almond butter with vanilla and sea salt

almond butter with vanilla and sea salt

One of the silly things about this land I live in is the nut butter situation. I remember one time being at the supermarket and trying to decide between the ridiculously tiny and expensive jar of creamy peanut butter, or the ridiculously tiny and expensive jar of crunchy peanut butter (it was the only time I’ve seen both types in one store at the same time). A lady approached me and asked, in Swedish, what the heck I was going to do with that stuff?! I told her that I was, for starters, going to eat it with a spoon. Then probably put some on toast or on knäckebröd (crackers). Maybe put some in a smoothie? Bake peanut butter cookies?

almond butter with vanilla and sea salt

The thing is, and yes, this is a sweeping generalization, they don’t *get* nut butters here. Last year I brought a peanut butter and banana sandwich – on whole grain bread – as a snack for an eight year old child I was working with. She thought it was disgusting and refused to eat more than a bite, and her mother looked at me with disappointed eyes and said, “uh, we don’t eat that kind of food in this house”.

There is this perception in Sweden, and presumably in other parts of Europe, that nut butters are a nasty, unhealthy food, and they can’t understand why we eat it. And let me tell you, the things I have seen people eat since I’ve lived here; squeeze-tube caviar, fish balls in creamy sauce, blood pudding, fermented fish on crackers… all of which children love, and yet nut butters seem gross? To each their own.

almond butter with vanilla and sea salt

In this same house I’ve watched children, under the supervision of health conscious parents, slather a peanut-butter-thick layer of *butter* onto a cracker, top it with a slice of ham, and call that breakfast. No concerns whatsoever that half a cm of butter spread on a cracker might be excessive, but peanut butter? So I did a nutritional comparison. Per 100g of (Swedish) butter you get 720 calories, 0.5g of protein, and 82g of fat. Per 100g of peanut butter you get 625 calories, 31.25g of protein, and 50g of fat. (Please don’t consume either in 100g portions) So, the calories are reasonably similar, butter, unsurprisingly, has a lot more fat. But the protein?! 0.5g vs 31.25g?

They’re still not convinced.

almond butter with vanilla and sea salt

These same people, who, by the way, are super awesome in every other way, gifted me with a 1kg bag of almonds. Almond butter was the obvious thing to do. Nut butters do seem to be increasing here, in both availability and variety, but they are still very expensive. Wherever you are, not all nut butters are created equal. Often, especially in the case of peanut and almond butters, the natural oils are removed and replaced with cheaper oils such as corn or soy. Look for nut butters with only one or two ingredients. Nuts, and maybe a bit of salt.

Making your own is easy, and you know what you’re eating. Win! Here I’ve gone bonkers and added a third ingredient: vanilla. Although liquid vanilla extract is next to impossible to find here, vanilla beans and little jars of dried vanilla seeds are everywhere. I’ve used a bit of the latter in this recipe – not very much – but enough that it rounds out the flavour and nudges almond butter into something a little bit fancy.

almond butter with vanilla and sea salt

One year ago: Lemony Roasted Broccoli and Tempeh with Quinoa and Pea Soup with Smoked Porter and Egg Quesadilla and Maple Oat Scones 
Two years ago: Carrot Ginger Muffins and How to Cook Dried Beans  All text and

Almond Butter with Vanilla and Sea Salt Recipe:

I’ve used blanched almonds only because I was given a bag of them. You don’t need to blanch your almonds or seek out blanched almonds. Roasting them in the oven toasts the nuts and brings out the flavour, but if you’d prefer to skip that step and make raw almond butter, go for it. The vanilla and sea salt are of course optional.

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3 cups raw almonds
1 – 2 tsp of coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp dried vanilla seeds, vanilla paste, or 1/2 a vanilla bean scraped out

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Preheat your oven to 350. Spread almonds out on a baking sheet, and roast, keeping a careful eye on them for 10-15 minutes. Nuts can go from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye, so don’t get distracted! When they’re fragrant and brown, remove from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes.

Place cooled almonds in a food processor and run it for a couple of minutes. The nuts should start to break down and clump up. You may need to stop and scrape the sides and bottom a couple of times. When the almond butter has started to smooth out, add about 1/2 the salt you think you want, and 1/2 the vanilla. Blend, taste, and decide if you want to add more. Let the food processor run for another couple of minutes, until the almond butter just starts to liquefy.

Scrape the contents into a clean jar and store in the fridge. Enjoy it on toast, in smoothies, or just out of the jar with a spoon.

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Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats – this is a healthy fat when consumed in moderation, the same type as is found in olive oil. Almonds are also a good source of manganese, vitamin E (which has antioxidant properties) and magnesium. They’re a good source of protein as well. As with all nuts and nut butters, almond butter should be consumed in moderation.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013



 

Comments

  1. Dorothée says

    Thank you for this delicious recipe. I made this with my 4 year old and we dipped little chocolate chips into the almond butter for a treat

  2. Erin says

    I was searching for something to bring to a friend for an early xmas gift and this is going to be it I think! When I lived in the UK, peanut butter wasn’t really a thing. It existed in bigger shops, but the containers were quite small and most Brits I knew thought I was a bit crazy for eating it on toast. They didn’t think it was unhealthy particularly (hello french fries in white buns with salad cream? *shudder*) but just didn’t get it.

