Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Easiest Thing I Make: Peanut Butter

It's easy.  Really.  Ridiculously easy.  If you are someone who needs to know ratios or specific amounts of ingredients, let me know and I'll actually measure it out the next time I make peanut butter (which will probably be in just a couple of days - and I'll add some pictures then, too!).

There is a little bit of trial and error on this no matter what, partly because it depends on your preference for the consistency of your peanut butter and also your getting used to what that translates to in the food processor versus chilled in the fridge.

You need a food processor, some peanuts, and a bottle of peanut oil.

1.  Pour the peanuts into the food processor.  It doesn't really matter how many as long as you don't fill the food processor too full.  I usually pour all the peanuts out of the jar I'm intending to put the peanut butter in and call it good.

2.  Process the peanuts while you get the oil out of the cabinet (at least this is what I do...).  Then stand there and watch or do something else while the peanuts get processed to oblivion.  You won't process them too long unless you walk away and forget about the loud whizzing food processor in your kitchen...  I usually end up getting Bean something to drink, or wiping down the counter or something.

 You can see it's sort of powdery, but it also has enough oil that it's just slightly clumpy.  It's ready to add some oil.
3.  When the peanuts are uniformly processed and the texture doesn't seem to be changing (it'll look fairly powdery, and maybe even slightly oily), add a bit of oil.  The peanut butter will immediately clump.  Let it process for 15 or so seconds, then add just a bit more oil.  Keep letting it process for 10-15 seconds and adding a smidge of oil until it smooths out.
I tried to get a picture of the clumped peanut butter.  It'll become mostly one big mass.
4.  Don't freak out at the consistency of the peanut butter in your food processor.  It's going to seem way too thin and liquidy.  That's just because it's warm from being spun around and cut by a whirring blade.  It will thicken up in the fridge!

 Finished product

I pretty much always am making the peanut butter at lunchtime when my 2.5-year-old is demanding his daily sandwich.  It's so quick, and I just make that first sandwich directly from the food processor.  After lunch, when I'm cleaning up the kitchen, I put it in a jar and we're set for meals and snacks.

For those with peanut allergies, this could easily be modified to make any nut or seed butter you want.  Just substitute the whatever nut or seed you'd like for the peanuts, and a corresponding or complementary oil for the peanut oil.

Some of the ways we very regularly eat peanut butter around here:
  • The fresh, warm peanut butter is actually pretty amazing on toast - or on a toasted peanut butter and honey sandwich.  Mmmmmm.  It's a little bit messy - that's part of the appeal for me! 
  • Snack:  Peanut butter and honey (we eat local wildflower honey) in a bowl.   Bean demands "meat worm"  (that would be wheat germ) in his.  He came up with the idea, so I take neither credit nor blame if it's tasty, gross, or simply weird.
  • Mostly-healthy indulgence: peanut butter, honey, a handful of chocolate chips, a sliced banana, and sometimes a dollop of plain yogurt on top sort of like whipped cream.  *drool*  Honestly, I feel like I'm eating a banana split or something.  Aside from the yogurt, I've taken these ingredients and blended it in the food processor and made a spread for toast (or just something to eat by the spoonful).  To make it really spreadable, you might want to add a little extra oil.  You could also add tons of honey, but I find that too rich.  I've wanted to try blending in some hazelnuts (or possible using hazelnuts instead of peanuts to make the nut butter), and seeing if I can make it taste like Nutella...
  • Lunch.  Every day for lunch Bean has a peanut butter and honey sandwich.  Some days there's banana on it, in which case I require that it be a "regular" sandwich (that means cut in quarters).  Other days, he declares he wants a "star sandwich" or a "maple leaf sandwich."  I basically screwed myself over a couple months ago when I surprised him with a sandwich shaped by a cookie cutter.  I thought it was a cute one-time deal...

Why make your own peanut butter?  Two reasons for us:  sugar and salt.  (Ok, a third reason that holds true for basically everything:  just knowing what the heck is in my food.)

Our main reason, as always in this house (I'll talk about this in a later post), is the salt.  Hence, I start with unsalted peanuts.  This means we use organic peanuts, because they're the only ones I can find that are unsalted.  But, if you want to save money or you really prefer salted peanut butter, by all means start with the salted variety.

In my opinion, the sugar in commercial peanut butters is even more unnecessary for the taste.  Since when is peanut butter a sweet?

I've done a little cost-comparison and, in our area, buying a jar of un-salted peanut butter is at least $.10/lb more expensive.  Considering the amount of peanut butter we go through, that is a lot.  Plus I find the oil separation in pre-made natural nut butters to be kind of gross.  But that's my own thing, and I'd get over it if it saved us money. 

If I were not concerned about sodium, I could buy fresh-ground peanut butter containing only peanuts, salt, and peanut oil for less than I pay for the peanuts.  So, health and, specifically, my dietary requirements win out over cost on this one and I continue to make my own peanut butter.  (I also happen to think it's really tasty.)

Bonus:  We almost always have peanuts around for GORP, which is a favorite on-the-go snack of Bean's.


  1. Thanks for the snack ideas....Moose LOVES peanut butter and it never occurred to me to just give it to him in a bowl. Kind of like how it never occurred to me to just give him hummus in a bowl until!!

  2. I think it's awesome you make your own peanut butter. I've been eating fresh-ground peanut butter for a while now. Never really stopped to notice if they used salted peanuts or not...

    Is all freshly ground peanut butter in health food stores made with salted peanuts? Don't you think you should have the option for the unsalted kind? I know I've bought unsalted "natural" peanut butter in a jar before. I guess more people buy the salted variety, so they don't see a point in having the unsalted?

  3. @Monica - I don't know about all freshly-ground peanut butter in health food stores. Only our health-food stores. And it bears mentioning that the grinders were not labeled as such - I had to seek out someone who knew whether or not the peanuts were salted.

    And I'm sure whether they offer the option comes down to matters of both space and popularity. If customers demanded it, I'm sure it would appear as an option.

    As I mentioned, we do have the option of unsalted "natural" peanut butter in a jar, but it ends up being about $.10/lb more than purchasing the peanuts and making it myself.


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