.
Alternatively you can dry nuts and seed in your oven, simple spread in a single layer on a oven tray (or mesh tray is even better as it allows the air to dry them from underneath). Then put in the oven at 45-50°C with the oven door slightly ajar for ~24 hours until crispy. The dehydrator is of course much more economical in terms of power usage as it's made for this purpose, but the oven still works fine if you want to try it out a few times before committing to a new appliance. I often spend an hour each month soaking a whole bunch of different nuts and seeds overnight, and then the next day dehydrate the whole lot at the same time and pop into jars. We then have soaked, activated and dehydrated nuts and seeds available to make nut butter, sprinkle over salads or fruit, add to muesli, or mix with dried fruit for a scroggin mix. Once you get into the habit it's actually quite therapeutic, and definitely rewarding when you arrive home starving and hello there are ready made crunchy dehydrated nuts in the cupboard!
If you don't want to dehydrate though or just don't have the time, roasting is the next best option. Like soaking, roasting also helps to reduce some of the protective nutrients on the outside of the nut, which can inhibit digestion and absorption. You just want to make sure you only lightly roast and at a low temperature, to minimise any oxidation of the nuts/seeds valuable omega essential fatty acids. I recommend 12 minutes at 150°C on fan bake as a good guideline.
Now for the Nut Butter - Tips & Tricks
Blend it up: Once you've got your dried dehydrated or roasted nuts, from there its just a simple matter of blending in your food processor or blender until the nuts release their natural oils and turn into a silky butter. Depending on the strength of your machine this may take anywhere from 3 minutes (my Vitamix and Thermomix only take this long), or up to 15 minutes in an older food processor.
Give it a rest: If it's taking longer than 5 minutes, I suggest only running your machine for 5 minutes at a time, then giving it a 20 minute break in between to cool down, otherwise it may overheat (and burn out!).
Add a dash of oil: The other trick is to add a little bit of oil (a mild tasting oil like chia seed oil or sunflower oil works best), to help bring out the natural oils in the nuts. If you've got a super zippy processor/blender you won't need this (ie I don't for mine).
Try roasting: The other trick to make nut/seed butters work in an older machine is to opt for the roasted version, and pour the nuts in while they're still warm from the oven - this will also help release the natural oils easier.
Minimum 2 cups: Don't use less than 2 cups of nuts and seeds, as any less and you want get the critical mass and weight to release the oils. In fact, if you're working with an older machine, I would optimally use 3 or even 4 cups of nuts to help them fall back down on the blades.
No liquids other than oil!: Whatever you do don't add anything water based like a liquid sweetener, as it will cause your nuts to turn into a sticky paste instead of a creamy butter!
Onto blends, my all-rounder favourite is this "ABCs" butter - a blend of equal amounts of almonds, brazil nuts, cashews and sunflower seeds. I'm not so fussed on seed butters on their own (but if you're going to make them for allergy reasons, I highly recommend going for the roasted option as the flavour is that much better). However they are a lot more affordable than nuts and do have amazing nutrient profiles, so I like to sneak a few seeds into my favourite nut blends, to get both the nutrient and cost-saving benefits whilst still retaining the core nut butter flavours. Other blends I love include:
So, choose your method - dehydrator-dried, oven-dried or roasted; pick your blend (I highly recommend trying my "ABCs" butter first); then all that's left to do is decide how you're going to devour it! I really hope you'll try this one and find out how easy and satisfying it is to make your own Homemade Nut Butter. Oh and before I forget, we now stock all of my favourite organic nuts and seed in bulk 3kg bags, which is definitely the most affordable way to buy them - to find them in the store just click on the individual links in the recipe below, or go here for the full range.
I'd love to see your jars of nutty seedy goodness on Instagram, so tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics with your lovely creations.
Enjoy your nut butter creating, and just remember to make/save enough for next week's recipe!
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Always use certified organic, local and fairly traded ingredients wherever possible
c = 250ml cup, tbsp = 15ml tablespoon, tsp = 5ml teaspoon