“Peanut butter is the pate of childhood.”
— Florence Fabricant
It used to be that peanut butter was the only “nut butter” on the grocery shelf next to the jams, jellies and fruit spreads. All one really had to decide was, “Do I want Skippy or Jif?” How about creamy or crunchy? In more upscale grocery stores, Nutella made a showing. Today, it’s the nut butter section and it has grown exponentially. Not only are there different types and brands of peanut butter, but there’s almond butter, sunflower seed butter, hazelnut butter (similar to Nutella), cashew butter, walnut butter, and tahini. I am sure I am missing some!
Nut and seed butters are a great source of protein, add flavor and texture to many culinary creations, and serve as an easy, healthy snack choice. For those with peanut or tree-nut allergies, having a seed option opens up a whole new world. And, even if you don’t have an allergy, the wide variety of nut and seed butter options is quite fun.
To take a deeper dive into the health benefits of specific nut and seed butters, check out this article from the Cleveland Clinic – Your Guide to the Best Nut Butters and Other Creamy Spreads.
LESS (Ingredients) is MORE (Healthy)
Generally, nut or seed butter is made by grinding the kernels until they become fine in texture and release their natural oils. The nut or seed is really the only necessary ingredient. Some producers add salt, sugar and/or oil for flavor and consistency. And, “crunchy” is still popular so chopped nuts or seeds may also be incorporated.
There are many great options available, but since ingredient lists can vary greatly by brand, read the label! Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing.
- The first and only necessary ingredient should be the nut or seed.
- Salt is not a necessary ingredient in a nut or seed butter. If you do choose one with added salt, check the amount of sodium on the label to see if it is considered “low sodium” (140mg or less per serving according to US guidelines).
- Avoid those with added sugar.
- Avoid those with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. If the label says, “No-Stir”, it probably contains an oil that is undesirable for our bodies.
Nut and seed butters can be stored at room temperature for 2 – 3 months or in the refrigerator for 3 – 6 months. At room temperature, the oil may separate so give it a stir before using. Refrigerated nut and seed butters will become more solid and may need to warm slightly to become spreadable. If an off aroma is detected, the nut or seed butter may have turned rancid and needs to be discarded.
Beyond the classic peanut butter sandwich or melty peanut butter toast, nut and seed butters make terrific additions to many recipes. They pair well with fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, whole grains and creamy items.
- Use them straight up as a dip for fruit or veggies.
- Create dressings and dipping sauces
- Add a bit of almond butter to a cake, cookie or muffin recipe for moisture and texture.
- Stir any favorite into oatmeal, ice cream or a smoothie.
- Spread it on waffles or pancakes.
- Add one to a soup or a stew, such as Thai curry or Indian curry.
- Try walnut or cashew butter as a binder in veggie meatballs or burgers.
- Toss with pasta or rice noodles, vegetables, chicken or pork for a flavor and nutrition boost.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy a nut or seed butter? Share it in the comments section.
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