Making almond butter is dirt simple—raw almonds go into the oven and then into the food processor. There’s nothing to it. Nevertheless, recipes for it proliferate, and most of these are wrong in one way or another.
For one thing, a surprising number of them call for vegetable oil. The thinking seems to be that the almonds need help turning into a soft paste, and that adding oil will get the almond particles moving in the right direction. But the processor alone can do this. All you have to do is wait: With each minute that its metal blade whirs, cutting the almonds into smaller and smaller pieces, the processor coaxes oil from inside the almonds, and that is all the oil your almond butter needs.
Aside from using almonds and a touch of salt, could you add flaxseed for supposed health benefits, or honey or brown sugar to make it more appealing to sugar hounds or kids? Probably. Shards of dark chocolate tempt me, definitely. But I think almonds are naturally sweet and healthy enough on their own.
Please excuse me if I take making almond butter a tad too seriously. In my defense, one taste of homemade, still-warm almond butter, fresh from roasting and broken down to release its smooth, rich creaminess, is its own argument.
Almond butter starts with heating the oven to 375 degrees and arranging the almonds in a single layer on a sheet pan. I’ve fiddled around with roasting temperatures and times, and this is what works. In they go, for 10 to 12 minutes.
If they roast for much longer, the oven will churn out a popcorn-like aroma, and guess what? Time to start over. (Once, thinking I could salvage most of a singed batch, I picked through the burnt almonds and processed the remainder. The dark brown, over-thick goo building up in the food processor looked plenty unappetizing, and tasting it confirmed that this attempt belonged in the trash.) So the roasting can be a dangerous game: You want that roasted taste, because that adds depth. If anything, err on the side of under-roasting them, just to be safe.
Let the almonds cool awhile, just so you can touch them without wincing, and then they can go into the processor
This is the fun part: After the first minute, when you stop to scrape down the workbowl, you’ll have a dusty almond meal.
One or two more minutes more, and the meal starts to clump together.
In another minute, it’s sticky from the bit of oil that the almonds have released, and when you drag a spatula through it, you’ll see a slight trail.
Let it whir around for one more minute to a creamy paste that’s almost a puree.
Now, taste it and decide if you want salt, and how much. I find the barest minimum—1 teaspoon kosher salt per 4-cup batch of almonds—is usually best. Add it, give it a few pulses in the machine, and this is almond butter.