Make your own DIY almond butter to save money and control the quality of the ingredients and the process (make raw or activated almond butter).
Almond butter is one of those pantry staples that I'm constantly making at home. When I first arrived here in Spain, it was very difficult to find. While it is getting easier to buy it either online or in health food stores, it's much more expensive here to buy it already made (I was buying tiny jars that cost me over 10 Euros ($13)). Plus, as always, when you make something yourself, you control the ingredients and the process.
When I first began making almond butter, my homemade almond butter wasn't as smooth and creamy as the store-bought nut butters. I was blending the almonds for quite some time, but the mixture I made was quite thick and more like marzapan than the thinner almond butter that I was used to buying in the stores. I figured they must be adding something extra to the almond butter to get it just right, but I was wrong.
Making a smooth, thin almond butter
The secret to making a smooth, creamy almond butter is to be persistent and to keep blending until the mixture releases its oils and makes a thinner, creamy, spreadable nut butter. While it helps to have a heavy duty food processor, it can be done in a not-so-great-one, but expect to be blending for a very long time, and allowing your machine to take resting breaks between blending sessions.
Heat can definitely help hasten the process because it helps the almonds release their oils more easily. When presoaking and drying the almonds, as you do when making activate nut butter, I find that by processing the butter while the almonds are fresh out of the oven or dehydrator (and still warm) makes the process go quickly. In fact, I can usually make a very smooth butter in much less than 10 minutes, when it otherwise takes me twice as long.
Using the right amount of almonds
I have since bought a more potent food processor and have brought the process of making almond butter down to around 15 minutes. It really depends a lot on how many almonds you are using at once and your particular machine. I've found that with mine if I use too few almonds, the ground nuts will get thrown against the walls of the food processor cup and stick there, leaving nothing at the bottom of the cup where the blades are. I have to constantly stop the machine and push the forming butter back down towards the blades.
If, on the other hand, I use too many almonds, the machine takes too long to blend it all into a thin, creamy almond butter. Finding the sweet spot for your particular machine is the best way to save yourself time (and overheating of your machine).
As I stated above, using warm almonds also helps quite a bit. When I use warm nuts, the nuts release their oils more readily, so I don't have the problem of the ground nuts sticking to the sides of the sides of my machine.
Watch how to make a creamy, DIY almond butter:
Almond butter health benefits
Almond butter doesn't only taste great, but it also has some health benefits that make it a great addition to your diet. Almonds are high in healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants (like vitamin E) and also provide heart-helping magnesium and potassium. Studies have shown that almonds or almond butter can lower a woman's chance of developing gallstones and that eating at least 4 servings of nuts a week can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 35%.
Almond butter vs. Peanut butter (Is almond butter better?)
I prefer to use almond butter over peanut butter, and it isn't only because most commercial peanut butter is filled with sugar and other ingredients I'd prefer to avoid. Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile know that I eat a diet that is mostly paleo most of the time.
Why peanuts aren't paleo
Peanuts have several problems which keep them from being a paleo-friendly food.
First, peanuts, despite their name, aren't really “nuts” at all, but are actually legumes. Legumes are basically a type of seed that forms in a pod. Nuts normally form in a shell on a tree. The paleo diet rejects legumes, claiming that they are high in antinutrients that protect the plant from being eaten by insects. They also tend to be somewhat high in complex carbohydrates. One can help avoid the problem of antinutrients by soaking and sprouting legumes before using them.
Unfortunately, peanuts have several other issues. When not using organic peanuts, they are often contaminated with pesticides because peanuts are one of the crops with the highest pesticide load. Not only that, but they are also often affected by a mold, aflatoxin, that may be carcinogenic. A final reason that they may not be the best “nut” choice is that they have a high ratio of omega 6 to omega 3.
Is almond butter good for weight loss?
Almonds have a lot of fat in them, so they must make you fat, right?
Last year, when I was actively losing weight, one of my favorite snacks was celery dipped in almond butter. I often found myself reaching for that whenever I craved something sweet. Don't get me wrong, I don't add sugar to my homemade almond butter, so it probably won't seem like a sweet treat to most, but when you are avoiding all added sugars, you start to notice the natural sweetness of real foods.
Interestingly enough, almonds are actually great for helping to regulate blood sugar so that may be one reason that it helped me overcome my sweet cravings so well.
I found that while I was eating a lot of almond butter with celery that I wasn't gaining any weight, and I was, in fact, losing it. There are actually studies that show that those that eat nuts regularly don't gain weight from the added fat.
