Traverse City Record-Eagle

Food

September 27, 2012

A primer on almond butter

Most of us have plenty of ideas for using whole or chopped almonds. Eat them whole. Bake them into treats. Scatter them over salads or green beans. But what about almond butter — toasted (and sometimes salted) almonds that have been ground to a peanut butter-like consistency?

If they are willing to try it at all, most people just crank out a few AB&J sandwiches, then lose inspiration and push the jar of almond butter to the back of the refrigerator.

Time to pull it forward because almond butter is easy to use in all sorts of delicious ways across numerous cuisines.

Let's start with the basics. Almond butter is what it sounds like — ground almonds, usually with a bit of oil and salt added for texture and taste. It is not the same as almond paste or marzipan, both of which are made from finely ground almonds (but with a fair amount of sugar added) and used in baking.

The texture of almond butter is similar to peanut butter (they are jarred the same and sold alongside one another at the grocer), but differ in taste. Whereas peanut butter has a pronounced — stay with me here — peanut flavor, almond butter has a richer, creamier taste that is nutty, but (oddly) not distinctly almondy.

Nutritionally, they are similar. Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 188 calories and 16 grams of fat. Almond butter has 202 calories and 18 grams of fat.

There are numerous brands of almond butter, but it's easy to make your own. Simply grind whole toasted almonds in the food processor until chunky-smooth. You may need a drizzle of canola oil to get the consistency you want. And consider using smoked or tamari almonds for an extra burst of flavor.

Whether you make it or buy it, almond butter can be substituted 1-for-1 in recipes that call for peanut butter. This opens up lots of possibilities.

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