Why don’t you just buy it?
Many DIY kitchen projects elicit this reaction, especially once the labor investment is revealed. Even if making your own means the removal of various chemicals, colorings, and preservatives, if it takes you five hours to crack out a bag of perfectly shaped and smiling goldfish crackers, is this a practical application of your time?
There are plenty of DIY projects that aren’t quite so involved, of course. Mayo. Salad dressing. Nut butters also fall into this category, the “recipe” being little more than “put ingredients in food processor and turn on.” Disappointed? I thought not. Even so, you may still be wondering: With so many peanut butter options already fighting for space on grocery store shelves, does it even matter if it takes 15 minutes rather than 15 hours to produce? Why…don’t you just buy it? I’m glad you asked.
Safety: The main reason I even thought to post about DIY-ing your own nut butters was due to the recall of yet another batch of contaminated peanut butter. I put so many more complicated condiments in jars here in Wonderland, it seemed silly not to add this no-brainer to the list.
Control: Peanut butter is one thing, but what about Cashew Almond Butter, or Hazelnut Cocoa Butter? When you DIY, you control type, quality, and quantity of the nuts and oils that go into each and every jar. Salt and sweeteners can be added to suit your tastes and nutrition goals, as well. Now things really start to get interesting.
Cost: When I did the math for Serious Eats, the supplies I was using didn’t dramatically result in cost savings until (perversely) the price comparison climbed into the really pure, “the only thing in that jar is peanuts” kind of $5.99, oil on top spread. To get a pure product and not have to try and figure out how to get the oil reincorporated is worth the homemade time investment as far as I’m concerned, though I did get some colorful tips on how to mix things up.
While considering what type of oil to include in my own DIY version, I wanted to find something that wouldn’t come with environmental concerns and yet still produced an excellent taste and texture. In my experience, using a small amount of coconut oil and then immediately transferring the finished product to the refrigerator results in a butter that holds together without getting oily on top or dry on the bottom before I use it up. I like its texture as well, because it spreads smoothly when totally cold, but isn’t runny on the knife.
DIY Simple Peanut Butter
16 ounces roasted unsalted peanuts
1 tablespoon coconut oil (be sure to use refined oil if a hint of coconut flavor would bother you)
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Honey, agave, or other sweetener to taste (optional)
Place nuts, oil, salt, and sweetener (if using) in the bowl of food processor. Process until nuts break down, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. My food processor likes to fling all the nuts to the sides of the bowl and out of reach of the blades, so I have to invest more time than I’d like scraping them back off until things get going. Using enough nuts to mostly fill up the processor bowl helps alleviate this issue.
Continue to process until peanut butter reaches desired smoothness. Taste and adjust salt and sweetener as needed.
Due to the heat of the processing, the butter should pour easily into a clean container but will achieve a firm yet creamy consistency after chilling. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator to prevent separation. (I like Mason jars for this, of course, and am really loving the plastic storage lids)
This recipe was created for my “DIY vs. Buy” column on Serious Eats.