Nut & Seed Butters

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Nut & Seed Butters

IntroductionAlmond ButterCashew ButterHazelnut ButterMacadamia Nut ButterPecan ButterPistachio ButterWalnut ButterPumpkin Seed ButterSesame Seed Butter (Tahini)Sunflower Seed Butter

Introduction

Butters made from raw ground nuts and seeds can be used as plant based substitutes for butter, margarine, cream cheese and other spreads. They also help to satisfy any luxurious cravings for sweet sticky treats, but are far more nutritious than other indulgences. With a blender you can blend up raw nut and seed butters in minutes and get creative blending different nuts together with flavourings and sweeteners for pure luxury.

Nut and seed butters lend themselves to sweet or savoury flavourings, making the culinary possibilities endless. I use them to add texture and flavour to smoothies, desserts and ice creams as well as a binder and flavour enhancer for raw slices and pies. They add a phenomenal depth of flavour to cookies and cakes (ever tried nut butter cookies); and a delicious filling for creips and pancakes. I often stir some raw almond butter, raw cashew butter, raw macadamia butter or tahini through mashed vegetables, soups, stews and grains to cream them up; or try mixing some into your grain porridges. Nut and seed butter makes fantastic bases or additions to salad dressings, sauces and marinades; and are wonderful slathered on sandwiches and wraps. They also make highly nutritious energy booster snacks slathered on fruit and vegetables, or as a spread on breads, crackers, rice cakes. 

You will notice that I don’t eat peanuts or use peanut butter in my recipes. Peanuts contain toxins and carcinogens that do make them ideal for health. I will admit that they are delicious. But I stear clear of them. They also happen to be one of the high allergy foods, that a lot of people need to be extremely careful of. Fortunately, we can make numerous other varieties of nut butters that are just as delicious and more beneficial to our health.

Nut and seed butters are made by simply grinding a nut or seed until it forms a smooth, thick, creamy paste. The fantastic thing about grinding the whole nut and seed is that the resulting butter retains all of the nutritional value. They are rich in protein, essential fatty acids, fibre and other valuable nutrients.

We are fortunate that numerous brands of nut and seed butters are available at health food stores and supermarkets. You can butters in different varieties -- raw or toasted; or in the case of tahini -- hulled and unhulled. Some nut butters are made with blanched nuts. But I always purchase raw nut butters, in order to preserve the precious oils; and I always purchase hulled tahini. The roasted varieties have a deep rich flavour, in comparison with the raw butters, which are a lot milder.

Always purchase plain nut butters made just from ground nuts or seeds without additives and stabilizers. Most brands at the health food store are very natural and pure. As a result, you will notice when you open all nut and seed butters that a thick layer of oil has risen to the surface. Just gently stir through to evenly distribute the oil throughout the paste. The delicate oils in nuts and seeds are highly susceptible to rancidity, so always purchase your butters from a store with a high turn over, and as soon as you open jar, it needs to be stored in the fridge and consumed in good time. Fresh nut and seed butters are the best. They have a more intense flavour and don’t have any additives, preservatives, stabilizers, salts and sweeteners. A lot of health food store and cooperatives allow you to grind your own fresh nut and seed butters. This is fantastic if you don’t have a blender.

If you do have a high speed blender you can safely and easily make a home made nut butter out of numerous nuts and seeds by grinding the nuts and seeds in seconds. I always make my own nut and seed butters so that I can soak and dehydrate my nuts and seeds before making them into butter. You must dehydrate soaked nuts to make nut butter. You can't grind them wet. The butter will just go moldy. 

To make homemade nut and seed butters, place 2 cups of desired nut in your blender with a couple of tablespoons of grapeseed oil (because it is mild in flavour) and grind until you reach the desired consistency. You may need to add more oil. Store in sealed glass jars in the fridge and enjoy! If you want a really luxurious treat, try mixing a bit of raw cacao nibs with some nut butter, vanilla extract, sweetener and coconut cream for a delectable sauce for ice cream or rice pudding. 

Almond Butter

Almond butter is my favourite nut butter and is the raw nut butter I use the most, along with tahini. Almond butter most closely resembles the taste of traditional peanut butter, for those of you experiencing withdrawal symptoms or needing to substitute peanut butter in recipes. Like other nut butters, almond butter is just ground up almonds, as so it retains all of the nutritional value of whole almonds. It is loaded with healthy mono-unsaturated fats, essential fatty acids, protein, magnesium, Vitamin B2, Vitamin E and dietary fibre. But as healthy as it is, almond butter is high in calories, and so should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

You can purchase almond butter in raw and roasted varieties. Roasted almond butter has a delightful rich flavour, but has obviously been heated, which compromises the nutritional integrity of the raw nut and produces carcinogens that are not beneficial to health. You might notice that almond butters can vary in colour and texture. This is because some blends are made with blanched almonds in order to yield an even creamier texture and flavour. The really dark ones are usually roasted; then the lighter brown chunky raw blends have the brown-skinned flecks throughout them; and the lighter, creamier, smoother variety is made from blanched almonds. Look closely at the back of the label so you know how your almond butter has been produced. If you are going to purchase almond butter, I would suggest purchasing the blanched variety, which removes a lot of the phytic acid contained in the skins, which makes almonds difficult to digest.

