About a month ago, I toasted up several pounds of sunflower seeds, packed up my food processor, and drove to a local library to make sunflower seed butter in front of an audience.
I’ve made a lot of nut and seed butters over the years, but I’ve come to believe that sunflower seed butter gives you the most bang for your time and buck, particularly when you compare it with the cost of a jar bought from the store.
Here’s how you do it. Start with raw, unsalted seeds and toast them. I find that 12 to 15 minutes at 350°F is ideal in my oven (making sure to give the pan a good shake at least once during toasting). You want them to be quite fragrant when you pull them from the oven.
Let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes, until you can tumble them into the bowl of your food processor without burning yourself.
Now it’s time to process. For this first stage, let the processor run for 30 to 45 seconds, until the seeds have been broken down into a sandy meal. This is the stage at which I add salt and other seasonings (my favorite is to add vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, and a little sugar).
Now we process again, until it starts looking like wet sand. In my machine, this takes about a minute. However, it can really vary depending on the freshness of the seeds you started with.
Once you’ve scraped the sides and base of the bowl, it’s time to process again. This time, we’re going to stream in some neutral vegetable oil while the processor runs, to help the butter loosen up. I always have sunflower seed oil in my kitchen, so I reach for it here. I use anywhere from 1-3 tablespoons, depending on the seeds. Start with 1 and work your way up gradually.
Then you run the processor again until the butter goes from clumpy to runny. I find that this will take another couple minutes. Sometimes I take a five minute break when making sunflower seed butter, to give my food processor a little time to cool off. Sunflower seeds aren’t as hard as peanuts or almonds, but still give the processor motor a workout.
When you’re all done, you’ll have about two cups of delicious, budget-friendly sunflower seed butter. It’s a good skill to have your kitchen arsenal, particularly if you regularly find yourself in places where nuts are prohibited.
- 1 pound raw sunflower seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1-3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the sunflower seeds out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring the seeds at least once during baking, to ensure even roasting.
- When the sunflower seeds are fragrant and golden brown, remove the pan from the oven. Let the seeds cool 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully pour them into the bowl of a food processor.
- Process the seeds for about 30 seconds, until the seeds have broken down into a rough meal. Add the salt and process again.
- Continue to process in 20-30 second stints, stopping the motor and removing the lid after each stint to break up any clumps and scrape down the sides of the processor.
- The sunflower butter will look like wet sand and then will start to roll around the processor in one or two large clumps.
- At this point, stream in 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil and continue to process. If it doesn’t look liquidy and buttery within 15 to 20 seconds, add a second tablespoon. Should it still resist, go with one more.
- When the butter pools in the food processor bowl and looks quite spreadable, it is done.
- Scrape the finished butter into a jar or container. It will keep 2-3 weeks at room temperature. For longer storage, refrigerate.
To make the sunflower seed butter into Cinnamon Vanilla Butter, add 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, and 2 tablespoons sugar with the salt.