Make your own nut butter

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In 2020, it will be all about nut butter.

Don't giggle — analysts are expecting butters and spreads to pick up steam next year. Whole Foods' annual trends report predicts wild ones, like watermelon seed butter, will become more common in markets in 2020, with expanded interest in seed and nut butters overall.

These heart-healthy, gluten-free, paleo-friendly products are gaining steam in the United States as the American diet continues to evolve. They're great on toast (a trend unto itself) and offer plenty of protein alongside fiber and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, those "healthy fats" we keep hearing about.

But expect prices to stay high: Droughts in California have spiked the price of almond butter for years, and other nuts, like cashews, require hand-processing, which drives up the cost. (A 14-ounce jar of cashew butter will run you $14.99 at Whole Foods.)

Good news, though. You can make your own, and the sky's the limit. Google Trends is already showing a spike in searches for nut spread recipes, with more interest predicted for 2020.

I happened to have some cashews and almonds in my freezer already — you should store your nuts in the freezer so they don't spoil — so over Thanksgiving break, I researched nut butter recipes and went through the motions to find out if it's really "so easy" to buy nuts and make your own at home. Good news: It is! It's really easy! And a bag of cashews or almonds is usually less than the finished product, especially if you buy in bulk. For an extra-special batch, try unsalted pumpkin seeds or pistachios.

HOMEMADE NUT BUTTER

What you need:

A food processor or strong blender

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Your oven, set to 300 degrees F

A sheet pan

Nuts (raw, whole — do not try to do this with mixed salted nuts as it will just be way too salty)

Salt

How to do it:

Roast nuts for 15 minutes, then toss into your food processor while still warm. Add a generous pinch of salt (less generous if you want this to be a more dessert-y spread), then run your food processor with a watchful eye for about 15 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides and check your progress.

After the first couple of minutes, you'll have ground nut meal; a little longer and you'll see a paste begin to form, then a ball reminiscent of dough. You may have to let your food processor rest for a few minutes during this process so as not to overheat the motor. When you can see a little oil shine and your substance looks like nut butter, you're done. Put nut butter into jars with tight lids, then store in the refrigerator up to three months.

What to do with it:

I put a nice tablespoon of peanut or cashew or almond butter into my oatmeal almost every morning. You can also spread it on toast, add to a smoothie for extra protein, mix with yogurt for an awesome fruit or vegetable dip, add a tablespoon to make a soup or sauce richer, mix with herbs and oil for a salad dressing, etc. We'll see what else comes up in 2020!


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