Homemade peanut butter. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

That 30 cases of salmonella have been reported in 18 states is, of course, troubling (HuffPo story here). I buy bottled stuff—mustard, mayo, ketchup, hoisin, etc.—and feed it to my kids. But the salmonella—have they isolated its source?—makes it an an opportune time to encourage people to make their own peanut butter.

Why? It tastes better, it’s easy to make if you have a food processor, and it won’t have nasty bugs that can make your kids sick. And, it’s cheaper by far than buying commercial.

At my local Asian grocery, a five-pound bag of peanuts costs me $9.99. A pound of peanuts ($2) will yield a little more than a pound of peanut butter, less than half what you’ll pay for decent peanut butter (Smucker’s All-Natural costs $4.83 at my local store and a whopping $11.66 from Amazon—but hurry! only 6 left in stock!).

No reason not to make your own. Puree cooked peanuts till they’re creamy, adding a little extra oil to get them moving, a little salt for flavor, and if you like some sweetness, a little honey.

Dropping the peanuts in oil.

Most recipes call for roasting raw peanuts or buying roasted peanuts. I think they taste much better when fried in oil (and the oil, which will take on a nutty flavor, can be reused throughout the week for normal cooking). Here are 4 cups of peanuts in 1½ cups of vegetable oil. Start them in room-temperature oil.

Removing the peanuts.

When they begin to bubble vigorously, stir continuously for even cooking (if you don’t, the ones on the bottom can burn). Fry them just till they’re lightly golden brown, remembering that they’ll continue to cook a little more after they’re out of the oil.

Peanuts are ready to blend.

Allow the peanuts to cool at least till you can handle them. Put them in a food processor and blend away. I added a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of raw honey; it needs the salt, but honey is optional. I also added 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil to facilitate the pureeing (add more if you want it looser). Depending on how much you make and the size of your processor, it may be easier to do it all in two batches. (I’d have asked Donna to photograph this but my processor is so beat up, I’ve jury-rigged it so that I can run it without a top, which isn’t really safe, especially if you’re cooking with kids. This How-To link has good pics of what it looks like in the processor.)
I’ll quote the photographer, licking the bowl after shooting: “Oh! This is soooo good!” How often does store-bought peanut butter get that reaction? Young James, on returning from football practice, gave it a smile and a thumbs-up as well.
I also cook peanuts this way because the peanuts, salted with fine salt immediately out of the oil, are far superior to those greezy Planters cocktail peanuts at the store, and again, 100% cheaper. I eat them as a snack and put them in stir-fries.
And a note to parents with kids who have peanut allergies: the same technique can be used with cashew nuts (a little more expensive, a lot more delicious).

Homemade Peanut Butter

  • 4 cups raw blanched peanuts (about 600 grams)
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  1. Combine the peanuts and the oil in a heavy, high-sided pot over high heat.
  2. When the oil bubbles and froths, begin stirring the peanuts and don’t stop until they’re done (enjoy the beauty of peanuts boiling in oil and think about how good they’re going to taste).
  3. When they’re lightly browned (careful, they can turn on you in an instant), remove them to a bowl lined with paper towels. Allow them to cool enough that you can taste them by hand.
  4. Eat a few peanuts.
  5. Pour the peanuts into a food processor along with the salt and honey (if using) and, with a metal blade, blend continuously for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture becomes spreadable.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the processor bowl.
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning as you wish. Continue blending until you have the consistency you like.
  8. Store in the fridge, covered, for up to a month.
  9. Pour the oil through a fine-mesh strainer, and reserve it to use for other cooking.

Makes 1 pint of peanut butter (a little more than 600 grams), and a little less than 1½ cups nutty vegetable oil.

Other links you may like:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.