Photo by Stacey Ballis

Stop giving all your money to the Nut Butter Industrial Complex and make it at home

Stacey Ballis
August 29, 2018

Nut butters are having a moment. The nut butter aisle now features spreads of every level of smoothness, from ethereal creamy to coarse cement; oil on top or no-stir blended; and nut varietals from the now almost pedestrian almond to cashew, sunflower, and hazelnut. Which doesn’t even touch on the flavored butters, enriched with various chocolates or cocoa products, blended with fruits, punched up with spices, sweetened with honey or maple. There are even flavors like birthday cake or brownie or cookie dough, chunky with pretzels or dried fruit. And it doesn’t even include the new cookie butters.

These fancy nut butters come at a cost, though. While your basic peanut butter can be had for somewhere between $2-3 for a 16-ounce jar, the fancy ones can range from a worth-the-risk $5 to a staggering $15, which makes them more of a resist-the-impulse buy.

But there is no reason to deny yourself some fancy DIY nut buttering. Next time you have that last one-sandwich worth of butter in the bottom of a jar, and another fresh one at the ready, use one of these mini recipes to test out how much you really might want to invest. After all, if spicy masala peanut butter or white chocolate almond butter are really going to knock your socks off and be worth the indulgence at the store, it's better to know that before you buy it.

If you want a fun rainy-day project for the kids, buy some of the “to go” size tubs of peanut butter, put out a bunch of spices and stir-ins, some popsicle sticks or plastic spoons, and let them experiment with their own delicious combinations.

These recipes work with pretty much any plain nut butter or even cookie butter if you happen to have some on hand. I will say that sunflower seed butter has the most pronounced flavor of any of the nut butters, so it has a tendency to fight a bit with stronger spices and works best with sweeter flavors.

These suggestions are for flavoring 4 ounces of nut butter, which is enough for two to four sandwiches, depending on how thick you like to slather. Obviously multiply up as needed or halve if using the to-go size tubs. Once you start, mixing and matching becomes a fun experiment.

Photo by Stacey Ballis

Spices

½ teaspoon of the following heat-inducing spices:
Cayenne
Red Pepper Flakes
Chili Powder

1 teaspoon of the following spices or blends:
Curry Powder
Cinnamon
Apple Pie Spice
BBQ rub
Garam Masala
Sumac
Za’atar
Five Spice Powder
Matcha Powder
Espresso Powder
Sweeteners

1 tablespoon each of any of the following:
Note, any liquid sweetener will loosen the texture of the nut butter, while any crystalized form will flavor it, but add a slightly grainy texture. Figure out which you prefer.

Honey or honey crystals
Maple syrup or maple sugar
Vanilla paste or vanilla sugar
Sorghum or molasses
Date or coconut sugar
Pine or Birch syrup

Chocolates

1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of grated, finely chopped, or mini chips of any flavor chocolate

Fruit

Freeze dried fruit is now readily available in the snack aisle, and any fruit you like can be mixed in. I recommend you pulverize which ever fruit you choose into coarse bits the size and texture of grated coconut before stirring in 1-2 tablespoons.

Finely chopped dried fruit like apricot or apple
Whole raisins, currants, dried blueberries, or dried cherries


Mix-Ins

1-2 tablespoons depending on how forward/chunky you want your butter:
Shredded coconut (toasted is even better)
Cinnamon, caramel or toffee chips
Bacon bits
Crushed salty snacks like potato chips or pretzels
Granola
Crumbled cookies like Oreos for contrast or Nutter Butters for a meta peanut experience

Some combinations I love

Peanut Butter with Curry Powder with golden raisins
Peanut Butter with Cinnamon and pretzel bits
Almond Butter with White Chocolate and Freeze-dried raspberries
Cashew Butter with Dark chocolate cocoa powder and whole dried cherries
Pistachio Butter with Za’atar and date sugar
Almond Butter with Maple sugar and bacon bits
Peanut Butter with BBQ rub and honey
Peanut Butter with Chili powder and toffee bits
Almond Butter with Toasted Coconut with Masala
Peanut Butter with Espresso Powder with mini chocolate chips

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