To put it in a nutshell (feeble joke), nuts and seeds are healthful; but I think the real question is, what types of nuts and seeds make the best butters and spreads, and why? Today is my total guide to nut and seed butters, from their flavour profile, uses, nutrition, and special tips. Also, I’ll teach you how to make your own nut butter in a few simple steps that take less than 10 minutes to make! You might want to bookmark this one…
DON’T FEAR THE FAT.
Most of us already know that eating fat and having ample amounts of healthy fats in our diet are a great thing for our health not the cause of heart disease, weight gain, or increased cholesterol…and if you’re still into that theory, I’ll let these studies show you otherwise: here, here, here, and reading up on my blog post The Skinny On Fat. Since we’ve all come to terms that eating healthy fats are great for our health, let’s jump right into one of the most famous healthy fats to eat…peanut butter. I’ve never been a big fan of peanut butter, so I presumed all nut butters wouldn’t be tasty – I was wrong, there are so many amazing varieties of nuts and seeds out there that can easily be made into a butter such as almond butter, cashew butter, even sunflower seed butter – and so I’m sure you’ll find one that you’ll find delicious.
After you make your first homemade nut or seed butter, I promise you’ll be completely hooked. Bold statement, I know but there’s something about completely transforming a plain old nut or seed into a rich, creamy, and thick spread right before your eyes using less than 2 ingredients. Said nut or seed + a pinch of salt (choose Himalayan Pink or Celtic sea salt) if you choose.
I answered several of your questions in my article about Soaking and Sprouting about what type of nuts to buy and what about activating them (i.e. soaking and sprouting)? I always recommend purchasing nut and seed butters organic, unsalted, and raw if possible due to the fatty acids change during heating and processing; otherwise, roasted and lightly salted if those are your only options in the store. Ideally though, I want to inspire you to make these all in your own kitchen with only 2 ingredients and 1 piece of equipment! Super easy and affordable.
Nut and seed butters can be used as a topping, a thickener in baking or cooking, binding ingredients without using eggs (for example, raw truffles – recipe to follow shortly), spreading on toasted bread, in smoothies, and so much more! Nutritionally speaking, nut and seed butters as a collective contain 6-9g protein per 2 tablespoon serving, are high in minerals, B vitamins, some contain higher amounts of omega-3’s, and all contain a small amount of fibre.
- Flavour: the most famous of all nut butters, nutty, slightly sweet
- Nutrition: B vitamins, copper, manganese, protein, molybdenum, phosphorus, vitamin E
- Special tip: Peanuts are also on the list of the top food allergens. Peanuts are more susceptible to molds and fungus, one in particular to note is aflatoxin, produced by a fungus that can potentially grow on peanuts and is considered a carcinogen by the FDA. Some studies show aflatoxin can cause serious health issues including liver cancer. Peanuts are the only nut I recommend roasting and not consuming raw because of the potential for aflatoxin. Good news, with time our agriculture and practices growing peanuts has become exponentially better making toxicity of aflatoxin less likely. So should you abandon peanuts? No, just purchase quality sources.
- Use: any and everything!
- Flavour: the second most famous nut butter due to the access of almonds. Slightly sweet, nutty, even when blended in the “creamy” version, is still a little gritty due to the almond skins
- Nutrition: B vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, molybdenum, monounsaturated fats, fibre, and protein
- Special tip: purchase almonds raw to give you more variety with culinary use and decrease the chances of the fatty acids going rancid. As with other nuts and seeds, almonds can help combat heart disease in multiple ways, and the skins in almonds contain a natural prebiotic, the food that feeds the good bacteria in our gut, win win! Use: any and everything!
- Flavour: the creamiest and possibly most expensive of all nut butters. Creamy, sweet, versatile, and can be transformed into a sweet or savory butter or spread.
- Nutrition: copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, zinc, protein, mono and polyunsaturated fats
- Use: best mixed with other ingredients such as cashew creams or added to any soups and smoothies to thicken
- Flavour: dense, earthy, slightly bitter and nutty
- Nutrition: contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids out of the nut butter family, also copper, manganese, molybdenum, biotin, B vitamins, protein, and monounsaturated fats.
- Special tip: Walnuts have been shown to help with heart disease, may increase brain health and function, lowered risk of diabetes, fights inflammation and oxidative stress especially from antioxidants found in walnuts, and more. I typically by these raw and unsalted to toast on my own when needed.
- Use: best mixed with other ingredients such as raw desserts, smoothies, etc.
SUNFLOWER SEED BUTTER
- Flavour: nutty, rich, earthy, not as sweet as cashews or almonds
- Nutrition: B vitamins, vitamin E, copper, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, healthy fats, fibre and protein
- Special tip: sunflower seeds make an amazing flour to use in baking, light in texture, affordable, with a strong flavor. Use: as a dip for carrots or other crunchy veggies and fruits
PUMPKIN SEED BUTTER
- Flavour: Depending on if you use raw, lightly toasted, or roasted, the pumpkin seed flavour will change. It’s slightly sweet, bitter, and earthy (especially when toasted)
- Nutrition: highest in zinc than most other nut and seed butters, also contains manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, healthy fats, protein and fibre
- Special tip: most likely you won’t find this seed butter in stores, but you can easily make it at home and I highly suggest you try it! It’s best mixed with almonds or walnuts, both of which are creamy when mixed with the pumpkin seeds which tend to blend a little “dry”.
- Use: great for a boost of zinc, I love it with gluten free crackers and sprouts
SESAME SEED BUTTER, A.K.A. TAHINI
- Flavour: my favorite of all seed butters, it’s slightly bitter, creamy, nutty, and bold in flavor.
- Nutrition: highest in calcium than most other nut and seed butters, contains copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, fibre and protein Special tip:
- Use tahini with some apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to create a delicious Tahini Drizzle or dollop on top of warm grains, roasted vegetables, etc.; the possibilities are endless. Use: best mixed with hummus, smoothies, or eaten on toast!