Photos and Words by Samantha Wood
Nuts are one of nature’s simplest snacks, yet they pack a punch for being so small. Not only are they a great source of protein and healthy fats, but they are also delicious! Nothing beats biting into a crunchy almond or munching on some peanuts in a energy-packed trail mix. If you’re going on a hike, a nutty trail mix is the perfect way to stay energized. If you’re just staying at home, however, be aware of how many nuts you stuff into your mouth. Because they are such a great source of energy, they are packed with a lot of calories to keep you going. So if you know you’re sitting around your apartment or dorm room all day, cut yourself off after a handful or two.
With that said, it’s time to get down to some more nutty business (bad puns stopping now). My other favorite part about nuts is what you can make with them. Even though nuts seem hardened into their natural form, they can be molded into just about anything. I’ve used them to make pie crusts, vegan cheeses and vegan cheesecakes (those recipes will be for another day). While we are not all vegans, nuts are an important player in the vegan world of baking. They are also useful when trying to make recipes gluten-free. Almond flour is a popular substitute for all-purpose flour in many gluten-free recipes.
When making nuts for a pie crust or for vegan cheese, I put the nuts into either a food processor or blender. After I have either blended or processed the nuts and before adding the other ingredients, I always peer into the containers and realize I have a homemade nut butter sitting in front of me. Usually I just continue on with the recipe, but this time it was all about the butters. Instead of using them as part of a formal recipe, I decided to make my own homemade nut butters.
Nut butters are fairly simple to make if you have a food processor or blender. There are many variations you can play around with. I made three different flavors and was so excited with the results that I can’t wait to try some more. Since there are so many ways to do this, I recounted what I did, but included some different ingredients or add-ons you might want to try. Depending on the texture you are looking for in a nut butter, you may also want to try different varieties as well. Whatever you do, go nuts!
Yields 1/2 cup
Prep Time: 1 minute, Total Time: 3 minutes
- 1 cup salted or raw cashews
- Place cashews into a food processor or blender. I used a food processor, but I’ve used blenders before for other recipes and it works just as well. Process or blend for about 1 minute until cashews break apart and start to clump together. Stop processor or blender and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to break up clumps and process for another minute. It should begin to stick to the sides. When there is hardly anything moving around anymore, you know it’s done.
- If you prefer your butter a little liquid-y, add a teaspoon of oil. I like mine thicker, closer to the consistency of peanut butter, so I did not add any oil.
Yields 1/2 cup Prep Time: 1 minute, Total Time: 3 minutes
- 1 cup chopped or whole walnuts
- Pour walnuts into food processor or blender. I used chopped walnuts, but whole walnuts will work just as well, though it may take longer to get to the desired texture. After about 1 minute, when the walnuts begin to form clumps, stop the blender or food processor and scrape the sides. It should be starting to stick to the sides. Process or blend for about another minute, when everything is sticking to the side. Try adding some maple syrup for a maple walnut butter—perfect for waffles or vanilla ice cream.
Almond Butter Yields 1/2 cup Prep Time: 1 minute, Total Time: 5 minutes
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1 teaspoon canola oil (any oil will work)
- Pour almonds into food processor or blender. Because almonds are a firmer nut, you’ll want to process them longer, for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and pulse for another 2 minutes. Even after I did this, it still wasn’t quite the buttery consistency I wanted so I added a teaspoon of oil.
Other nut butter ideas include: pistachio, hazelnut (add some cocoa powder and it’s a healthy version of Nutella!), peanut or pecan (this would also taste great with maple syrup or brown sugar)