You can make your own fresh almond butter at some health food stores. But a better option is to grind your own butter in a blender using dehydrated soaked almonds. This will yield raw almond butter with the highest nutritional density without the anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors. I only ever add in a pinch of Celtic sea salt and a couple of tablespoons of grapeseed oil to highlight the natural flavour of the almonds when making my own home made blends. You could add a touch of sweetener if you like. But I always find it rich enough. Always store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge and consume in good time. Once you taste the difference between home made and store bought try and keep it in your fridge for more than a week!

I use raw almond butter as a quick energy booster snack slathered on fruit or vegetable sticks. It is always phenomenal on breads, crackers, rice cakes. I often add a couple of tablespoons to enhance the flavour and texture of smoothies and desserts. I find it most useful in my raw dishes, and for helping to boost and bind vegan treats. I will also add some raw almond butter to enhance and enrich almond milk. Try blending some almond butter with raw cacao nibs, vanilla and coconut oil. This is a little slather of heaven drizzled on ice cream! Decadent – but amazing.

Cashew Butter

Cashew butter is not as popular and widely available as almond butter, but is growing in popularity and is absolutely scrumptious and just as versatile. Cashew butter can be found in health food stores in roasted and raw varieties. It is more readily available roasted, and often contains added salt and safflower oil in order to yield a creamier product. I don’t like this, as it compromises the nutritional profile of the product, and contains carcinogens that toxify the body.

I always make my own at home by just grinding dehydrated soaked cashews in my blender. Then you can be assured of a quality pure butter that retains all of the goodness of the original nut. Cashews have such a natural “buttery” flavour, that I don’t find it necessary to add any fillers. Cashews have a lower fat content than a lot of other nuts. Furthermore, about ¾ of the fats are unsaturated fatty acids such as the heart-healthy oleic acid that makes olive oil so beneficial. Pure cashew butter is also a good source of magnesium, copper and phosphorus. Cashew butter should still be eaten in moderation within a balanced diet, but a tablespoon of cashew butter a few times a week can do wonders for your health.

Cashew butter is used in Indian and Thai cuisines. It lends itself to sweet or savoury flavourings and is wonderful in cookies, (ever tried cashew butter cookies?), as well as cakes, puddings, and dips; and is a superb way to add a rich creaminess to pie fillings. It serves as a fantastic base for raw chocolate truffles. It is also fantastic for adding a rich depth to soups, stews and curries. It makes a fantastic sauce mixed with coconut milk for grilled vegetables; and is brilliant in salad dressings and marinades. I will also add a tablespoon of butter to enrich cashew milk or cashew cream.

Always stir the oil from the top of the jar to evenly distribute throughout the paste before using; and store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for a few months.

Hazelnut Butter

As soon as I think hazelnut butter I start grabbing for the chocolate! This is the only nut butter where I will roast the nuts before grinding them. I will also add in a small amount of hazelnut oil in order to achieve a creamier result. Don’t add too much as hazelnuts contain about 60% oil. It is up to you whether you remove the skins before grinding. Just know that it will affect the personality of the butter. Grind in a blender with a little bit of grapeseed oil or hazelnut oil and store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for about a month.

You can find natural hazelnut butter at the health food store. Some blends contain added grapeseed oil, almond oil or olive oil instead of hazelnut oil; and some varieties are chunkier than others. But most hazelnut pastes tend to be quite thick and dense. Hazelnut butter is incredibly rich and is very high in fat. It is very hard to resist pairing hazelnut butter up with chocolate! Try making your own home made hazelnut paste (nutella) with natural sweeteners and coconut oil. I also use it in special luxurious treats, such as chocolate cakes, pastries, cookies, muffins, smoothies, pancakes, crepes, puddings and pies. It is just sensational mixed with coconut milk, vanilla, cacao nibs and sweetener for a decadent chocolate hazelnut sauce. 

Having said that, hazelnut butter is high in protein and Vitamin B; contains significant amounts of calcium, iron and zinc; and is a good source of oleic acid and other heart-healthy fats. It is also the best source of Vitamin E; and is known to help combat heart disease and cancer. Does that make us all feel less guilty? Just nod “Yes” and keep grabbing for the chocolate.

Macadamia Nut Butter

Oh how I love thee, let me count the ways! Macadamia butter is rich, creamy and absolutely delicious as a sweet or savoury addition to any culinary extravaganza. I say that because this butter is so rich that I always feel extremely decadent consuming it, so reserve it for special dishes where I can splurge and enjoy the spoils.

You can purchase macadamia butter from health food stores. But again, I prefer to make my own using soaked and dehydrated macadamias with a little bit of cold pressed macadamia oil in my blender. You can store it in a sealed container in the fridge for a few weeks. But it is really subject to rancidity. I always make it fresh and use it immediately, adding in my desired flavourings, depending on the occasion. Macadamia nut butter lends itself to sweet or savoury flavourings. It is fantastic mixed with fresh herbs and sun dried tomatoes for quick vegan dips, pate or spread for vegetable kebabs. Macadamia butter also mixes really well with chocolate and vanilla, and makes a sensational frosting for cakes. A tablespoon of plain macadamia butter with some fruit is a fantastic energy-boosting snack.

Raw macadamia butter retains all of the nutritional density of the whole nut, and so is a good source of protein, calcium, potassium and fibre. Macadamia butter is also loaded with antioxidants; and did you know that macadamias contain more than double the percentage of healthy monounsaturated fats as almonds – the highest of any food, even olive oil! Next time you are frosting your cake with some macadamia nut butter and chocolate, it helps to think of that little tid-bit as you are licking every last morsel off your spatula!

Pecan Butter

I am an absolute sucker for pecan pie, and pecan butter is a quick easy way to whip up a pie filling in minutes. I will also use it to add a rich buttery flavour and texture to desserts and baked goods. It is also delicious with bananas, chocolate and ice cream for a quick impressive dessert. If you are feeling really naughty, pecan butter makes a phenomenal base for praline cookies.

As you are chomping into those remember that pecans are a good source of protein, omega 6 fatty acids, and healthy unsaturated fats. Yeah, it helps to soften the blow, but don’t grab for too many of those indulgent little bites of heaven! Pecan butter is a bit more difficult to find than some of the other more well used nut and seed butters. But it is available from health food stores and gourmet grocers. Just check the label, as commercially produced pecan butters are often blended with other nuts such as cashews, in an attempt to make them creamier. They may also not be vegan, as some people blend the pecans with butter. Fortunately, you can easily blend up your own in your blender. 

Plain pecan butter can be a little bit bitter if not sweetened a little and mixed with another nut oil. If you are going to add it into a recipe with sweetener and other ingredients, it is not necessary to modify. But if you are going to use as a spread you might want to throw in a few cashews or some sweetener. Store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to a month. But it is better if you just make as you need it, and enjoy fresh.

Those of us in the United States are fortunate to produce over 80% of the world’s pecans. They are widely available and relatively inexpensive compared to other countries. Aussies, don’t fret. Good quality pecans are also grown in Australia in plentiful amounts too. If you haven’t tried pecan butter, fire up your blender! 

Pistachio Butter

A good old pistachio tart filling can be blended up in minutes using home made pistachio butter as a base. You can find commercial pistachio butter at health food stores and gourmet grocers. But a lot of them are roasted and salted; or contain sweeteners, preservatives and fillers. There are some commercial pistachio butters that use plain organic raw pistachios. But it is just so easy to make your own in your blender to ensure you have a fresh, pure product using soaked and dehydrated organic pistachios.

Pistachio butter has a rich, mildly sweet flavour, and will be different shades of green depending on the variety of pistachio you use, and whether you remove the skins. If you skin them, you will get a creamier butter with a vibrant neon-green colour. Just store in a sealed glass in the fridge and consume within a month or two. But try getting it to last that long!

Pistachio butter lends itself beautifully to sweet or savoury flavourings – you can make it savoury by adding salt and water, or add some agave or honey to sweeten the deal. You can also mix pistachios with blanched almonds or cashews for a really creamy paste. But I like the deep rich flavour of pure pistachio butter. It makes a sensational base for a quick easy dip, pate or spread; it is delicious slathered on fruit or vegetable sticks; and it makes an exquisite dressing or sauce for salads and stir-fries.

Do not miss home made pistachio ice cream. It is a sinch to make by blending some pistachio butter with some coconut meat or avocado, and some sweetener. Or try pistachio butter cookies as an interesting alternative to peanut butter cookies. They are absolutely divine!

Walnut Butter

Walnut butter is a delicious way to enrich baked goods. Raw home made walnut butter contains all of the nutrients of the whole walnut, as so is loaded with fibre, calcium, iron, essential omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. It can be purchased from health food stores. But I prefer to make my own using soaked and dehydrated walnuts in my blender. You can make it savoury by adding in a pinch of Celtic sea salt and a bit of grapeseed oil. But it may be a little bitter depending on the walnuts you use.

