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Smooth & Sweet Coconut Almond Butter: Better than roasted nuts

Nut butters. Slathered on fruits or celery, spread across a toasted slice of organic coconut bread or savored guiltily right from the spoon, there is something about the slightly sweet aroma and satisfyingly smooth texture of nut butters that is so alluring. I love opening a fresh jar of the stuff- dipping the knife into the the beautiful golden oil pooled at the top and churning the smoothly ground bits of nuts into a savory spread. Love it, that is, until I look at the label. In all of their perceived deliciousness, most store bought nut butters are made with processed nuts and are l-o-a-d-e-d with junky oils, addictive sugars and questionable additives that are far from healthy. Learn how to make your own soaked almond butter at home or find a quality brand to enjoy the full breadth of nutritional benefits and flavors these lip-smackingly good spreads have to offer.

 nourishing traditions blog

Notes on Nuts

Amidst all of the ferocious and often unforgiving debates about “healthy” food going on out there, most people would give a copacetic nod to almonds, agreeing that these powerful little tidbits are a valuable source of nutrition. Proteins, essential fatty acids, fiber, trace minerals, phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants- all packed in to small slivers of versatile, satisfactory goodness. Almonds are among the most popular nuts with the highest protein content (20% of total calories) and many phytonutrients including catechin, protocatechuic acid, methylquercetin, p-hydroybenzoic acid, flavonoids, vanillic acid, resveratrol and kaempferol. What better way to snack than flipping almonds into your mouth or eating a scoop of almond butter? What most people fail to realize however, is that among the plethora of boxed, jarred and bagged almond-y flavored products out there, few are the real thing.

Not Just Nut Butter

Next time you are in the store, go to the nut butter aisle and take a look at the ingredients in the neatly stacked jars. You may be shocked to find that nut butters are blended with a slew of undesirable additives: evaporated cane juice, cheap vegetable oils, and refined salts to name a few. Not to mention most of the almond butters that you find are made from roasted or dry roasted almonds. Although their warm, smoky flavor may seem appealing, commercially roasted nuts are flash-fried in cheap, rancid oils, while dry roasted nuts are exposed to exceedingly high temperatures that denature the nutrients and cause the breakdown of fats, increasing free radical capacity. 

Troubles with Raw Nuts

If you are lucky enough to find a jar that is made simply from “raw nuts” this is better, but it skips out on the crucial step of soaking nuts to increase digestibility. Raw nuts have high levels of phytic acid, a form of bound phosphorous, which serves as a physiological protectant and antioxidant for the plant. While phytic acid is useful to safeguard the seeds until germination, when eaten by humans it binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract, causing irritation and contributing to the potential for nutrient deficiencies. While some animals naturally produce adequate amounts of the enzyme phytase to breakdown this vexing anti-nutrient, humans do not, causing phytate-heavy diets to be troublesome. Raw nuts also contain a significant amount of enzyme inhibitors- substances that are important in preventing the nut or seed from sprouting prematurely in nature. Yet these enzymes are not tolerated well when consumed and cause digestive strain for us nut-munching humans. The good news is that both phytates and enzyme inhibitors can be neutralized by soaking nuts, just as our ancestors intuitively practiced. What’s more, the practice of soaking nuts has been found to increase the bioavailability of important nutrients in the nuts, notably the treasured B vitamins, and activate helpful enzymes that increase nutrient absorption.

Organic vs. Non-Organic

As with most things, organic nuts are preferable to minimize pesticide risk and to support a sustainable agricultural framework. Yet unfortunately less than 1% of U.S. tree nut farmland is certified organic, so hunting down organic nuts can be both difficult and expensive. There is largely inconsistent published data on the amount of pesticide residue present in the nuts after being hulled. Because the nuts are shelled and have a small surface area, some experts believe that they are at least partially protected from the dangers of pesticides and not of dire concern. However, others argue that almonds are apt to absorb pesticides readily due to their high oil content, and that the amount of nasty pesticides used in almond growing has been consistently on the rise in recent years. What's more, non-organic nuts are often treated with fumigants (gases to kill bugs) after they are picked. So the decision on sourcing your nuts is largely personal- the best we can do is to know the facts, know our sources and make informed choices. One thing is generally agreed upon however: packed with nutrients and a great source of fuel, nuts are just too good to give up totally.

Finding A Trusted Source

If you don’t want to spend time hunting down organic nuts or soaking and drying them yourself, we recommend Better Than Roasted Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters. These exquisite products begin with premium nuts and seeds that are raw, whole, and certified organic. They are then hand sorted, soaked, rinsed, and dried at a low temperature, not exceeding 108° F, to preserve the temperature-sensitive enzymes and nutrients. It is rare to find such a delectable and tremendously healthy product on the market today.

Italian almonds are grown on the sunny slopes of Sicily and come from highly prized hard shell almond trees. Hard-shelled almonds are more intensely flavored, have a higher concentration of almond oil and are much more rare and difficult to harvest. We think they are definitely worth the effort because that hard shell protects the seed and allows it to fully develop its essential almond-ness. These come completely unpasteurized from Italy!

