NUTS for nut butter
Today's post features the third of my Basic recipes that I think everyone should know how to make. It is really versatile as cashews, the main ingredient, can be swapped out for pretty much ANY other nut, seed, or a combination of the two. Today's post is focused on cashew nuts and cashew nut butter, which is a delicious treat that is really easy to make for yourself at home. It is far more affordable to make it yourself at home than to purchase it from the shops. It is creamy, sweet, and can be used in many different ways. It is a great source of minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous, and contains healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) is a plant that is native to Brazil, but is now grown widely in tropical climates for both cashew nuts and cashew apples . 'What are cashew apples?' you ask. I found this very interesting :) The cashew tree actually produces a soft, juicy fruit known as a cashew apple which bears a single-seeded nut, contained in a hard shell, from its bottom. If you don't believe me take a look here and read a bit more about the cashew plant here. The processing of cashew nuts is relatively expensive due to the specific characteristics of the shell . In fact, processing of cashew nuts is quite labour intensive, and the shells need to be softened by steam before they can be cracked open by hand and the kernel can be removed . Those who work in cashew processing need to wear gloves or coat their hands with oil in order to limit exposure to skin-irritating toxins that can make it really uncomfortable to remove the nut from its shell . Despite all of the effort it takes to obtain cashews, it doesn't stop the nut from being the third most produced nut worldwide! At the moment, Vietnam is responsible for the export of 58% of the world's cashews, which are grown locally and are imported for processing from Africa . Due to a drought that is currently being experienced by Vietnam, cashew nut prices are set to 'go nuts' (thanks for the pun Bloomberg :) ), so why not get your hands on some cashews ASAP to make this delicious nut butter before that happens?
Per 100 g, cashews contain approximately 48.3 g fat, 21.3 g protein, and 20.5 g carbohydrates . Fat is the major macronutrient found in cashew nuts, of which the majority is composed of unsaturated fatty acids . Breaking it down a bit further, a total of fourteen different fatty acids have been identified in cashews, including:
- Oleic acid (60.7%)
- Linoleic acid (17.77%)
- Palmitic acid (10.2%)
- and Stearic acid (8.93%)
Phenolic components contained in cashew nuts, such as anacardic acid and its analogues have gained significant attention from scientists due to their potential activity against tooth abscesses, as well as their antimicrobial, anti-tumor, and antioxidant activity [1,4]. The consumption of tree nuts, including cashews, as part of a healthy diet, has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, as well as a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes . For a little bit more information on some of the fat-soluble bioactive components in nuts, as well as their potential health benefits as part of a balanced diet take a look at this review article, which summarises some of the most current information quite well .
RAW or ROASTED? Which is better?
To be 100% honest with you I had every intention of boasting about the benefits of raw nuts over dry-roasted ones based on an opinion that I had formulated from hear-say. However, after doing my research I haven't managed to find much evidence backing claims made by many raw food advocates and health 'nuts' (haha just kidding) around the world that raw nuts are superior in terms of nutrition. Roasting nuts and seeds at reasonable temperatures has not been shown to significantly change their nutritional value, and claims made regarding the loss of unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E are not backed by evidence (if you read this post and have come across any information that states the opposite, please share it with me because I'd be interested in giving it a read). In terms of sensory aspects, both the raw and roasted nut butters were pretty equal in terms of taste, texture, appearance, and smell. I did a very informal analysis using my family and I as the sensory panel, and to be honest with you (once again), neither of the two recipes was enjoyed significantly more than the other. Both of them were actually enjoyed quite a lot :)
- 150 g (1/2 cup) raw cashew nuts
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
For the roasted nut butter:
- Preheat your oven to 140˚C.
- Place some baking paper on a baking tray before spreading the nuts out on the tray. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 20 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before continuing.
For both the roasted and raw nut butter:
- Place all of the ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender and puree for 5 minutes. This could even take a bit longer, depending on the type of blender you have and whether you're working with raw or roasted nuts (see notes).
- Stop the blender/processor regularly to scrape down the sides. Keep puréeing until you end up with a smooth, creamy paste.
- Scrape the nut butter into an airtight container and refrigerate. It should keep for about 1 month.
- Raw nuts will take a bit longer to process than roasted ones due to the fact that it'll take a bit longer for them to release their oils and become smooth and creamy.
- Add 1-2 tsp coconut oil to the processor/blender if you would like it to be a bit creamier, or if it needs a bit of help coming together.
 Maorong S, Isao H, Ishida Y, Shimano Y, Bi C, Hikaru K, Takano F, Ohta T. Phenolic lipid ingredients from cashew nuts. J Nat Med. 2012;66:133-9.
 Rico R, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Nutritional composition of raw and fresh cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) kernels from different origin. J Food Sci Nutr. 2016;4(2):329-38.
 Chau MN. Cashew prices are about to go nuts. Bloomberg Professional. [Internet]. 2016 Nov 4. [cited 2016 Nov 6]. Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/professional/blog/cashew-prices-go-nuts/.
 Yang J, Liu RH, Halim L. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common edible nut seeds. Food Sci Tech. 2009;42:1-8.
 Alasalvar C, Pelvan E. Fat-soluble bioactives in nuts. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. 2011;113:943-9.