Are nut butters rancid?
Recently I was asked if freshly ground roasted peanut butter sold at the health food store was rancid? Should people avoid eating roasted nuts and seeds, and therefore, what about roasted nut butter?
The difference between raw and roasted nuts and seeds:
I would say the better option is to buy nuts and seeds raw. You can eat them plain, or you can soak them in water overnight, you can even sun-dry or dehydrate them at a low temperature, and season them however you like. By eating nuts and seeds raw you will get the most nutrition from them, and consume healthy nutritious fats and oils.
It is true that the oils in some nuts and seeds can be quite delicate, that under high heat they can easily be damaged. That’s why you see a lot of cold pressed nut or seed oils sold at grocery stores and health food stores, because if the oils were extracted under high heat, the oils could easily spoil, burn, go rancid, or change in molecular structure. Since the oils from some nuts and seeds are so delicate, and especially delicate upon extraction, that would also mean you are better off eating the actual nuts and seeds raw, as opposed to fried or roasted, and that includes nut or seed butters as well.
Do keep in mind that if oils of the roasted nuts and seeds did spoil or burn from roasting them under high heat, you’d probably taste it, or smell that it is off, especially if there is no added flavouring or seasoning added to the product.
The choices you have with buying nut or seed butters:
If you are concerned that the heating of the nuts or seeds is rendering the products rancid, then the safest route would always be to buy the raw version of nut or seed butters. An example would be almond butter – there’s both roasted and raw almond butters available, and both are tasty. If I had the choice, I would usually choose the raw one over the roasted just because I am hopefully getting a more nutritious product, and it’s a little less processed.
An alternative is to buy your own nuts and seeds and make your own nut butter (you can make a nut butter using a juicer, high speed blender, or food processor). If you prefer the taste of a roasted butter, you can always bake/dry roast the nuts or seeds yourself at a very low temperature (set it to the lowest temperature on your oven). By baking or dry roasting the nuts and seeds yourself, at a very low temperature, you could be preserving more nutrition and safe-guarding the oils from getting damaged by high heat. By making your own nut butter, raw or roasted, you are also avoiding the use of unnecessary oils or flavouring that some manufacturers use.
As for the peanut butter – there’s a few things to know about peanut butter. Peanuts, which aren’t even a nut, are very heat resistant. Peanut oil actually has a high smoke-point, doesn’t burn as easily under high heat as other vegetable oils, and would be safe to cook with like coconut oil or palm oil. The problem with peanut oil is it’s usually never cold pressed, it’s chemically extracted, and no one wants to eat oils that has been extracted with chemicals, right?! So with that being said, the oil in fresh peanuts is heat resistant, so the roasted version is definitely safe to eat.
What to really watch out for when buying and using nut or seed butters
Whenever the conversation comes up about raw vs. roasted nuts or seeds, and the butters, the one thing that always comes to mind is the actual freshness of the product. In fact, I would be more concerned about the quality and freshness of the nuts and seeds used in the butters over whether they are raw or roasted.
If you are buying pre-made, factory packaged nut butters, unless the product has a production date on it, you never really know when that nut and seed butter was made, how fresh the nuts and seeds were, and how long it has been sitting in the jar. The one big benefit of roasted nuts and seeds, is the heat used to cook the nuts and seeds does kill off mold and bacteria, all of which can potentially grow on any fresh food. The down side of some roasted nuts and seeds is sometimes manufacturers use low quality oils to roast the nuts or seeds, which may or may not be indicated on the packaging.
When purchasing a nut or seed butter, it’s always best to buy the freshest product possible. If you can buy a nut or seed butter that is actually made fresh on the spot, over something that has been made and packaged in a factory, this is always best. Always store the nut or seed butter in the fridge and eat it within a few days or weeks of purchasing. Many people have fresh nut butters stored in their pantry for years, and this I find could be more of a risk of a rancidity than the actual roasting of the nuts or seeds.
We have to remember that a nut butter is a fresh food and it’s important to store and preserve it like you would any other food. To maintain the freshness of the product, never remove or discard the layer of oil that accumulates at the surface of the nut or seed butter. This is actually a natural occurrence, and acts as a perfect natural preservative because the oil seals away any air or moisture from the nut butter. It’s perfectly fine to mix that oil in with the nut butter before eating it, but don’t ever discard it.
In conclusion, when shopping for nut or seed butters:
1- If you can get a raw version of the butter, buy it over the roasted version.
2- Buy it as fresh as possible. If you can get the ones that are freshly ground at the grocery store or health food store as opposed to the pre-packaged, jarred versions, I would buy the fresh one instead.
3- Eat it quickly! Better to buy smaller amounts and finish it quickly than buying large amounts that you store for months at a time
4- Refrigerate it.
5- Eat it within 2-8 weeks.
6- Never remove or discard the oil that accumulates at the top of the nut or seed butter, this acts as a natural preservative for the butter.
7- Learn how to make your own! It’s much cheaper and tastier!
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