How to Soak and Dry Almonds

If you want to soak and dry your own nuts, this is largely effective and entirely possible. Although cultures in Central America used to practice this method by soaking seeds in sea water and sun drying them, we now have the modern advantage of ovens and dehydrators to expedite the process in our bustling lives. The process of soaking nuts is generally the same for all types of nuts, however the soaking times vary depending on the variety. I will share the recipe for almonds here, but you can find the full collection in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This recipe is easily scalable to match whatever quantity of almonds you have on hand.

nourishing traditions blog

4 cups raw organic almonds

1 tablespoon sea salt or himalyan salt

filtered water

Place almonds in a large glass bowl. Dissolve salt in filtered water, and pour enough water over nuts to completely cover. Allow to soak for at least 7 hours, or overnight. Drain water and spread nuts on a tray of your dehydrator, and let dry for 12-24 hours or until slighlty crisp. If you do not have a dehydrator, you can also place soaked nuts on a cooking sheet and place in the oven at a temperature no warmer than 150 degrees F (you may have to get out your oven manual and adjust the lowest temperature setting down- most ovens come preset at 170-200 degrees F). 

Smooth & Sweet Coconut Almond Butter

Now that you have either made or purchased your gloriously soaked and dried nuts, on to the fun part: making your own nut butter. Here is a recipe for one of my personal favorites that blends the warm flavor of almonds with the subtle sweetness of coconut and a hint of vanilla. But be creative with your own recipes! Don't be afraid to try a dash of this and a sprinkle of that...and you may come up with the next best thing!

unsweetened organic coconut flakes

2 cups soaked and dried almonds

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp-1/2 tbsp alcohol-free vanilla extract

*Note: if you prefer a creamier nut butter, add in about 1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil

 Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor

better than roasted nuts

Blend on high setting for about 10 minutes. This time will vary depending on the strength of your kitchen equipment. After the first few minutes, you will notice that the contents take on mealy texture and then oh-so-slowly starts to churn into almond butter. Although it may seem like it is taking forever, never fear- just keep on processing and eventually the pieces will blend into a creamy spread.

nourishing traditions blog
Once blended to desired consistency, stop processor and scoop nut butter into an airtight glass container for storage in the refrigerator. Because of the fats in the coconut, the butter will be semi-solid when taken out of the refrigerator, so I like to let mine sit on counter for a few minute before using so that it is more easy to spread. Enjoy!

nutrient dense foods

 What's your favorite nut butter?

Comments

What can you soak nuts and seeds in if you are on a sodium restricted diet? 
Thank you for your time in replying, 
Pamela
Posted @ Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:10 PM by Pamela
Hi Pamela,  
You may want to try soaking nuts in an acid medium as you would traditionally for grains. Instead of salt water, use warm filtered water with 2 tbsps or so of whey, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Alternatively, you can rinse nuts thoroughly after soaking and before drying to remove most of the salt.
Posted @ Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:33 PM by Kayla Grossmann
WHat food processor do you have?
Posted @ Friday, February 22, 2013 9:44 PM by Catherine Gage
Is it absolutely necessary to dry the nuts after soaking? If you don't, will it be problematic to have moisture in the nut butter? Thanks!
Posted @ Friday, February 22, 2013 10:18 PM by JoAnne
What about sprouted almonds. I am able to purchase raw sprouted almonds from my local health store. Are these broken down for digestion or still problematic?
Posted @ Sunday, February 24, 2013 6:58 AM by susan rahaim
Hi Catherine- I just have a GE 4-speed food processor. It's nothing fancy and a few years old, but it is trusty and gets the job done!
Posted @ Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:31 PM by Kayla Grossmann
Hello JoAnne, 
Drying the nuts its not absolutely necessary, however I have found that not drying them results in a more pasty nut butter that doesn't last quite as long.
Posted @ Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:32 PM by Kayla Grossmann
Hi Susan, 
Sprouted nuts are wonderful! When nuts are sprouted, the nutrient profile of the nuts is enhanced even further and the pesky anti-nutrients are simultaneously neutralized. You can sprout your own nuts at home too, however it takes a few days. We carry soaked and sprouted nuts & seeds at Radiant Life, and absolutely love them.
Posted @ Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:37 PM by Kayla Grossmann
should I rinse the almonds/other nuts after soaking because of what is left in the water? I have been a bit confused about this step! This sounds wonderful with the flaked coconut. I have made soaked almond butter, but with coconut oil. Can't wait to make this today!
Posted @ Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:06 AM by terri
Hi Terri, 
Great question- yes, it is important to rinse almonds with filtered water after soaking to remove any of the salt and other residues left on the nuts. You might find that this almond butter is a bit more dense than the one that you usually make with coconut oil, but I hope you enjoy it!
Posted @ Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:39 AM by Kayla Grossmann
I usually soak nuts in just plain filtered tap or mountain spring water. Is there a benefit to soaking them in salted or acidic water? Thanks!
Posted @ Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:30 PM by mariyam
I had read a recipe on another website that mentioned soaking and drying the almonds beforehand, but stated that it was imperative to add oil or else the dehydrated almonds would not make a butter. I would rather not add anything if I can help it. Is this an issue in your experience?
Posted @ Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:09 PM by vicki
Hi Mariyam, 
The salt helps to activate the enzymes to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. It's another step of pre-digestion that many people find helpful.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:47 PM by Kayla Grossmann
Hello Vicki, 
I had the same thoughts when I started making nut butters. I've found that it really comes down to how smooth and creamy you want the final product to be. Because I tend to like nut butters that are more gritty and dense, I don't find adding the oil necessary. If you want something that will spread easily, the oil is helpful in keeping it nice and soft. Go ahead and experiment with what works best for you- you can always add some coconut or almond oil if you aren't pleased with the original texture.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:50 PM by Kayla Grossmann
So I will say a few things on this subject. Using a blender such as a vita mix or blend tech for this job is the WRONG method to choose! Sure it gets the job done but only after about an hour of starting, stopping , and pushing the butter towards the blades. I was very very annoyed:( it also seems that in my food processor it had a hard time getting going and once it was ground into a mealy paste it just stuck to the sides and the blades would just spin freely for minutes on end. Any suggestions to ease the process?  
 