    • themuffinmyth says

      French fries in white buns with salad cream?! That’s a thing? Wow. Well I hope you give this almond butter a try. It’s particularly lovely with the vanilla and sea salt, and I think would make a really sweet gift.

      • Erin says

        Oh yes. The salad cream may have just been my co-worker’s bonkers add-on, but definitely the french fries in a bun. It’s called a chip butty. I’ve heard up north they eat it with tomato sauce and cheese as well. I also avoided the jellied eels and some kind of sandwich filling called ‘mexican tuna’, though happily adapted to corn niblets on pizza.

        • themuffinmyth says

          When I lived in New Zealand we had corn niblets in grilled cheese sandwiches! Also: tinned spaghetti in grilled cheese. Both of which I thought were strange at first, and both of which I happily adapted to.

  3. Emma says

    I’ve never tried almond butter before but I’m in love with the crunchy peanut stuff. Would you use it in the same way as peanut butter, on toast or in sandwiches?

  4. Kate says

    I have always been addicted to peanut butter. Recently I heard that most peanuts carry some kind of fungus? or mold….I forget…except one brand, the mara natha brand. So I either get that brand, or make my own almond butter (because almond butter is so expensive!) Will definitely try the vanilla though 🙂

    • themuffinmyth says

      Hmmm, interesting. I haven’t heard of this mould thing. I’ll have to look into it and see what I can find. There is really only one or two brands of peanut butter available where I live, so I can either go with one of those or make my own. I’ve got all kinds of nut and seed butters swimming around my brain now!

  5. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand says

    I’m fairly sure peanut butter is acceptable in the UK ( I love crunchy peanut butter on toast but only very occasionally). Really like your interpretation of almond butter Katie 😉 How long do you think a jar of this would last?

    • themuffinmyth says

      It won’t last as long as a commercial nut butter, but if you kept it in the fridge I’m guessing it would last at least a month. I’m keeping mine in the cupboard because I don’t like cold nut butters, and it’s holding up just fine so far.

  6. Leanne says

    I’m a big fan of nuts and nut butters, but they can be so unhealthy– if you glob it onto everything, or if you buy the kind with added sugar or with its natural oil replaced. This sounds *fantastic*, though, I’ve never thought to put vanilla bean in any kind of nut butter. I regularly make honeyed PB, but I’m definitely going to try this one soon!

  7. Oh My Veggies (@ohmyveggies) says

    I knew that peanut butter wasn’t really a thing in Europe, but I had no idea that it was perceived as unhealthy–that is craziness! Nut butter spread onto apple or pear slices is one of my favorite healthy snacks. And I have a feeling this almond butter would be perfect on both!

  8. Jess says

    Hmm, a few of the things on that list of strange foods you’ve seen people eat sound an awful lot like strange foods I’ve seen consumed in Thailand. Opposite sides of the world but similar tastes? I love the idea of adding a bit of vanilla to almond butter! We can’t realy get almonds, but we’ve got peanuts galore. I’m wondering if it might be a tasty addition to homemade peanut butter…may have to test it out.

    • themuffinmyth says

      I’d say it’s pretty different to Thai food, but perhaps one of the reasons Swedish people love traveling to Thailand so much! That, and the cold, dark winters here. I’m sure vanilla in peanut butter would be good! I’m also thinking that if you roast the peanuts and put a touch of honey and sea salt in you’d have a killer honey nut butter. Yum!

  9. [email protected] says

    I love nut butters and like the idea of making one that isn’t peanut so that I can bring it along when I teach and use in no bake energy bars. I wonder if biscuit spread/speculoos is made the same way, do you think?
    Love the thought of adding sea salt and vanilla bean paste too 🙂

    • themuffinmyth says

      I’ve wondered that myself – speculoos isn’t available where I live (I haven’t seen it anywhere yet anyways) but I’m not sure about attempting to make it. If you find any recipes let me know!

  10. Health Inspirations (@health_inspirer) says

    This combination sounds wonderful! I usually only have it plain!! I’m quite lucky that nut butters are generally available in Germany and Austria but they are very expensive. You usually find PB at normal grocery stores and a wider selection at organic supermarkets. But I agree with Kathryn about how handy a food processor can be.It saves me a ton of money! One of flavors we enjoy making at home is walnut butter.

    • themuffinmyth says

      Mmmmm, walnut butter sounds really good! It’s the same here in Sweden – you *can* find nut butters, but they are really expensive and in teeny little jars. One of the things I miss about living in Canada is the HUGE jars of peanut butter I could get for a fraction of the price. But making your own is fun, inexpensive, and you know exactly what you’re eating. All round win!

  11. Kathryn says

    I wonder how much of the European anti-PB attitude is because it’s viewed as an American thing and therefore automatically unhealthy? One of the greatest joys of the food processor I got last year is being able to make my own nut butter. A little touch of vanilla and a dash of salt is my favourite way too. So addictive.

    • themuffinmyth says

      I think you’re spot on with that. And to be honest, a lot of commercial peanut butter *is* crap – it has loads of sugar and cheaper unhealthier fats added to it. But real nut butters made from just nuts and a smidge of salt can be so healthy consumed in moderation. I’m looking forward to trying out more flavour combinations.

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