Homemade cashew (or almond) butter

October 28, 2009

cashew_butter

Like so many things I make from scratch, I started doing this out of pure necessity, after I somehow managed to produce two children with peanut allergy. My 6-year old has thankfully now grown out of it, and eats peanut butter fairly regularly. But my son has not (yet… here’s hoping). I began making cashew butter for him when he was about 2 1/2.  We knew he could eat cashews, but unfortunately many of the commercial varieties have — believe it or not — peanut oil (I mean, come ON, food manufacturers — throw food-allergic people a bone, here). They are also unbelievably pricey. I figured out it had to be cheaper, making it at home.

And, of course, it is. I spend about $5 on a pound of raw cashews (more like $8-$10 if you buy organic ones, which I don’t right now), and then you just need some oil, salt, and a food processor. Buying raw nuts and roasting them yourself makes it cheaper and probably better for you; packaged roasted nuts are usually cooked at very high temperatures, destroying some of the nutrients. I use a mixture of two oils: mild-flavored olive oil and palm oil (Spectrum organic shortening).  Really, any mild-tasting oil, just enough to give the butter some spread-ability. A pound of nuts will get you about a pint jar (16 oz) of nut butter. This stuff is so good — I eat it all the time, much more than peanut butter. I’ve even sent a jar a few hundred miles via the US Postal Service, as a gift.

Almonds could be used interchangeably in this recipe; but the nuts have different oil content, so you probably won’t use the same amount of oil for both kinds. I really never measure my oil — I just pour it in until the texture seems right.

So, my somewhat vague instructions, with very imprecise measurements:

Homemade Nut Butter (using almonds or cashews*)

  • one pound raw cashews or almonds
  • about 1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste
  • 3-4 Tbsp Spectrum Organic Shortening**
  • 3-4 Tbsp mild-flavored vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300º.  Place nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, checking often to make sure they don’t brown too much (ovens vary, and nuts burn quickly). Once lightly golden and fragrant, remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Put roasted nuts in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few times to begin chopping, then let the machine run for about 30 seconds, or until the nuts are very finely ground, almost to a powder. Stop the machine, and add the salt and shortening. Process a few more seconds, until the mixture starts to come together. Turn on the machine, and while running, pour the vegetable through the feed in a slow, steady stream, until the mixture looks like… well, like peanut butter (thicker or thinner, as you like it). Taste for seasoning and texture, adding more salt or oil as needed.

Scrape into a jar, seal tightly, and store in the refrigerator. The mixture spreads best when closer to room temp, but should be kept in the refrigerator when not in use.

*peanuts shouldn’t be used in this recipe; they have much higher oil content, and therefore need almost no additional oil when making into peanut butter.

**You can omit the shortening and use all vegetable oil, if you’d like. The shortening just adds a little stability and is virtually flavorless, which is a good balance for the slight flavor of the olive oil I use.

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