Also, we go through the process of NOT heating the almonds past a certain point as to not denature the vital enzymes etc, then we subject it to spinning around a blade for ten minutes? When my nut butter finally got done it was quite warm. Are we really saving any of the vital things we were trying to preserve? Its like if you buy low heat filtered, and minimally processed whey powder and then throw it in your blender and turn it on high for a minute with your other ingredients well all the sudden you are "processing" your whey! My question being how much are we gaining really and has there ever been a study on these things to prove the end resulted sprouted nut butters contains the enzymes and a higher concentration of minerals etc? Does blending them to a high heat destroy the phytic acid as well? Can we skip the whole soaking process ton in the case of nut butters?  
 
Thanks in advance for any answers u might have:) just seems like a ton of extra work.
Posted @ Wednesday, March 06, 2013 12:58 AM by Jeffrey
Hi Jeffrey, 
You raise some good points. As far as kitchen equipment, it really depends on the power of your blender or processor. To make the almond butter less sticky, you could try adding in about 1/4 cup coconut oil to see if this helps. WIth soaking and drying the nuts, the main purpose of this process is to neutralize the anti-nutrients. This cannot simply be done by heating them during blending, but occurs over time with the help of the salt solution. This is a thousands of year old process, and many studies have found phytic acid levels decrease in nuts, grains and legumes with soaking. Many people have reported that soaking helps them to digest the nuts, but in the end you need to make the choice that is right for you. If you decide it is personally easier for you to use raw nuts to make your nut butters, this is a far better than the roasted and additive ridden jars at the store.
Posted @ Thursday, March 07, 2013 1:23 PM by Kayla Grossmann
Hi i really do like the info u have here but i have question on the step of soaking the nutts,why do u need salt at all to soak them in why not just water? Thanx
Posted @ Saturday, October 26, 2013 10:24 PM by Dallas
Hi Dallas! The salt helps to activate certain enzymes that do the work of neutralizing the bothersome compounds in the nuts. Soaking in water is helpful in some respects, but simply won't be as effective at removing these pesky substances.  
Posted @ Monday, October 28, 2013 1:33 PM by Kayla Grossmann
Hi there! I've been trying to find a good quality, organic company who sells sprouted nut butters for some time. Have you tried the Blue Mountain Organics products and if so, what is your opinion? I have also come across 'Dastony' and 'Totum Foods' but i'm just not sure whats best. I have digestive issues and prefer something that will be top nutritional quality and easy to digest. Thanks!
Posted @ Friday, March 28, 2014 1:04 AM by Megan
Hi Megan! We love Blue Mountain Organics. They craft tasty products that are thoughtfully sourced, and carefully soaked/sprouted. In fact we enjoy their entire line of nuts, seeds and butters at home, and even carry them in our highly selective store. I'm not very familiar with the other brands- check to make sure that they are low-temp dehydrated and organic before trying them out.
Posted @ Monday, March 31, 2014 1:52 PM by Kayla Grossmann
Hi Kayla, 
 
I was wondering how long you would soak the almonds if you wanted to make sprouted almond butter? 
 
Thank you for all the information! 
 
God bless, 
Tim
Posted @ Tuesday, June 24, 2014 9:13 PM by Tim
Hi Tim! Almonds are soaked for about 7 hrs (or overnight) and then dehydrated at temps below 150 degrees for about 12 hrs. It may seem like a lot of work, but many people find the digestive benefits to be worth it. I wrote a post all about how to soak different varieties of nuts and seeds called That's Nuts! A Complete Guide to Soaking Nuts and Seeds. It has some charts and graphics that you might find useful!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 25, 2014 6:20 AM by Kayla Grossmann
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