Hazelnut butter is a rich, creamy nut butter made from the product of the hazelnut or filbert tree. Although not as popular as nut butters like peanut and almond, hazelnut butter is sometimes available in grocery and health food stores. It is also possible to make it at home with the assistance of a blender or nut grinder.
To make hazelnut butter, hazelnuts are toasted and then ground with oil. Some producers use hazelnut oil, while others may add almond, olive, or grapeseed. Only a small amount of oil is needed, since the nuts are naturally quite oily. The end result is a dense paste which may be flecked with pieces of the skin of the hazelnuts, unless they have been removed. As is the case with peanut butter, hazelnut butter is available in creamy and chunky formats.
Like other nut butters, hazelnut butter is very high in fat. The high fat content makes it rich and greatly enjoyable for many consumers, but it also threatens its stability. Storebought butter is usually shelf stable for six months to a year before it is opened. Once opened, the nut butter should be refrigerated so that the natural oils do not go rancid, and ideally used within four months. Make sure to stir the butter when you use it, as the fat tends to form a layer on top.
There are a number of uses for hazelnut butter. Since it is so rich, it is important to remember that a little goes a long way. Some consumers like to spread it on toast or cookies, or eat it with fruits such as apples. It can also be incorporated into dessert recipes which call for peanut butter, or layered into cakes and cookie sandwiches. For people who are fond of Viennese food, hazelnut butter is a crucial component of hazelnut thins, popular butter cookies which can be dipped in chocolate for an especially luxurious flavor.
In addition to being high in fat, hazelnut butter also has a large protein content, just as the nuts themselves do. The nuts also contain some calcium and iron. Although it is probably not healthy in large amounts simply because of the fat content, a small smear of it has some dietary merit. It is also important to remember that the fat in this type of butter is a “good” fat which should not negatively impact cholesterol levels.