Getting this recipe right has been a very long process. Here’s my current method:
- 3 cups raw almonds
- Place almonds into a food processor.
- Process for 10-15 minutes.
- This will yield an almond butter with a 'stone-ground' or 'slightly chunky' texture.
- For a smoother result, put the almond butter into a Vitamix. Blend for about a minute at high speed, using the tamper, until it's a homogenous texture.
And all the history and experiments that got me to that method:
2012: I’ve been a fool. I’ve had a Vitamix for several years without ever making my own nut butter. I set out to remedy that omission recently, making almond butter twice to test the process with a Vitamix. With almonds from Costco, the total cost was $3.26 for a pound of almond butter. I’d recently finished of a jar of raw almond butter from Trader Joe’s, and my batch fit nicely into the cleaned empty jar. Score.
Directions for making homemade almond butter with a food processor can be found at Heather Eats Almond Butter‘s recipe for homemade nut butter. I would hesitate to make this recipe in a low-powered blender or one without a thermal sensor to protect the motor from overheating. This recipe is hard work for any machine and it wouldn’t be worth the risk of burning out your food processor or blender’s motor.
The first time I made almond butter with the Vitamix I left the machine running at a low speed until the nuts were finely chopped, then went to the highest variable speed. That resulted in the machine shutting itself off to protect the motor from overheating, so I had to finish the almond butter an hour later.
The second time I increased the speed quickly to the highest variable setting, then high power. At 30 seconds, I smelled a plastic smell, which may have simply been the almonds heating the container. The almonds themselves got very hot, while the machine base stayed cool. I left the machine off for a few minutes to be cautious, then resumed blending at high speed. The almond butter was done about a minute later, just long enough that my arm got a nice little workout from tamping it.
Update: In the year and a half since I first posted this I’ve changed my technique several times through experimentation and with the feedback of helpful readers like Angela. I start with frozen almonds which helps me avoid overheating the nuts or the machine. I’ve learned that patience makes the difference for getting creamy, oily almond butter without setting off the heat shutoff of the machine. After tamping the nuts a few times (letting the Vitamix’s rotors come up to full speed after each tamping) I actually lift the container off the base with the machine still running. I feel that lets air run freely through the machine and cool it off. I blend the almonds a bit at a time over about five minutes.
If the almond butter still seems too dry or crumbly and the machine and almonds are getting hot, I have learned to put the almond butter (in the blender jar) in the freezer, letting it cool for several hours, and then finish the almond butter later.
I think the hard almonds are at the limit of what the Vitamix can do. I have not had any problems with nut butters I’ve made from softer nuts like pine, macadamia, walnut, or pistachio. I’ve tried this recipe twice with half almonds and half macadamia nuts, which are very soft, and had overheating problems both times. The hard almonds, even half-and-half, make this tricky. Thanks for all your comments so far, it’s been fun to compare notes!
Here are detailed directions for Vitamix-made almond butter:
Turn Vitamix on the lowest variable setting, quickly increase speed to highest variable setting and then to high power while tamping the almonds.
With the machine at high power, continue to tamp the almonds, letting the machine come up to full speed between each tamping.
Watch the temperature (and smell) of the machine and the nuts and stop it if you suspect you are getting near to overheating the machine.
If it actually does get too hot, the Vitamix has an automatic thermal shutoff to protect the motor. But it will not turn on again until it has cooled off and some time (maybe an hour) has passed. So be aware and use caution.
I sometimes lift the container top and let the empty base run a little bit to run air through the machine.
Alternate tamping the almonds, running the machine without load, and taking little breaks for about five minutes. If I’m not satisfied with the result (if the almonds are blended but the resulting nut butter is not oily or creamy) I put the canister into the freezer and come back to the task later in the day. The second time I get the result that I want right away.
2016 update: I now start this recipe by food processing the almonds. I find that the natural oil in the almonds does not become apparent, making the almond butter creamy, unless the almonds are food processed. They need to be food processed for quite a while, at least ten minutes and sometimes more. Vitamix-ing yields a drier-tasting almond butter, it doesn’t ever seem to bring out the oiliness of the almonds.
And yet food processing, no matter for how long, leaves the almond butter with flecks from the almond skins. I dislike that appearance and texture. Sometimes I leave the almond butter that way, but I try to go for the best of both worlds. After I food process the almonds, I put the almond butter in the Vitamix and blend it for a minute or two to finish it off.
What a long learning process this almond butter has been! Thanks again for all the reader feedback.