Anyone who has shopped for peanut butter in the last five years or so know that the humble peanut is no longer the star of the nut spread aisle. While good ol’ PB still has its place, other nut butters are becoming increasingly popular, both for people who can’t eat peanuts and those who are just looking for something different.
Almond butter was the first non-peanut butter to rise in popularity, but it is far from the only nut butter on the market. You can easily find walnut, cashew, macadamia, hazelnut, and mixed nut butters in most grocery stores.
Are they healthy?
Nuts are generally full of healthy oils and can also be a good way to work some plant-based protein into your diet, but not all nut butters are created equally. This is where your label-reading skills come in — not only does the healthiness of a nut butter vary according to the nut, but they also vary according to the brand. Beware of excess sugar and hydrogenated oils that may be added to keep the butter shelf-stable. The natural nut butters that need to be stirred (i.e. the oil floats to the top) are generally a better bet, but it’s still important to look at the labels to get a good read on what nutrients are in each butter as well as which less-healthy ingredients have been added to the mix.
Making your own
Most nut butters are essentially just ground-down nuts, so provided you have a food processor or blender that’s powerful enough to break those nuts down, you can easily make your own nut butter at home. Generally all you need is about a cup of nuts and a pinch or so of salt. If the nuts aren’t oily enough to give you a creamy result add a little bit of a light oil (coconut is a good choice) to move things along. You can also drizzle in a little bit of honey if you’d like a sweeter butter. Be warned though — this is a big job for your food processor and it may take 15 to 20 minutes to get the butter to the right consistency (give the motor of your processor a break if you need to). Homemade nut butter generally lasts in the fridge for about a week.
Once you have your nut butter (either homemade or store bought) use it in the same ways that you would use peanut butter: on toast, as a sandwich spread, in sauces or in baking. Try putting a spoonful or two in your morning smoothie.
Thanks to allergies, a lot of people can’t enjoy nut butters at all, but there are plenty of nut butter alternatives. Those who are able to eat seeds may enjoy sunflower or sesame butters. If both nuts and seeds are out of the question, try allergy-friendly soy or pea butters.