Savoury walnut butter makes a fantastic quick dip when mixed with roasted peppers and garlic, and a delicious pesto to stir through pasta or vegetables. You can sweeten the deal with maple syrup or coconut nectar. Sweet walnut butter is fantastic slathered on pancakes, crepes and waffles; and is sensational with French toast. Sweet walnut butter cookies are a lovely alternative to peanut butter cookies. Always store the home made butter in a sealed jar in the fridge for a couple of months, and stir through the oil before serving.

Pumpkin Seed Butter

Pumpkin seed butter is a culinary lifesaving alternative to traditional peanut and almond butters for those with food allergies. It is a great source of protein, vitamins A, E and C, zinc, calcium, iron and potassium. It also contains the valuable omega 6 and 9 essential fatty acids. It has a mild, slightly nutty flavour, and is available at health food stores in two varieties -- raw and roasted. Just make sure you purchase pure ground pumpkin seeds without any sugars, fillers, additives and preservatives.

I like to make my own pumpkin seed butter using raw soaked and dehydrated pumpkin seeds, in order to preserve the nutritional integrity of the delicate raw oils and fatty acids. I keep it plain to make it more versatile, and then add in my desired flavourings for use in specific dishes. But you can make it as exotic as you like by adding in some sesame oil, all spice and maple syrup or coconut nectar. You can make it smooth and creamy or chunky depending on how long you blend it in your blender with some pumpkin seed oil. Store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge and consume within a couple of months.

Pumpkin seed butter is a fantastic spread for pancakes, waffles and toast. It is a wonderful way to add flavour and nutritional density to cookies, biscuits, muffins and breads; and is delicious in smoothies and drinks. Try stirring some through some porridge or cereal – it is scrumptious. Pumpkin seed butter is a fantastic nut free way to cream up soups, stews and curries; makes a delicious spread for fruit and vegetable sticks; and is a fantastic base for dips, pates, salad dressings and sauces. It is very rich and a little goes a long way. If you haven’t given raw home made pumpkin seed butter a go, blend some up with a little bit of raw oil. It is absolutely delicious.

Sesame Seed Butter (Tahini)

I have been a huge fan of tahini for decades. It is a fantastic alternative to conventional nut butters for people with nut allergies, although recent studies have shown that cross contamination and the prolific use of sesame seeds in cosmetics have rendered sesame seeds higher on the list of allergen foods. But for those of you without sensitivities, tahini is incredibly versatile and absolutely scrumptious!

Sesame seed butter is widely used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, but can be used for so much more than hummus. It lends itself beautifully to sweet or savoury flavourings; and adds a rich, creamy touch of magic to anything it comes into contact with. It is widely available in hulled and unhulled varieties, and in raw and toasted blends. I always purchase raw hulled tahini in order to get the goodness of the raw seed without the oxalates that render them difficult to digest. Unhulled tahini can also be very bitter. If the labeling is not clear, look at the colour. The dark grainy jars are usually made from unhulled sesame seeds, and the light creamy varieties have been ground from hulled seeds.

Like all of the other nut and seed butters, you can easily grind your own in your blender. I use raw hulled sesame seeds that have been soaked and dehydrated and then store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge.

Tahini is a great source of calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, Vitamin B1, dietary fibre and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. It is fantastic for making dips, spreads and pates; makes a wonderful base for salad dressings and sauces; and is fantastic in baked goods, and is phenomenal in raw slices and power bars.

I absolutely love tahini mixed with molasses or yacon slathered on some fruit and vegetable sticks. It makes a delicious quick easy condiment for crepes and pastries for that exotic brunch; or try tahini slathered on vegetable burgers, tofu kebabs, gluten free sandwiches, wraps and salads. 

Sunflower Seed Butter

The ground “butter” of the magical little sunflower seeds packs the same nutritional punch as the whole seeds. It is loaded with protein, iron, potassium, selenium, zinc. fibre and Vitamin E. Instead of using a food processor to grind them up to sprinkle on porridge and salads; use your blender and grind them into a smooth creamy paste that is fantastic for use in baked goods as well as spreading on crepes and pastries.

Like pumpkin seed butter and tahini, sunflower seed butter lends itself to sweet and savoury flavourings, and makes a wonderful nut free alternative for people with food allergies. Sunflower butter is fantastic slathered on fruit and vegetable sticks; but is also wonderful in dressings, sauces, dips, and pestos. Try enriching your gluten free baked goods with some raw sunflower seed butter. 

You can purchase sunflower seed butter in raw and roasted varieties. I am, of course, going to encourage you to purchase the raw blend, or better still, make your own home made blend from raw soaked and dehydrated sunflower seeds. You will need to add in a tiny bit of cold pressed oil in order to achieve a creamy consistency. Try walnut or almond oil. Store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge and consume within a couple of months. Try whipping up a batch of gluten free chocolate sunflower seed cookies to surprise someone with peanut allergies. They are absolutely divine!

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