Here’s a quick guide to almonds and almond butter, including tips, recipes, and lots of easy ways to use them.
From biblical stories to European folk belief, almonds have carried a rich legacy of lore and symbolism through the ages; dreams of almonds were believed to have foretold good fortune and the early blossoming of the almond tree made it a symbol of the arrival of spring.
The high esteem in which almonds have long been held is amply justified, both for their mildly sweet taste and beneficial qualities.
Buying and storage
First and foremost, buy almonds (and all kinds of nuts) from a source that has a good turnover, to ensure that they’re fresh when you bring them into your kitchen.
Almonds in the shell are often the most economical way to buy them; their shell is easy to crack with a nutcracker. Still, it’s kind of a pain when you need a larger quantity. Shelled almonds are sold in bulk both roasted and raw. Raw almonds are sometimes less expensive and can be easily roasted or toasted at home (see next section).
Packaged almonds, available in supermarkets and specialty food shops, come in many forms: blanched (with the brown skins removed), slivered, sliced, salted, oil-roasted, and smoked.
Almond in the shell will keep at cool room temperatures for several months, away from direct light. Store shelled almonds in jars away from direct light. Keep them refrigerated in the warmer months, if they’re not used up quickly.
How to roast or toast almonds
Spread whole or slivered raw almonds (blanched or unblanched) on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 300º F for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Take care not to over bake!
You can also toast almonds right on the stovetop. In a sturdy skillet, toast nuts in a single layer over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and turning a deeper shade. How long this take will vary, depending on how your pan conducts heat, so keep your eye on them, and transfer from the pan to another container as soon as they’re done to your liking.
How to blanch almonds
Blanching almonds is the process of removing the brown skins from them. Of course, if you need them this way, it’s easier to just buy blanched almonds to begin with, but if you prefer to do it yourself, here’s a tutorial.
Almonds are good for you
Almonds are 54 percent fat. Most of the fat is monounsaturated, with some polyunsaturates; their saturated fat content is one of the lowest among nuts.
One ounce, or about 22 nuts, contains 170 calories, 6 grams protein and 3.5 grams fiber. They’re rich in B vitamins and vitamin E. Minerals are in good supply, particularly iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Of special interest to those on plant-based diets is the good calcium content in almonds. Ten almonds contain more calcium than 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, just for comparison. Learn more about the nutritional profile of almonds.
Be aware of allergies
Almonds are a tree nut, so anyone with this type of allergy is advised to steer clear of them.
Simple ways to use almonds
Aside from eating them plain, as a snack, almonds may be used in a number of delectable ways:
Trail mix: Include almonds in your homemade mixes of dried fruits and nuts.
Nut meal for baked goods and more: Almonds are a good choice for making nut meal to be incorporated into cookies and other baked goods. 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on the type of recipe, is a good quantity. To make almond meal, simply place 1/2 to 1 cup almonds (blanched or not) int he container of a food processor. Process until finely ground, with the consistency of a coarse flour.
Easy vegan Parmesan: Use almond meal made with blanched almonds as instructed above. Combine 1/2 cup almond meal with 1/4 cup nutritional yeast and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and stir together until completely mixed. This is a delicious substitute for dairy Parmesan to use as a topping for pastas and other savory dishes.
Stir-fries and pilafs: Toss a handful of chopped roasted almonds into stir-fried vegetable or noodle dishes and grain pilafs.
Cereal and fruit salad topping: Coarsely chopped or slivered almonds add a pleasant crunch and protein boost to breakfast cereals (hot or cold) and fruit salads. Allow 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving.
Garnish for vegetables: Use chopped almonds as a garnish for steamed green vegetables such as green beans, Swiss chard, asparagus, or broccoli. Or garnish each serving of soups made from these ingredients with a sprinkling of chopped almonds.
Almond butter: Almonds make a fantastic homemade nut butter, delicious eaten on a hearty bread or crackers. See instructions in the section further down in this post under almond butter.
Maple-Cinnamon Almond Snack: Combine 1 cup almonds with 3 tablespoons maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and stir together. Bake in a shallow pan at 300ºF for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the glaze has dried. Let cool and break apart. This recipe can be easily doubled. Add some of these candied almonds to fresh popcorn!
Almond milk was one of the first plant-based nut milk to break through and make it big. Its mild, slightly sweet flavor is good for use in soups, sauces, and blended beverages. And of course, it’s fine to drink on its own and poured into cereal or granola. Almond milk in cartons is readily available at most any supermarket or natural foods store.
An easy way to make your own almond milk: Place 2 cups of blanched almonds in the container of a blender or food processor. Process until finely ground, then add 2 cups warm water and continue to process for 1 minute.
Cover a bowl with four layers of cheesecloth. Pour the almond mixture over it. Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and squeeze the liquid out. Save the remaining almond meal to use in cookies, muffins, quick breads, or casseroles.
Here’s a more detailed tutorial on how to make almond milk.
Recipes using almonds or almond butter
- Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds
- Orange-Roasted Tofu with Baby Carrots and Almonds
- Curried Vegan Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds
- Moroccan-Inspired Tofu with Apricots, Almond, & Olives
- Sautéed Escarole with Red Onion & Almonds
- Couscous Pilaf with Dried Fruit, Apple, and Nuts
- Vegan Teriyaki Chick’n Salad
- Cocoa-Date Energy Balls
- Vegan Jam Bars
- Homemade Crunchy Granola
- Butternut Squash or Pumpkin Smoothie
- Roasted Eggplant & Almond Butter Spread
An elegant-tasting nut butter, almond butter packs in all of the nutrition of whole almonds. A 2-tablespoon serving contains about 190 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 18 grams of fat.
Almond butter has a somewhat grainier texture than peanut butter; however, it concentrates the sweet, pleasant flavor of almonds and lends itself to many uses. Like other specialty nut butters, commercially prepared almond butter can be rather expensive. It can be made at home quickly and easily for a fraction of the cost (learn how further down in this section). Lightly roasted almonds result in the best flavor.
How to make almond butter: Use blanched whole almonds or blanched slivered almonds for best results. Lightly roast or toast the almonds first for best flavor.
Place 1 cup of almonds in a food processor. Process until the nuts begin to hold together as a mass. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of neutral oil and continue to process, scraping the sides down from time to time, until the desired consistency is achieved. This could take a good few minutes. Add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup or agave for a touch of sweetness, if you’d like.
Transfer the almond butter to a tightly lidded container or jar. Nut butter will keep for several months in the refrigerator. For easier spreading, bring whatever quantity you need to room temperature. Some simple ways to use prepared or homemade almond butter:
Snack: Almond butter spread on good crackers and eaten with sliced pears or apples makes a satisfying snack.
Cookies: Substitute almond butter in your favorite recipe for peanut butter cookies.
Stir-fries: Add 2 to 3 tablespoons almond butter, diluted in an equivalent amount of warm water, to stir-fried vegetables for added flavor and protein.
Soup base: Add 2 to 3 tablespoons almond butter, diluted as above, to soup bases. It’s especially nice in pureed broccoli or squash soups.
Sandwich spread: Spread almond butter and preserves or apple butter on whole-grain bread for a delicious sandwich. Use sliced bananas as well, if you’d like.
Smoothies: Add 1 tablespoon or so per serving to any kind of smoothie before blending.
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