Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nut Butters, Beyond Peanut Butter: Daring Cook's July Challenge

We are nut-heads here. It is yet another food I have learned to love as a grown-up, but my kids never went through that phase. They will eat nuts roasted and salted, dry roasted and raw. Anything in massive amounts. One time we thought Aaron had ingested gluten, until we found that the missing pound of pecans was the likely culprit of his tummy ache. Nut butters are at home here...

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

We of course couldn't do just peanut butter or even almond butter. If you can buy it at Costco it isn't daring enough for a Davies' Daring Cook's challenge. My kids love pumpkin seeds, or the Mexican version consisting of only the meats, called pepitas. So I picked up a bag from Trader Joe's and made pepita butter.Pepita have less fat in them than nuts (they are really a seed), so making pepita butter requires adding a bit of oil. I left mine fairly thick, leaving me with a thick, earthy almost grassy flavored spread. I used it to make energy bars, paring the earthy flavor with sweet dried figs and hearty gluten-free oat bran.

For our second butter, we made use of the smoker, mixing together smoked pecans and cashew butter.  The result is a decadent smokey, and slightly sweet butter. It goes well with savory or sweet applications. I enjoyed the leftovers with honey or chocolate. Yes, smokey with chocolate - it is all the rage and there is a reason for it - it is tasty. But for the Daring Cook's challenge we made a sauce out of our figs and smoked pecan cashew butter to top a broiled wild coho salmon fillet. The kids devoured all of it.

Thank you for such a fun challenge and for opening us up something beyond peanut butter!


Smoked pecan and cashew butter

  • 1/2 pound pecans
  • 1/2 pound dry roasted cashews
  • 1-2 t kosher salt (or to taste)

  1. Smoke pecans for about 30 minutes at 250 degrees. We used pecan wood. Alternatively you can add a couple drops of liquid smoke.
  2. Add pecans and cashews to bowl of food processor or Vitamix and blend until a smooth paste. 
  3. Add salt to taste.

Fig and smoked pecan cashew sauce

  • 1 finely diced shallot or same amount of finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, lightly smashed
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
  • fig vinegar or other fruity vinegar
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 T smoked almond cashew butter
  • Water as needed

  1. Saute chopped shallot in a small amount of olive oil until it softens, add garlic clove and saute for a minute or so. 
  2. Add about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to deglaze the pan.
  3. Add chicken stock, figs, rosemary and thyme and simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  4. Remove some of the now softened figs for garnish and the rosemary sprig. 
  5. Puree the mixture and add in the nut butter, puree until smooth. Add water as needed to get the consistency you would like. 
  6. Add salt to taste, and you may want to add more vinegar at this point to up the acidity of the sauce.
  7. Serve over chicken, pork, fish, salmon or even tofu. 


Pepita butter

  • 1 pound pepitas
  • 1 T neutral oil, plus more as needed
  • 1-2 t kosher salt

  1. Roast pepitas in a skillet over medium heat until they begin to brown and pop. 
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or vitamix blend all ingredients until it becomes a paste. 
  3. Add oil to get the consistency you want and salt to taste.

Pepita fig lime bars

  • 1 cup pepita butter
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup gluten-free oats or oat bran
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 2 T ground flax seeds
  • Juice and zest of one lime

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix flax seeds with the lime juice, and warm for a few seconds in the microwave. Set aside
  3. Add figs and oats to food processor and pulse until well ground and incorporated. 
  4. Add remaining ingredients and process until well blended. 
  5. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick on a silpat lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Cut into squares and allow to cool. 


  1. Well a lot of lovely recipes that you created for this challenge each sounds so delicious but the Pepita fig lime bars caught my eye something that would be great for picnics and the lunch box well done on this challenge. Great pix also. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Wow - fantastic job and really creative with your different recipes for this challenge. I must say, I am really intrigued by the pepita butter and the energy bars that you made from it - sounds really interesting!! Really great job with this challenge!

  3. I'm so impressed with your creative and daring recipes! I've got a bag of pepitas in the freezer and can't wait to try your energy bars. That is so cool you made a smoked nut butter, bet it was delish on the salmon.

  4. Smoked butter, what an excellent idea. And I've been wanting to make my own energy bars for while now, thanks for posting your recipe!

  5. super daring indeed - and creative. Love it! And your photos are beautiful. I really hope you will submit this recipe and more to my new "vegan finds" site: