How to make peanut butter at home
Making your own peanut butter is not at all difficult - and has several benefits.
Why would anyone bother to make their own peanut butter when every supermarket and convenience store has jars and jars of the stuff? Well, if you're happy to eat peanut butter that's laden with palm oil, fructose syrup and other questionable additives, you might as well buy it in the store. But it's another story if, like me, you favor the healthier additive-free variety.
I prefer so-called natural peanut butter because it contains peanuts and nothing else - except perhaps a little salt. (For more information about the nutritional aspects of peanut butter, see our article Is peanut butter really good for you?.) The problem is that none of the supermarkets in my city sell the natural product; I can only get it from a heath-food store on the other side of town. Making peanut butter at home is therefore an attractive option.
Fortunately, the process is very easy. You can make a small batch in just a few minutes - provided you have the right equipment. And not only will you end up with a healthy, fresh product, you'll save money too.
It's possible to buy a dedicated peanut butter maker, but I don't recommend it. Any decent food processor or blender will do the job just as well. Even if you plan to make large quantities of the stuff, there's no point in spending money - and kitchen space - on a machine that has only one use.
If you don't already own a processor or blender and your budget is tight, you'll get reasonably good results with a low-cost immersion blender - preferably one with a chopper attachment. You'll only be able to process small quantities at a time, but perhaps that's no bad thing.
The raw materials
First, buy your peanuts. These can be shelled or un-shelled, ready-roasted or raw, salted or salt-free.
You might also need some oil. I stress the word "might" because, with care, you can make peanut butter without any added oil. There's enough oil naturally present in the nuts to provide the desired result. But it takes a bit of practice to get this right. So keep a little oil handy just in case.
Peanut oil is, of course, the preferred choice. But if you don't want to buy a whole bottle of it just for experimenting, you can get by with low-cost olive oil (it doesn't have to be extra virgin) or any other light vegetable oil. After all, you'll only use a small amount of the stuff.
The third ingredient is salt. This is entirely a matter of taste. Add some if you wish, otherwise leave it out. Of course, if the peanuts are ready-salted, you should definitely not add any more salt
How to do it
Start by roasting the peanuts - unless you buy them ready-roasted. If the nuts are still in their shells, you can roast them just as they are. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet or cookie tray, and place it in the oven, pre-heated to about 350°F (175°C). Cook for about 20 minutes if the peanuts are in their shells, 10 minutes otherwise. Either way, turn them over once or twice during the cooking time. When done, let the nuts cool.
If you roasted the peanuts in their shells, you'll find it's now very easy to de-shell them. The shells will have become brittle, and you can easily break them off. You should also remove the red skins, which you can do by rubbing them gently with your fingers. But it won't matter if some of the skins gets left behind.
You're now ready to start processing. Place the shelled, roasted nuts in the blender or food processor with a chopping blade attached. Switch on. At first, the nuts will just rattle around in the bowl, but after a minute or two they will start to form a thick paste. Continue for another two or three minutes. You might need to stop processing occasionally and scrape the sides clean.
After a total of about four minutes processing, the peanut butter should have reached the desired consistency. If it's still too thick, you can now add a little oil - about one tablespoon of oil for each cup (4 oz, 110 g) of peanuts is about right. There's no need to continue processing after you've added the oil: just stir it in with a spoon. You can also mix in a little salt at this point if you wish.
Crunchy or smooth?
This method should produce a fairly smooth peanut butter. If you prefer the crunchy variety, remove about a third of the butter from the processor at an early stage, then stir it back into the finished product with a spoon.
After you've finished making the peanut butter, transfer it to clean glass jars or plastic containers. There's no need to refrigerate it, provided you store it in a cool place. Because home-made peanut butter contains no emulsifiers, the oil will separate out after a while. That's no problem: just stir it back in.
Not just for peanuts
Now that you've seen how easy it is to make healthy peanut butter at home, don't stop there. Other nuts - such as cashews, almonds and macadamia - can all be treated in the same way. So start processing, and you'll soon have a steady supply of nutritious nut butters the family will love.