Ah, peanut butter. It’s one of my favorite things on the planet. I’ll spread it on toast, apples,bananas, and squares of dark chocolate; I’ll make cookies, brownies, and cakes with it; I’ll eat it by the spoon…it’s wonderful. It (unfortunately) shouldn’t be eaten excessively, but when consumed in moderation it’s a healthy, protein-filled choice. And it’s delightful.
Here’s the Part Where I Tell You A Story. Feel free to scroll to the “recipe.”
But I learned a long time ago that normal, store-bought peanut butter is full of nasty death oil (aka vegetable oil), large quantities of sugar, and some not-so-fun preservatives. Check out the label of good ol’ Jif peanut butter here. I wouldn’t eat most of that.
[Note: Jif has improved their ingredients in the last five years…but they still use death oil and plenty of sugar. So I’m still a nope.]
As a poor college student, I ate more peanut butter than was probably good for me. Hey, it’s relatively cheap, it has protein, and it doesn’t require cooking. What more could a college student ask for? But as I became more cognizant of nutrition, I became dissatisfied with that nasty ingredient list. I looked into buying natural peanut butters (just containing peanuts and salt), but they were super expensive and had this disgusting layer of oil on top of them. You were supposed to mix the oil into the peanut butter underneath and then refrigerate the jar, but somehow it was always an oily mess. I wasn’t a fan, and neither was my budget.
But then I discovered this amazing grocery store that had in-store peanut grinders. The machine held a bunch of peanuts (dry-roasted, no other ingredients), and by pushing a button, the grinder would start and release peanut butter from a spout at the bottom of the machine. The store provided plastic containers of various sizes, and sold the peanut butter by weight – it was normally $3/lb, but was often on sale for $2/lb.
This peanut butter wasn’t super oily. It was just peanut butter. Normal, creamy peanut butter.
I quickly started buying my peanut butter exclusively from the store with the grind-it-yourself machine (it helped that they also had a giant room of craft beer, free coffee while you shopped, and any fruit or vegetable you can imagine…it was a cool store). The store used dry-roasted peanuts, with no added ingredients. This made me feel good about the nutrition of my peanut butter obsession, and it tasted wonderful. I would usually sprinkle a little sea salt over whatever I was eating, which really brought out the flavor. There was no going back!
But there was still room to go forward.
My mom got the brilliant idea of throwing a jar of peanuts into her high-powered Ninja blender to see what would happen.
What happened, was the the most delicious batch of peanut butter I have ever tasted.
Is This Healthier?
Yup. Unless, of course, you are adding hydrogenated vegetable oils and boat loads of sugar to your homemade peanut butter. And if you are doing that…well, you’re wrong. Stop it.
If you don’t know why vegetable oil is bad, click here. Besides that obvious ingredient, how much healthier homemade peanut butter is than store-bought depends entirely on what you add to it. If you’re like me and you add nothing, it’s about as healthy as peanut butter can possibly be. Because it’s literally just ground up peanuts. But if that doesn’t suit your taste, you can add a little sugar – or better yet, honey – to your peanut butter. The more sugar you add, the less healthy it gets. However, you can customize your peanut butter however you want, which is cool. I do add a little honey to mine when I’m making homemade Reeses peanut butter cups, and one time I added chocolate honey (it’s a thing. Get it here. I don’t get kickbacks from this link, but the honey is great), which was AMAZING for making desserts.
There’s also the salt component. Although salt isn’t inherently bad for you, some people need to limit their salt intake for certain health conditions. And you get to control the amount of salt in the final product when you make it yourself. My mom always adds salt directly to her peanut butter when she is making it (about 1/2 tsp per batch), whereas I prefer to sprinkle salt over my peanut butter toast/apple/whatever.
Does This Save Money?
Why, yes. It does.
I did math!
(I know, math is gross).
A pound of Jif-brand creamy peanut butter is $2.60 at Kroger, which comes out to $0.16/oz.
Store-ground peanut butter, where I live, costs between $2-$3/lb. I averaged it at $2.50/lb, which comes out to $0.16/oz. So it’s healthier than Jif, and it’s the same price
A pound of peanuts is $1.99 if I buy Aldi brand or if I buy Kroger brand when it’s on sale (which happens at least monthly). I’m cheap and stubborn, so I won’t buy them if they’re not $1.99. This comes out to $0.12/oz.
So homemade peanut butter is about $0.04/oz cheaper, or $0.64 less per lb. I go through a pound of peanut very quickly, so this is cool, but it’s not like it’s making a giant dent in my budget or anything. And if you rarely use peanut butter, it’s probably a negligible savings. But hey! It’s still cool!
