By Virginia Campbell, Epigram Food writer
Nut butters - in their most basic form, a paste made from grinding a particular nut - are all the rage right now. Whilst the humble peanut butter has lined our supermarket shelves for decades, its pistachio, almond and cashew neighbours, amongst others, have been following in hot pursuit.
But why is the world going nuts over these tasty treats? Well, not only are they delicious, they are also extremely good for you. Proper nut butters - AKA ones without any additives or preservatives - contain a whole host of essential minerals.
If you want to improve your skin and hair, the vitamin E almonds will be your best friend. If you’re feeling bit under the weather, the selenium in Brazil nuts will give your immune system a boost. Heart-healthy unsaturated fats in nuts will also keep you fuller for longer, whilst their high protein content will mean muscle maintenance is even easier - perfect for all you gym buffs out there!
For a wider view, a UN report published late last year urged us as a world population to decrease our meat consumption for our own personal health and the health of the planet (rising demand for meat has been linked to increased C02 levels, which contribute to global warming). To replace some of the meat, they suggested that more beans, pulses and nuts should be eaten. Hence, this ode to the humble nut butter.
This is all very well and good, but most people think of nuts as dull and tasteless. If you are one of these people, then nut butters may be just the thing for you. There is such a range that it is almost impossible to not find at least one appealing. Peanut butter has a strong flavour and comes in crunchy and smooth forms. Almond butter is milder in flavour, and particularly great for using in cookie recipes (the good fats in it mean it can be used in replacement of conventional dairy butter).
Cashew butter is extra creamy, so great uses include bulking up creamy soups or smoothies. Pistachio and Brazil nut butters are rarer to find on supermarket shelves, but can be used to give an extra kick to a dish. There are also loads of nut-butter combinations out there, including Maple-peanut butter, and cocoa-almond butter (great as a treat on toast!). Unsurprisingly therefore, there is almost no limit to what you can do with nut butters.
Eat it straight from the jar (I won’t judge), put it on toast with jam in the true American style, or with banana for an extra-healthy alternative. Still not a fan? Mix it into chocolate cookies for a salty-sweet taste that will leave you hankering for more. Or combine it with chilli and soy sauce to make a delicious satay sauce for chicken or tofu.
It is a versatile god-send that can be enjoyed by carnivores, pescatarians and vegans alike. So go out to the jams and spreads aisle; it will be cash-ew won’t regret spending.
Featured image: Flickr/ Johnson Law Firm/ How to make nut butter
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