Taste Test: The Battle of the Almond Butters
PB&J has gotten an adult makeover. These days, peanut butters are being crowded off the supermarket shelves by almond butters. They’re a great alternative for those with peanut allergies. Aside from being lower in saturated fats than most other nut butters, almond butter has nutrients like magnesium and potassium, and provides more calcium, iron and vitamin E. If that doesn’t make you a convert, maybe the fact that almond butter is also ridiculously delicious will.
We tasted five brands, judging them on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best) for taste, texture and value, to help you make an informed decision the next time you’re standing in the grocery aisle. Watch out for added sugars: Each of these brands has between one and four grams of sugar per serving (two tablespoons is standard), making them good choices for your spread.
This spread from 365, Whole Foods' private label, contains just one ingredient: almonds. Dry-roasted almonds, to be specific. There’s no question that the process of roasting brings out a genuine nutty and sweet flavor. If your go-to butter has been of the peanut variety, you’ll find its consistency definitely thinner than what you’re used to. But close your eyes and this brand’s almond butter isn’t all that far off from the likes of peanut butter. Both “Crunchy” and “Creamy” varieties are available, with “Creamy” having an ever so slightly granular texture that puts it one notch above an utterly smooth blend. As with many nut butters, separation can occur, resulting in a small amount of oil rising to the top of the container. Whole Foods has this covered and left room for stirring so it won’t make a mess.
You may have heard about John Mayer’s recent Twitter wish. After the singer polished off Justin’s single-serving squeeze pack of Maple Almond Butter, he tweeted that he’d like a cookie dough variety added to the rotation. Justin’s took the star’s request to heart and whipped up a special batch of Cookie Dough Almond Butter just for Mayer, which he described (on Instagram) as “nirvana on a spoon.” While we didn’t get a sample of the star-studded limited edition, it’s true Justin’s almond butters are nirvana. Also dry-roasted, Justin’s earns a 5 on the texture meter for its silky smoothness. Of all their flavors — Classic, Vanilla, Honey, and Maple — Maple, sweetened with maple sugar, is No. 1 on our list (there's 3 grams of sugar per serving compared to 2 grams per serving for the classic variety). The convenient single-serving squeeze packs are also a plus, great packed in a lunchbox, in the glove compartment or stowed away in your purse for when hunger strikes.
Justin’s almond butters are available at stores nationwide, including: Whole Foods, Target, Jewel-Osco, Publix, Safeway, Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Kroger, Giant, Giant Eagle, Bashas’, Harris Teeter, HEB and The Fresh Market, and online at www.justins.com .
Dastony’s almond butters tasted quite noticeably different than the rest of the butters we tried. The main reason is the way in which the nuts are processed. Dastony’s philosophy is “Raw and Living.” As such, they treat each ingredient as a living thing, choosing to stone-grind their almonds under granite while a temperature cooler than 118 degrees is maintained. Dastony claims that this process reduces a loss of nutrients that traditional manufacturing may induce. What results is a butter with a detectable earthiness, one that a more conventional eater may think tastes like it was purchased in a health food store. The butter is a little loose and thin for spreading on toast, but great for drizzling in a smoothie — especially for those following a raw diet.
Available at select retailers and online stores. Find out where to buy here.
Nut butters have been popular with triathletes and marathoners because of nuts' high protein levels. With the addition of whey protein, Buff Bake’s almond butters serve up that extra dose of protein that serious athletes crave. While we’re more kitchen-bound than Iron Man-bound, Buff Bake’s most-favored flavor was certainly Snickerdoodle, with the taste of whey protein undetected. The blend of roasted almonds, coconut palm sugar, cinnamon, coconut oil, chia and flax seeds (plus whey protein) left us wondering if this was some sort of scam, since the spread tasted pretty much like a freshly baked, cinnamon-y snickerdoodle.
Let’s get right to the point: We’re now 100 percent addicted to Barney Butter. It has a beautiful creamy texture that’s thick enough to spread or dip chunks of apple into. The almonds are blanched and roasted, which accentuates the flavor. Barney Butter comes in a variety of options: Bare (with no added salt or sugar); Crunchy; Smooth; Cocoa + Coconut; Honey + Flax; and Raw + Chia. But the one jar we want to keep all to ourselves is most definitely Vanilla Bean + Espresso Almond Butter. Studded with tiny flecks of crushed espresso bean, it is a testament to everything we love about artisan-made goods.
Available at retailers nationwide and online at barneybutter.com ; 10 ounces starting at $8 and 16 ounces starting at $10
Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.