2009-03-03

Homemade almond butter

Almond butter in a jar

Update: Please also see my other almond butter posts:


[Direct link to recipe]

Man, that clementine cake post just won't leave me alone. One of the questions I had while making it was how long I could grind the almonds in a food processor before they turned into almond butter. Well, I went and found out.

Let's get straight to it, shall we? This is a photo sequence of the almonds being processed, taken at intervals of 30 seconds each, and stopping after 6 minutes. You can click on each thumbnail for a larger image:

almond butter 0:000:00

almond butter 0:300:30
The almonds are nicely ground at this point. Knowing what I know now, this (or earlier, even) is where I would stop if I were making almond meal.

almond butter 1:001:00
I don't think the granule size here is really any smaller than at 0:30, and clumping has started as the almonds' cells begin to rupture and release oil.

almond butter 1:301:30
Between 1 and 3 minutes, the clumps continue to get bigger as more oil is released.

almond butter 2:002:00

almond butter 2:302:30

almond butter 3:003:00
The clumps start to come together.

almond butter 3:303:30
Between 3:15 and 3:30, the clumps are swept into one mass. At this point, the consistency is still thick, dry, and gritty. It is not spreadable yet.

almond butter 4:004:00
Soon afterward the ball of almond butter is broken up. With more processing, more oil is released and the texture gets creamier.

almond butter 4:304:30

almond butter 5:005:00
I didn't notice it at the time, but from these photos it appears that the almond butter got significantly smoother between 4:30 and 5:00.

almond butter 5:305:30

almond butter 6:006:00
A good visual consistency is reached between 5:30 and 6:00, which is later verified by taste. Further processing may thin out the almond butter a bit as more air is mixed into it and perhaps still more oil get released, but airiness or fluidity aren't qualities we usually look for in nut butters.

If you'd like, you can also see these photos together as an animated sequence (671 KB GIF file).

RECIPE

Makes a little over one cup almond butter (estimated 9–10 fl. oz., or 270–300 ml).

INGREDIENTS

QuantityAlternate MeasuresItem
286 g10 oz (2 cups)Raw almonds with skins

EQUIPMENT

  • Weighing scale or a dry-ingredient measuring cup
  • Rimmed baking sheet (for roasting almonds)
  • Food processor, fitted with steel blade
  • Rubber spatula
  • Canning funnel
  • Glass or plastic jar, 10 fl. oz. (300 ml) or larger in capacity

INSTRUCTIONS

Steps 1–4 are optional and only applicable if you want to roast the almonds. If you want to make raw almond butter or use store-bought roasted almonds, you can start at Step 5. Update 2009-03-10: Well, maybe roasting almonds is a bad idea. Yikes.
  1. Make sure the oven rack is at the center position. Turn on the oven and set the temperature to 375 °F.
  2. Spread the almonds out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Once the oven has reached its temperature, place the baking sheet into the oven and toast until fragrant, about 12 to 15 minutes.
    NOTE: This timing is only a guide. Every oven is different, and baking sheets come in different thicknesses. The best way to tell if the almonds are done is by aroma. USE YOUR NOSE. If you adhere strictly to the time and get burnt almonds, I'm not responsible.
  4. Remove baking sheet from oven and let the almonds cool.
  5. Once the almonds are at room temperature, place them into the workbowl of the food processor and process for 6 minutes or until the consistency is smooth. Stop the machine a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Update 2009-03-12: Raw almonds will need between 12 to 15 minutes of processing time.
  6. With a rubber spatula, scrape the almond butter from the workbowl into a jar. A canning funnel fitted over the jar will minimize messy drips and spills.
  7. Update 2009-09-11: This had completely escaped me, but a question in my raw almond butter post was a reminder: homemade almond butter should be refrigerated, and you should keep it there for no more than four months. This is to prevent (or delay) the oil from going rancid. If you need longer storage, freeze it.

