Peanut butter is something that’s been in the back of my head for awhile, on the “hey, I should try to make that” list. In many ways, it’s well-qualified as a make-at-home food, especially for those of us trying to simplify our lives a little with our finely-tuned cooking skills. Why make your own peanut butter? Well, many of us eat a lot of it, it’s obnoxiously expensive, and unless you want to spend even more money on nicer varieties, it’s also obviously the result of some pretty ambitious factory processing. Therefore, a great candidate to replace with homemade.
At the same time, it’s also one of those foods that’s familiar. It’s like ketchup or your grandma’s cookies: unless it’s exactly like the way you grew up with, you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to something different – even if it’s a better version by any reasonable standard. I grew up on Jif, and there’s something amazing about that smooth, salty, slightly sweet spread that leaves a hole where your knife scooped it out that is hard to compare with the sticky, runny, actually-tastes-like-peanuts version that comes from making peanut butter more naturally.
In the end though, the foodie in me won out and I decided it was time to take on the PB challenge. It took a little searching, but I was able to find peanuts significantly cheaper per pound than the average natural peanut butter. This was important to me, because it’s hard to justify making my own if it doesn’t end up any cheaper than buying the stuff someone else already made. The peanuts I found were unroasted and still had the red skins on, but I wasn’t concerned.
I roasted them up, spun them for awhile in my food processer with a little oil, added some salt, and tasted the result: delicious, roasty, peanutty goodness. BUT: still sticky and runny. So much so that you couldn’t talk for awhile after putting a spoonful in your mouth, and bread got shredded in the effort to spread the homemade PB across it. This consistency was my conundrum, because great flavor has to be accompanied by ease of use if our homemade peanut butter was going to make the cut and replace store-bought.
My solution: coconut oil. I knew that the “natural” varieties put out by the major brands used palm oil instead of the usual hydrogenated oil, which works because it’s a saturated fat and solidifies. I don’t know much about palm oil (except that it’s not much better of an alternative), but I recently had been hearing a lot of good things about coconut oil as a (relatively) healthy saturated fat. I decided to give it a try.
The result was pleasing. I only added 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil to the next batch, but I really noticed a difference. The most pronounced way to see it was when I put the peanut butter in the fridge: at a colder temperature where most homemade peanut butters become unmoving sludge, mine was easily spreadable and still left a pretty good indentation in the surface from the knife instead of filling back in. Definitely not identical to store-bought, but I was okay with that.
The other effect was a subtle flavor of coconut in the peanut butter. I’m still deciding how I feel about this– it takes a little getting used to, but not in a bad way. I may try adding a little less coconut oil next time to find a different balance, but I honestly can’t complain much about the flavor as it stands right now. So, I’d say the experiment was successful!
Here’s what I came up with.
Homemade Peanut Butter Recipe
1 pound (or so) shelled peanuts in any form
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tsp salt (if peanuts are unsalted)
Okay! To start, if your peanuts are un-roasted, roast them. I tossed them in a bowl with a small amount of oil, then spread on a pan and baked at around 350°F, stirring occasionally. When they’re gently browned and taste less “raw”, you can take them out.
The next (and only) step is to throw them in your food processor, forever. Start it running, and be patient; if you really want a smooth butter you’ll need to leave it running for at least 3-5 minutes. If you want it more gritty or chunky, run it less or add some more peanuts toward the end. I took some pictures of the progression so you can know what to expect.
At some point toward the end, add in your oil to adjust the consistency a little (different peanuts have different amounts of fat). Add the salt to taste, and pour into some kind of awesome jar or container to eat later. This can store at room temperature for weeks, or in your fridge for even longer.
There you go! This is an ongoing experiment, so if you come up with more adjustments or ideas, please share them. Let me know what you think.
Also, if you’re interested in making the delicious-looking english muffins in the pictures, check out our english muffins recipe!
Till next time, foodies!