If you have a food processor and any quantity of any kind of nut, you can make nut butter. This may sound like some kind of sorcery to you, and you’d be right to think so. Some serious kitchen magic happens when one technique is applied to just one (one!) ingredient, transforming it completely, and nut butter is just such a thing. It’s something from seemingly nothing, a handful of almonds or pecans or hazelnuts left over from a baking project a few months ago. It’s soup from a stone, but actually, it’s walnut (or cashew or Brazil nut) butter.
This is only the first wonderful thing about making your own nut butter, a process that also takes all of five minutes and makes you feel powerful. And it’s a truly open door: Roast the nuts, keep them raw, or sprout them. Add salt or don’t, sweeten it with sugar or maple syrup or honey or molasses or don’t. Keep it classic or turn to your spice cabinet and pantry for inspiration. There you’ll find shredded coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, malted milk powder (why not?), matcha, and spices of all types and intensities, from sweet (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom) to savory (cayenne, curry powder, turmeric).
One final note before you begin: You may find that with some firmer, less buttery nuts (say, for example, almonds as opposed to cashews or macadamias) you can’t get beyond a fine gravelly paste. If that’s the case, add a bit of neutral oil, a teaspoon or so at a time, and blend until you get to the texture you’re looking for.
You can also use the addition of oil to get more flavor into your butter. If you’re making peanut butter with ginger powder and cayenne, you might try adding, sparingly, a little sesame oil. Coconut oil is another good add-in. Do not add water to nut butter. Oil and water are not pals, and when they mix in nut butter the result is gluey, slimy, and the color isn’t as true. Also, it just doesn’t taste as good. (For this reason, it’s a good idea to start with a really clean, dry food processor.)
Here’s how to do it:
Ready a clean, dry food processor and dump in however many nuts you want to turn into butter. Keep in mind that a lot of nuts go into a jar, and that two pounds of almonds will yield about four cups of almond butter.
Add a little sweetener if you like, or some spice, or a pinch of salt, or just leave as is. (Need some help getting started? I have a few ideas, below.) Start with less of all of the above than you think you’ll need. You’ll be surprised at how well the flavor of what you add is carried and distributed as the nuts grind down.
Turn your food processor on and wander off. Play some Tetris on your phone, or check your email, or decide what you’re going to make for dinner. Listen for the noise to change: At first, the nuts will skitter and clunk noisily, but after a couple of minutes, it will change to more of a swish. When it does, turn off the processor and investigate. What’s the texture like? Has it started to become a spreadable butter, or is it still sandy? If it’s not the texture you’re looking for, add a little oil, turn the machine back on, and wait a few minutes. More than anything, a long blend will get you creamy, smooth nut butter.
When you’ve arrived at the proper texture, taste and adjust. Now you’re ready to store. Scoop the butter into a jar and stash in the fridge for a long, long time.
A few flavor ideas:
For maple-walnut butter, add a little maple syrup and a small pinch of salt.
For curried coconut-cashew butter, blitz some shredded or flaked coconut to very small crumbs before adding the cashews, a pinch of salt, and a couple shakes of high-quality curry powder.
For cardamom-pistachio butter, add a pinch of salt, less cardamom than you think you need, and honey to taste.
For homemade Nutella, toast hazelnuts and let cool completely before adding them to the food processor with a handful of semisweet chocolate chips, or even try white chocolate for a riff. This will make a super-glossy spread, but if you want something a little stiffer while just as chocolatey, use cocoa powder instead of chips.