EXTENDING THE RECIPE

Look, I know the way I break down recipes into infinitesimal detail makes them look scary, but all that verbiage can be reduced to one essential procedure: Put almonds in a food processor and run it until the consistency is right. With this knowledge as a foundation, it's a small conceptual step to extend this recipe to other nuts or even seeds, such as sesame seeds for tahini—there is certainly no shortage of recipes on the Internet. Although the specific processing times for each nut or seed may be different, the general idea is the same. You can also add salt or honey to fit your own tastes if you'd like.

YIELDS

I used a one-pint jar for this post's header photo, and as you can see, this batch filled it to just a bit over the halfway mark. So, two cups of raw almonds makes a bit over one cup of almond butter. As a rough estimate, I'd guess around 9 or 10 fluid ounces (270 or 300 ml).

Another unresolved issue from the clementine cake post was whether roasting the almonds will result in their weight loss. I was disciplined this time and did not snack on any of the in-process almonds. For this batch, 286 grams of raw almonds yielded 280 grams after roasting, so it's apparent that some loss of moisture or perhaps also volatile oils (hence the "done" aroma) does take place in the oven. I don't know if the almond's skin and flesh evaporate in similar fashion, though, so we will need further confirmation with blanched almonds.

Update 2009-08-18: Just found some photos of roasted nuts under an electron microscope (scroll about halfway down the page). You can see that their cell contents have shrunken after roasting, so a weight reduction should be expected.

9 comments:

  1. Great photo sequence idea, especially for people who haven't made it before and don't know what to expect.

    I make my own almond butter semi-regularly but it always take a lot longer than pics suggest and involves the food processor getting ridiculously hot. Next time I think I'll try getting the heavy duty processor down from the top of the fridge (it has thicker, sturdier blades, like yours).

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  2. Sophie,

    Thanks for writing. I've been reading about a few other bloggers' experiences with homemade almond butter, and what I've learned is that the time really depends on the amount of almonds used in relation to the size of your food processor, so that one should really process "until done" instead of by the clock as my instructions indicate. For an equal amount of almonds, a mini-processor will take longer than a full-sized food processor.

    I'm also curious if the blade on a mini-processor spins slower than on a full-sized processor. Neither Cuisinart nor KitchenAid lists that in the specs, so I've sent inquiries to them and will let you know if/when they reply.

    Finally, to my surprise, raw almonds take about twice as longe to turn into butter as roasted ones.

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  3. Yeah, it definitely took more than 10 minutes for me to process the same quantity (about two cups) of raw almonds! I added dollop of honey and a pinch of salt--delish!

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  4. I keep reading that a blender won't work well for almond butter. Why? We make peanut butter in a blender regularly, and it comes out just fine.

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  5. I'm curious to know what kind of blender you own. I haven't tried making almond butter in a blender, but when I made the raw sweet corn and cashew chowder, I found that my blender was unable to chop up raw nuts very well. My guess is that its blades are too dull or motor too weak (or both). Super-blenders such as the Vitamix or Blendtec should have no problems making nut butters, but if your blender happens to be sharper or stronger than mine, then that may contribute to your success too.

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  6. I have an inexpensive GE Blender that I make nut butters in all the time. It is one of the ones like the Magic Bullet, but made by GE. I use the smaller cup and instead of the regular blender blades I use the flat blades. I don't put all the nuts in at one time, but do them in smaller amounts. I started making a Chocolate Hazelnut butter like nutella, but without all the sugar and crap in it. It is awesome, but decided it would be just as good made with almonds instead of hazelnuts, because of price difference and I don't like removing the skins on hazelnuts. Just me!

    Namaste, sj

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  7. I've been making this almond butter for over a year with good result..and only takes less than 4 mnts. on my NINJA BLENDER SLASH FOOD PROCESSOR MACHINE.....

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  8. Thank you ALL for your comments! Our 7 year old has a severe peanut allergy and I've been unable to find a 100% guaranteed peanut free cashew or almond butter for him to use. Why would you make an alternative and not dedicate a facility to being peanut free? It's very frustrating but now I'm actually looking forward to making his from scratch. Wish me luck. =)

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  9. How do you can almond butter with a water bath or a pressure canner. Does anyone have a recipe?

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