Gone are the days when the only thing Betty Botter had to worry about was bitter butter. Now, she’s got a lot more questions for herself. Should I buy regular or shell out some more and go organic? Does my butter have too many preservatives? And if ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ is not butter, what IS it? Butter reminds me.. I guess I should get some peanut butter. But crunchy or smooth? Roasted or plain? Ooh.. ALMOND butter! That sounds interesting. Sunflower seed butter? I didn’t even know they could do that!
As much as we love choices and variety, grocery shopping these days can be quite intimidating, with so many options that we sometimes just don’t understand. The nut butter category has been one of the fastest growing in recent years, with pretty much every type of nut now being able to boast of it’s own butter. You were still thinking almonds and cashews? There is now pistachio, pecan, macadamia and even sunflower seed butter, just to name a few!
With all of this variety, there is still quite a bit of hesitation for the average Middle Eastern consumer. I carried out some extremely credible and detailed research by
annoying politely questioning a sizeable group of people just trying to buy their plain ol’ peanut butter at the supermarket. And for most people, the decision to buy an alternative butter is just a matter of “I’m not sure what to do with it”. You might love cashews to the point of get-this-jar-out-of-my-sightness , but buying cashew butter just isn’t something that would come to mind when drawing up that grocery list.
And it’s understandable. It seems like another one of those foodie fads. BUT, unlike most fads, nut butters taste AMAZING, can amp up regular recipes with just a spoonful, and are actually good for your health. Which is why I tried every readily available nut butter I could get at the supermarket, experimented with some recipes, tried it on toast with jam & nutella… and even the old jar & spoon, just so I could better understand the best uses for each nut butter. Let’s see if you can find one that’s best for you.
My personal favorite. To the point that I would now rather go back for a jar of almond butter over the classic peanut butter, and this is for two simple reasons. One, almond butter tastes amazing with nutella, jams and just desserts in general. I find adding it to pie crusts, mixing it in with some chocolate frosting, adding a spoonful or two in no-bake desserts… magically enhances the flavor of most desserts. Also, unlike other nut butters, it is quite mild in its nuttiness, so it lends flavor without being overpowering. It is of a much thinner consistency than peanut butter, which does make it a little bit of a hassle to spread, but if you are looking to dip your spoons in the wider nut butter world for the first time, almond butter will do the job, and this won’t be the jar lying around unused at the back of your cupboard. You’ll probably be going back for seconds in no time.
This one will most likely be taking over the savory duties from your old PB. I found it to be too dense for jam and toast, not so great with chocolate (but that might be a personal preference), and being a little overpowering in desserts. But where it absolutely shines is in curries, sauces, and stir fries. It lends a delicious nutty undertone to savory Indian and Thai curries. If you’re looking to add a little twist to your regular dishes, cashew butter will gladly take on the mystery ingredient duties.
This is quite a rare find in supermarkets, but can easily be made at home. This butter is light, slightly sweet thanks to the natural sweetness of pecans, not too dense, and tastes absolutely amazing with a million types of desserts. It complements flavors like coconut, caramel and chocolate, but that is just scratching the surface of it’s many versatile uses. It also works great combined with peanuts to make out of this world delicious Pecan Peanut Butter (which, if you happen to be in Canada, you can just get a jar of the stuff at Bulk Barn; those damn Canadians just get everything!).
Sesame Seed Butter
Otherwise known as our good ol’ friend tahini. Okay, it’s more of a seed butter, and I don’t really need to convince you to buy this stuff, I’m sure every Middle Eastern home has a bottle of it (expats included), BUT hummus and dressings aren’t the only place to use this versatile ‘butter’. Sesame seed paste is used extensively in Middle Eastern sweets, but somehow as expats we haven’t really tapped into their potential. The tahini flavor is commonly called “Rahash’ in desserts, and is much more deserving of dessert hype than, say, a certain brand of overhyped caramelized biscuits. It tastes incredible, and as a baby step towards sweet tahini, try a little sugar sweetened drizzle of tahini on your brownies. It is a revelation, I promise.
Have you/would you try some of these nut butters? Do you have a non-pb favorite already? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!