I can’t believe it’s nut butter!
9 non-sandwich uses for bread’s best spread
We didn’t suggest stocking a sustainable pantry with jars of nut butter so we could tell you to slather it on sandwiches or scoop it into oats and smoothies—or right in your mouth. At least, those aren’t the only reasons. When it comes to getting food on the table in a hurry, nut butters are a kitchen cheat code: Just a tablespoon or two adds instant nuttiness (duh), creaminess, and mild sweetness to all kinds of dishes, and it can lessen the need for other fats, dairy, binders, or seasonings.
This week, we’re turning the last bits of a tub of PB into the flavor base for a speedy dinner, and digging into how other nut and seed varieties, like cashew and sunflower butters, can get whipped into decadent sauces, alternative milks, and more. Get your spatulas ready, because this one’ll leave ya scrapin’ the bottom of the jar.
Part I: 🎵 Peanut, peanut butter—and curry 🎵
The OG of nut butters stars in a variety of savory dishes from around the globe, from Thai satay sauce to an Indonesian salad called gado gado. While PB isn’t typically a part of Indian curries, I was intrigued when I saw Carleigh Bodrug, founder of the PlantYou blog, tap it to make creamy curried chickpeas without any actual cream. Her peanut butter curry recipe uses mostly nonperishable ingredients, including four of our favorite pantry staples, for a speedy dinner. Other than some brief chopping and sautéing, the dish is basically just opening cans and dumping them into a skillet—my favorite kind of recipe.
The flavor base starts off with onions, garlic, ginger, and bell pepper sautéed in aromatic spices like curry powder, paprika, turmeric, and garam masala (which I always keep close for chana masala). Once the spices smell toasty, two big spoonfuls of peanut butter, a can of crushed tomatoes, and a can of chickpeas get dumped into the pan. After the peanut butter melts, coconut milk helps make the sauce silky-smooth. A squeeze of lime adds a necessary hit of acid to bring all the flavors together, and some baby spinach and cilantro wilt in to bring a little green.
Thanks to my favorite kitchen appliance, the rice cooker, a warm pot of rice was ready and waiting when this dish was done: only 20 minutes from start to finish. This curry was crazily easy to make and really demonstrates peanut butter’s star quality for thickening up dishes. Just a couple tablespoons gives the meal a subtle nutty sweetness and a luscious “stick to your ribs” feeling that coconut milk alone couldn’t achieve. Plus, if you use chunky peanut butter like I did, you’ll get some crunch as a bonus.
My beloved PB has a stronger taste than many other nut butters, so a little goes a long way as a thickener and flavor weapon. If you want to tap into nut butter’s ability to act as a base for silky sauces and dressings, you’ll want to turn to a more neutral one like cashew to let other ingredients shine through. I’m using it to make a quick-and-easy plant-based “cheese” sauce. I’ll hang tight while you stock up on tortilla chips...