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Pouring Off Nut Butter Oil

A while back, in a vegan forum to which I belong, someone asked whether it made any difference (or rather, how much of a difference it made) in the fat content of a jar of nut butter to pour off that layer of oil at the top of natural nut butters.

I described a method whereby you could determine it on a case by case basis, but they weren’t up to the hassle. So, I said I’d get back to them with my results. I’m now ready to report on some preliminary measurements.

First, let me say, if you’ve never seen a layer of separated oil floating at the top of your jar of peanut or other nut butter, you’re eating the wrong kind! ;)

Seriously, the way the mainstream nut butters avoid this natural separation is by — you guessed it — unnatural means. It’s one of the many wonders of hydrogenation that this pesky process is perturbed at room temperature.

It’s really not much of a hassle and can be kind of a fun visceral experience to dig in there and stir things up. And, there’s always the trick of turning the jar upside-down for a while to get the oil at the bottom for easier mixing.

But, this post isn’t about making it easier to keep that fat (healthy though it may be in an unadulterated nut butter), rather to satiate our curiosity about this vegan equivalent to “blotting” — that oh-so-disgusting, napkin-drenching, pizza-eating preparation.  

Here’s what I did. Using my kitchen scale on the grams setting, I weighed what I was able to pour off from four different nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, and sesame [tahini]). Over the course of several months (it’s just me, after all), I managed to accumulate 3-4 measurements for each type.

I’d planned to take an average for each type and use that for my calculations, but I soon discovered sometimes you just don’t get much to drain off at all. This can happen if it hasn’t sat for long or has had a rough ride in the car or had been tipped on its side for a while, etc.. So, what follows are from the most successful separations and serve as an indication of what’s possible. I figured, if there wasn’t much savings in the best examples, then we’d know it was a vain attempt, a waste of time, and not worth the dryer nut butter thus obtained.

Note: About that last point, stirring in a little water helps keep it spreadable.

Here’s what I found. Given a 16 oz jar of nut butter, with 14 to 15 servings of 2 Tablespoons each, it is possible to save up to two grams of fat per serving. Not too shabby.

Servings Fat Per
Less Per
Almond 255 g 15 17 g 25 g 1.7 g
Cashew 225 g 15 15 g 23 g 1.5 g
Peanut* 238 g 14 17 g 21 g 1.5 g
Tahini 252 g 14 18 g 28 g 2.0 g


5 Responses to “Pouring Off Nut Butter Oil”

  1. kamg says:

    Ah, but how do you know that the “liquid” poured off is pure fat? :)

  2. Erin says:

    Because that’s what oil is. :P

  3. Brivari says:

    Gee, and all this time I thought I was the only person nutty enough (pun intended) to pour off the oil. I buy Costco’s Kirkland smooth and ‘recover’ between a third and a half cup per 28 oz. jar. In my case I do it because I like the thicker butter and I keep the oil separate for cooking purposes, it works wonders in salad dressings. I know I get most of the oil because Costco sells the jars in pairs and I rebuy when I open the last jar, so they sit up to 3 months in my pantry before opening.

    Ok, just for you, as way of repayment for getting conned into misgendering you. I just took one of my jars that I bought in January and poured off 91 grams of oil. Call it 90 grams to make up for the peanut solids that tail along for the ride? That’s from a 28 oz. jar that per the nutritional panel has 24 servings w/15 grams fat. Hmm, looks like I don’t get most of the fat after all. That would reduce the fat to 11.25g per serving.

    BTW; I still need to mix the butter after pouring off the fat. The Costco jars always have an almost rock hard layer of peanut at the bottom. I scoop the entire jar (sans oil) into my food processor and let it do the work, then scoop it all back into the jar. Lotta work, but still easier than trying to remove the lumps with a knife. And I still get the joy of licking my rubber scoop-spoon after the jar is reloaded.

    Oh, if you redo this nutty experiment, it’s easier to stick the jar in the freezer for a few hours and then scrape off the oil. It doesn’t freeze as hard as the nutty stuff and it tends to come out in chunks and the nut stuff won’t come out with it.

  4. Erin says:

    Good stuff, Brivari. Thanks. Remember, these were my best numbers, so it doesn’t surprise me if you weren’t able to pour off quite as much. That was often the case here too. But, what the experiment made clear to me was that it *can* be worth it, if you have a particularly juicy jar. I think that rock hard layer is common to most natural nut butters, so, like yourself, it doesn’t stop with just pouring off the oil, you’ll want to stir up what remains (the food processor is an extra step with which I don’t bother). By the way, great yahoo group you’ve got there (veganview). Full of spirited, intellectual debate.

  5. [...] it on a tough winter, reporting on the recalls, and the nut butter oil experiment (I know… call me a martyr. Ha!), but the fact remains, while low by AMA standards, it’s [...]

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