And with the “healthy” factor if homemade peanut butter, this isn’t really a fair comparison.
Then again, you may end up eating more peanut butter because it’s both delicious and healthy. Consider yourself warned.
So how do you do it?
Well, it’s so simple that I’m hesitant to even call it a recipe, but…
Homemade Peanut Butter
Prep time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 Pounds (about a quart)
2 lbs peanuts
(opt) 1/2 tsp salt (or more or less to taste)
(opt) honey or sugar to taste
1) Buy jars of peanuts. Make sure you READ THE INGREDIENT LABEL and only buy dry-roasted peanuts. You don’t want to avoid the hydrogenated death oil in store-bought peanut butter, only to get it in the peanuts! A lot of peanuts (including most Planters brand peanuts) are roasted in death oil and coated with various spices. You want to make sure the ingredient label JUST says peanuts. I usually find these at Kroger or Aldi. Off-brand peanuts are cheaper than Planters anyway. 😛
2) Dump jars into high-powered blender, like the Ninja or Vitamix. This won’t work in a cheap $20 blender. Well, it might, but you also might burn out the motor. If you’re unsure about whether or not your blender will work, read the instructions; lower quality blenders will usually specify that you can’t grind nuts with them.
Alternately, you can grind your peanut butter by hand, using a hand mill!
(No, please don’t do that).
I did this once, when I was unemployed. It took over an hour to get very chunky, sort of sawdusty peanut butter. I don’t recommend it unless you’re really, really, really bored, or unless you’re a weirdo and think you might get some strange sense of satisfaction after hand-grinding peanut butter (Hi. My name is Jess and I’m a weirdo).
If you don’t have a fancy blender, you might be able to talk a friend or family member into letting your use their blender (full disclosure: I use my mom’s every couple of months. I’m told fancy blenders are really nice, but I don’t blend very many things – I hate smoothies – so I don’t see the point of buying one).
3) Turn the blender on. It takes a few minutes, but eventually the nuts magically turn into peanut butter! I shake the blender occasionally to make sure everything grinds nicely.
4) If you’re adding salt or sugar (or both), you can do so now, and use the blender to mix everything together. Or you can do that by hand. Or you can skip this step entirely, like me.
5) Spoon the peanut butter into a storage container – two 16oz jars of peanuts perfectly fill a quart-sized mason jar with peanut butter
6) Clean the blender. This is by far the most annoying part.
7) Eat delicious, healthy peanut butter.
Any container will work – I like mason jars. You can do whatever you want. Keep it in a five gallon Menards bucket if it strikes your fancy; I don’t care.
But there are a few tips that you may need to keep the texture of your peanut butter intact during storage.
Keep It Fresh
Remember how I said that store-bought natural peanut butter are oily and gross? I think the lack of oil may have something to do with freshness; when I bulk-bought 10 lbs of fresh-ground peanut butter, some of the containers started to get a film of oil by the time I used them. Now I only make what I will use in a month or two, and never have an oil problem. I’ve also heard that nut butters can go rancid if stored for long periods of time, so it’s probably better to keep things fresh anyway. The great thing about making peanut butter at home, is that you can make as much or as little as you’d like. I make a quart at a time, but my mom makes a pint, since she uses less peanut butter than I do.
When you buy Jif peanut butter, it stays in the pantry. When you buy natural peanut butters, they sometimes have a “refrigerate after opening label.” But sometimes they don’t. What should you do?
Well, I keep my peanut butter in the pantry 90% of the time. I prefer warmer, softer peanut butter. I use it quickly, so I’m not concerned with rancidity. You can keep in the fridge, but it will be harder to spread. My mom prefers the texture of refrigerated peanut butter, so try it and see if you like it. But personally, I like soft, spreadable PB.
However, if the peanut butter is stored in very warm conditions, the oil will start to separate. If you keep your house at a “normal” temperature, you will probably never have any issues. If you are like me and you don’t have air conditioning, you might have a problem in the summer.
So I do keep the peanut butter in the fridge for the few weeks of the summer that my area has temperatures in the 90s. If I had a root cellar, I’d keep the peanut butter there in the summer, but I don’t. So I make do with the fridge.
But most of the time, at room temperature, the peanut butter is fine.
Other Nut Butters
I haven’t tried making my own almond or cashew butter, but I see no reason why that wouldn’t work. If you try it, let me know how it goes!