Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Nut butter is too easy not to make at home. Customize it to your heart's content, with a little guidance from Food52's Assistant Editor Marian Bull.
Not keeping some sort of nut butter in your fridge is like not keeping olive oil in your pantry, by which I mean that without it you might not feel like a fully functional human. Because with a jar of nut butter at your side, you’re halfway to a PB&J, your toast becomes a meal, and you just got an idea for an interesting salad dressing. Also until now you had probably forgotten about peanut sauce, but you shouldn’t have.
And yes, we all have our plastic jar allegiances: Skippy, Peter Pan, Teddie (what’s up New England!) -- but making your own nut butter feels like you’re playing God, if you’ll pardon the hubris. You can make it as chunky or as smooth as you like; you can kick up the salt to eleven or make it candy-sweet. You can add cinnamon, or use exotic nuts (Brazil! Why not?). You are all-powerful.
At its core, making peanut or almond or whatever butter just requires blitzing some nuts and little else -- but once you realize how easy it is, you will excite yourself into a frenzy of adaptation, and I won’t stop you.
Here’s how to make any nut butter -- as crazy or as plain as you like -- without a recipe:
1. Pick your nuts. Peanuts are, of course, the most traditional choice, and will make you feel like a giggly, well-cared-for child when paired with strawberry jam and soft bread, but almond butter deserves your attention too. I suggest you try cashew butter with a few spoonfuls of melted coconut oil added in at the end.
You can also mix and match -- if you have a few handfuls of different types of nuts, go ahead and see what they taste like combined. Call it your house blend.
2. Blitz your chosen nuts -- use however many you like -- until they become a smooth, creamy butter. If you like things thicker and sandier, stop at your happy place. Harder nuts (here's looking at you, almonds) will take longer, but peanuts only require two minutes or so. Stop and scrape down the sides of your food processor periodically.
Note: You can also use a high-speed blender (like a VitaMix or BlendTec) for softer nuts like peanuts and cashews; if you want to make almond butter, you’ll need to add oil and tamp everything down frequently to speed the process along.
3. Add a good pinch of salt, plus any flavors or sweeteners you like: I’m keen on a cinnamon-maple combination, but I also know people who like to add pepper flakes to peanut butter and I respect them for it. Other options include shredded coconut, ginger (fresh or ground), toasted seeds, honey, cocoa powder (!!), paprika, vanilla, and anything else that strikes your fancy. Pulse to combine, taste, and adjust the seasonings until everything feels just right.
4. If you want chunky nut butter, add some chopped nuts now, and pulse a few times. Transfer your finished butter to a clean, dry jar. It will keep in your pantry for a week or so, but I suggest you keep it in the fridge, where it will last for months. If you want it extra drippy (the holy grail of nut butters, I say), let it come to room temperature before scooping or spreading it.
Now go forth and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day this week -- you'll ask yourself why you haven't been doing that since always.
Tell us: What's your favorite type of homemade nut butter?
Photos by James Ransom