Carbs and protein in homemade almond butter
Each tablespoon of homemade almond butter has around 3g of protein and 3g of carbohydrates. It also has around 7g of fat.
Raw almond butter vs. activated almond butter
There may be some controversy about which almond butter is healthiest for you. When I bought almond butter in the store, the almond butter I bought was very light in color, almost white. It was a raw almond butter, and looked like the photo above of my homemade raw almond butter. Making raw almond butter is much easier if you have a powerful food processor that can quickly grind the nuts into a smooth paste. The longer you grind the nuts, the more they'll heat up on their own from the friction in the grinding process.
While you want the nuts to heat up enough to release their oils and make a smooth paste, if you let it heat up too much, you'll end up with a toasted almond butter. Toasted almond butter is darker in color and tastes different, more, well, toasted. 😉 Raw almond butter tastes a bit sweeter and smoother.
If you're looking for the healthiest option, though, activated almond butter may be your best bet.
What are activated nuts?
Activated nuts are nuts that have been soaked and then dehydrated again. I explained a bit about the process in my paleo granola bars recipe.
The reason to activate nuts is that nuts, seeds, and legumes have phytic acid and enzymes that are meant to protect them until they are ready to sprout. Phytic acid is considered an anti-nutrient because it binds to minerals (like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc) before they are absorbed in our digestive systems. It can also impair our digestive enzymes making it more difficult for us to digest those foods and other foods eaten with them.
To help make nuts and seeds more digestible, presoaking will help remove some of the outer protective layer just as rainwater would help prep a seed or nut for sprouting.
To make activated nuts, you have to soak the nuts in water (with a bit of salt) for several hours, drain them, and then either dehydrate or lightly toast them.
How long does it last? Should you refrigerate homemade almond butter?
Whether or not you should store your almond butter in the refrigerator depends a lot on how you use it and how often you use it. Depending upon how fresh your almonds were when you ground them up, homemade almond butter should keep for at least 2-3 months.
We use up so much almond butter that it never is around for more than a month, so we tend to keep it out on a shelf within easy reach.
One of the benefits of keeping your DIY almond butter out of the fridge is that it won't solidify and is easier to use.
If you don't use it up as quickly as we do, though, you should probably consider keeping it in the fridge to keep the gentle oils from going rancid. If you prefer a thicker, more spreadable almond butter, the fridge will also help you get that consistency.
How to use almond butter
Almond butter can be used in the same ways that you'd normally use peanut butter. You can use it as a spread on bread to make sandwiches or on crackers. It also makes a great dip for vegetables.
Almond butter also tastes great paired with chocolate in desserts, in sate type sauces and in smoothies.
DIY almond butter
DIY Almond Butter
Makes around 2 cups.
- 500 g almonds (raw)
If you want to make raw almond butter, you'll want to begin with raw almonds and start blending those nuts without prepping them in any other way first. You can skip to the part about making almond butter.
If you want to make activated nut almond butter, activate your nuts first!
Activating the almonds
To activate the almonds, soak them in filtered or spring water overnight or for several hours. You can add around a teaspoon of salt to each cup of water used in the soaking process. You want to make sure that all of the almonds are completely covered in water.
Cover the container with either a lid or a cloth to keep out insects and dust. Allow to soak overnight, or at least 7-8 hours.
Strain out the almonds (you can use a stainless steel colander or something similar) and rinse them.
Spread the almonds out over a baking sheet or a dehydrator tray. It is very important to completely dehydrate the almonds because any leftover humidity may result in the formation of mold. If you use your oven to dry the almonds, use the lowest temperature setting and use a fan setting if you have one available.
Making the almond butter
Add the almonds to the jar or bowl of your food processor or a powerful blender. Ideally, the container should be stainless steel or glass because the mixture will heat up as the almonds are processed. Begin to blend or process the almonds at a low to medium speed.
As the almonds are processed, they will turn into a coarse powder and then will begin to form a thick paste. At first, the nuts may be thrown onto the walls of the container if you try to blend too quickly. This makes it very difficult to have the blades continue to run and process the mixture. You'll need to stop every few seconds and push the mixture back down with a spatula.
Continue blending and occasionally stopping to push down the almond butter to the bottom of the mixer until you've reached the desired consistency. As the almonds release their oils, you'll end up with a thinner almond butter. As it gets thinner, you'll be able to blend the mixture at higher speeds.
Immediately pour the finished almond butter into a glass jar for storing.