By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
Between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Reese’s, it’s safe to say peanut butter has long been the king of nut butters. I don’t think Mr. Peanut should be dethroned necessarily, but I do have a problem with a lot of the commercial brands out there. If you check out the ingredients on the big guys like Jif and Skippy (or even those Reese’s cups, sadly) you’ll find partially hydrogenated oil. It doesn’t matter if you prefer smooth or chunky, it’s the same bad-for-you trans fat all the same. What you could do is look at the ingredients and look for the word natural on the front of the jar – you might have to stir it, but that’s a fair trade to forgo increasing your risk of heart disease.
But while you’re at it, I would suggest considering something different all together: while peanut butter might be the king, there are a bunch of nuts in shining armor out there (get it?).
Look for almond butter, walnut butter, or cashew butter next time you’re at the grocery store. Nuts like these pack a nutritional punch peanuts can only dream of. Almonds are full of vitamin E, walnuts contain the heart healthy omega-3’s, and cashews are rich in copper, manganese, and other minerals.
Before you find yourself standing in the aisle gasping at the price differences, I will warn you these are more expensive than your typical peanut butter. But they don’t have to be, because you can actually DIY incredibly easily. All you need is a food processor and a bunch of raw nuts of your choosing. If you want to go really nutty, you can even make a healthy version of Nutella, like this one from Healthy Green Kitchen, but my favorite is a simple almond butter from My New Roots – here’s the recipe:
Makes approximately 1 cup
2 cups shelled raw/natural almonds (not roasted or salted)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees/150 degrees Celsius. Spread the almonds out in a single layer on baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes until fragrant and slightly darker in color (a good way to check is to bite one in half and check the color in the center. Instead of white, it should be golden). Remove from oven and let cool completely.
2. Transfer the cooled almonds to a food processor and blend on highest setting for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them to a powder. Scrape down the sides of the container. Continue to process the nuts an additional 1-2 minutes until the oils start to be released, and a smooth, creamy, runny paste is formed. Transfer the almond butter to an airtight glass container and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for 1 month.
*Tip* If you want chunky almond butter, remove a generous scoop of the chopped nuts from the food processor before it turns into a powder. Set aside. Fold it to the creamy almond butter before storing.
Do you step outside the peanut butter kingdom? Will you try making your own nut butter? What kind? Share your ideas and recipes in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking community.