Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Going Nuts! Making Nut and Seed Butters

Photo of four pint jars and four spoonfuls of homemade nut and seed butters: Roasted Sunflower, Raw Cashew, Raw Almond, and Raw Sesame Tahini.

#VeganMoFo18 Day 19 - Going Nuts! Making Nut and Seed Butters

Nut and seed butters are really quite expensive, especially if you want something other than peanut butter. More and more stores now have nut butter grinders in their bulk areas, usually with peanut or almond options, but the end-product is still rather expensive. At least you know what's in your nut butter (only nuts, no added oil, sugar, salt, etc.) and oftentimes you can fill your own jar. But did you know you can easily make your own nut and seed butters at home, for a fraction of the price?

Nut and seed butters are surprisingly easy to make. So simple, in fact, that I just don't know why we've not been making it all along! Not only is it less expensive because you just buy nuts and seeds from the bulk bin, but it tastes so much better, fresher. Does it take fancy equipment? No, just a food processor. In fact, I prefer making nut and seed butters in my food processor over the Vitamix blender because it's way easier to get all of the nut and seed butter out of the Cuisinart food processor bowl than the Vitamix container.

The process of making nut or seed butter is the same, no matter what you are using for your butter.

Step One - To Roast or Not to Roast, that is the Question

First, you'll want to decide whether or not you want roasted nut or seed butter. You can make them from raw or roasted nuts or seeds, but you need to roast them before turning into butter. To roast them, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, spread the nuts or seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 5-10 minutes, until they are golden brown. Don't walk away from your oven, those suckers will go from almost ready to burned in a nanosecond! Keep your eye on them and be ready to pull them out. Let the nuts or seeds cool before proceeding, or risk overheating your food processor or melting the container (really, I nearly destroyed my Vitamix container the first time I made tahini and poured 4 cups of 350 degree sesame seeds into the plastic blenderit actually got soft and malleable and I burned my fingers frantically scraping the scalding mass into a bowl before I melted a hole in the plastic!). I don't often roast the nuts or seeds when making butter, I like the raw taste. I do, however, usually roast sunflower seeds for the butter, I like the taste of them roasted better.

Step Two - It's a Process!

Photo of 4 cups of raw almonds in a food processor bowl.
4 Cups of Raw Almonds
Pour the cooled nuts or seeds into your food processor fitted with the metal S-blade. Note, quart jar of nuts or seeds will yield a pint of butter. Put on the lid and turn the food processor on and just let it go.

Photo of 4 cups of raw almonds processed into a nut meal.
Processed to Nut Meal
After a bit, you'll see that the nuts are broken down into a nut meal. Put the lid back on and start the processor back up.

Processed to Flour Stage
Next, you'll notice that the meal gets finer, more like a flour, and then more "clumpy." It looks more like damp sawdust. Put the lid back on and start the processor back up.

Photo of 4 cups of raw almonds processed into flour and starting to clump. Shown after spatula scraped down sides of processor bowl.
Scraped Sides of Bowl
At the next stage, you'll see the flour start lining the sides of the processor bowl and pushing up in sheets before hitting the lid and falling back down into the blades. Let it go for a bit and then open the lid to run a spatula around the sides to knock the flour back into the bowl. You may have to do this a few times. The mixture is clumpier now. Start the processor back up.

Photo of 4 cups of raw almonds processed into fine clumps.
Clumping Almond Flour
After a bit, the mixture suddenly changes into small clumps! Stop occasionally to scrape the sides.

Photo of 4 cups of raw almonds forming a dough-like consistency in food processor bowl.
Dough-like Consistency
At this point, the mixture starts acting a bit strange and you think it'll never turn into butter, that you've done something wrong. Don't worry, just keep the processor going.

The mixture will clump up and look like a clump of cookie dough and run around and around the center like that for a while. Then it will break up and be all granulated looking before clumping back into a dough. It does this over and over again until...

Photo of resulting 2 cups of almond butter from processing 4 cups of raw almonds in a food processor.
Almond Butter!
It simply smooths out into butter!

No oil, no water, just nuts!

It takes only about 10 minutes for the whole process!

Step Three - Fill Your Jar!

Photo of glass pint jar full of homemade raw almond butter, labeled with product and date made.
Pint of Almond Butter
That's it! You've just made nut/seed butter! Scrape it out of your processor and into a jar. Tap the jar on the counter to help it settle and you'll also notice that the top gets a bit more liquid from the oils separating out with the agitation.

Store like you would any other nut butters. You can keep in the cupboard, in the fridge for a longer time, and up to 4 months in the freezer.

Photo of 1 cup of raw sesame seeds in a food processor bowl.
Raw Sesame Seeds for Tahini
The process is the same for any other nut or seed. Sesame seeds make tahini. Experiment with other nuts and seeds and see what you like the best. Try different combinations of nuts and seeds!

I do tend to make sunflower seed butter on days I'm not making any other nut butter. Many people with tree nut allergies can eat sunflower butter. I have a couple of friends with nut allergies and I use the sunflower butter in recipes that call for other nut butters when I'm cooking for them. By making the sunflower butter on different days, I reduce the chance of cross-contamination, making sure the food processor parts and all utensils have been completely cleaned in the dishwasher.

A Note on Nut Butters and Healthy Eating

We don't eat a lot of nut butters in our house due to the calorie density and affect it can have on triglyceride levels. In fact, Alan had two blood tests a week apart a couple of years ago, one he didn't eat nut butter beforehand, the other, he ate an apple smothered with almond butter the day beforehis triglycerides shot up 20% after eating all that nut butter! His triglycerides fell back down and even lower in blood tests after that and he eats much less nut butter now.

Michael Greger, MD of recently explained the phenomenon of triglyceride response differences when eating whole nuts versus nut butters during an interview on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine podcast, The Exam Room. At about the 19:45 mark of the podcast, Dr. Greger explains that when we chew nuts and seeds, we only chew them into chunks or particles, which trap a lot of the oil (and thus calories) in the pieces. These particles pass through your digestive system and are eliminated intact, with their oil still trapped inside. Therefore your body doesn't absorb all of the oil in the nut or seed. However, if we blend the nut or seed into butter, the pieces are a thousand times smaller and the oil is released. So when we eat nut butter, the fat is absorbed in our stomachs and intestinal system rather than passing through in the nut particles. In fact, we can see how the oil is released when we make the butter in our food processor. Our teeth cannot grind nuts or seeds into as fine of a butter that the processor takes ten minutes to accomplish. So, while nut butter is a whole, plant-based food, it is one to have sparingly. At least if you make it at home, you know there isn't added oil on top of the natural oils in your nut and seed butters!

But try it out! I'll never buy nut or seed butters at the store ever again! It's easy, fast, fun, and fresh! You'll be amazed!

Photo of four pint jars and four spoonfuls of homemade nut and seed butters: Roasted Sunflower, Raw Cashew, Raw Almond, and Raw Sesame Tahini.
Roasted Sunflower Butter, Raw Cashew Butter, Raw Almond Butter, and Raw Sesame Tahini


  1. Ah, making nut butter is one of my dreams! Unfortunately we only have a really terrible blender - it can barely manage hummus, nevermind anything more difficult to break down. One day I'll have an amazing food processor and make my own!

    1. Bummer! Definitely try it when you get that food processor--it's so easy to do!