What do you get when you merge a minimalist twist on pesto with homemade nut butter?
You’re looking at it!
Scroll through the images below of this smooth, velvety, herb-laced spread and tell me you don’t want to make a batch yourself, to slather on everything from sandwiches to flatbreads to your face.
Don’t neglect your skincare, folks.
While you could sub in many a nut for this recipe, pine nuts (also known as pignoli in Italian) are both buttery and slightly sweet, while also being sturdy enough to act as the base for a robust spread.
They’re my favorite option to use in a recipe like this one, by far, and I’ll tell you a little more about that in a second. But first, speaking of robust spreads, let’s take a brief pause to pal around with pesto.
When it comes to handcrafted pesto, I’m a sucker for swapping in all kinds of ingredients for the classic pignoli. I’m a big believer that, particularly in a traditional pesto blend, the fragrant basil and sharp garlic are the stars while the nuts (or seeds, if that’s your jam) are just there to offer texture.
Pine nuts also tend to be a bit on the expensive side. If I’ve got pesto on the brain, that doesn’t mean I’m always going to shell out the extra cash when the more wallet-friendly walnuts or almonds I already have in my pantry will do the trick.
This recipe, however, gives pine nuts a whole new sassy attitude, and they strut right up to center stage as the stars of the spread. Worth the cost? Absolutely.
The softness of these ivory-colored, teardrop-shaped pignoli allows them to blend beautifully to form a luxurious paste, and lightly toasting them first brings out a nutty essence that stands strong in the finished product. Don’t skip this step.
Next, instead of partnering the nuts with a source of sweetness, thyme and salt guide them down a more savory flavor profile path.
You may be tempted to drop in some pungent minced garlic or a squeeze of citrus, but then you’re just on your way to making pesto. And trust me when I tell you that you want to taste this nut butter in its purest form.
It’s something truly unique. And the subtle hint of herbaceous, lemony thyme combined with the rich, toasty pignoli makes a savory spread that will slap your sandwiches in the face.
Its glossy, smooth consistency makes it perfect for spreading on toast, and its earthy flavor screams, “Pair me with vegetables!”
I bet you never realized that pine nuts had so much to say. Well, as my friend The Notorious B.I.G. once said:
And if you don’t know, now you know…Print
Need a new kind of nutty condiment to add to your repertoire of spreadable recipes? This earthy pine nut butter will do the trick.
- 1 1/3 cups pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1/3–1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, tossing occasionally until fragrant and golden brown, for about 5-7 minutes.
- Add to a food processor or high-speed blender with the thyme and salt. Pulse until the nuts begin to break down. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil a few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. Season to taste with additional salt.
- Category: Nut Butter
- Method: Food Processor
- Cuisine: Condiments
Keywords: thyme, nut butter, pine nut
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Toast and Chop
First, toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat, tossing them occasionally to prevent burning, until they are fragrant and golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye on them! This will take about 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Place them in your food processor or blender immediately, so they don’t burn.
Roughly chop the thyme, and toss it in the food processor too.
Step 2 – Blend
Add the salt and pulse, until the nuts begin to break down.
With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Add just a few tablespoons at a time and then blend to combine, adding a bit more and then blending everything together until the mixture is smooth and spreadable.
You want it to be creamy enough to spread, but not overly liquidy.
Step 3 – Season to Taste
Season to taste with additional salt, and enjoy!
This spread may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Slather It On!
Although I’m a sucker for loading this spread onto hearty vegan or vegetarian sandwiches (this one with sauteed mushrooms, in particular), it makes an excellent companion to all kinds of carbs.
Twirl a big spoonful into your favorite pasta, top it with goat cheese, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest, and call me later to say thanks.
For those with a nut allergy, give toasted sesame seeds a shot instead. Their delicate texture makes them a more than adequate substitute.
And speaking of toasting, remember that nuts and seeds don’t need any additional oil added to the pan. What they’re already packing is plenty to achieve that golden-brown goodness.
Another scrumptious option to stretch this spread throughout every meal is to enjoy it melted into a gooey grilled cheese. I dig smoky gouda and cheddar for bringing out the bold notes of the toasted pignoli.
What will you reach for, when you’ve got a fresh batch of this tasty schmear ready to go? Share your recommendations in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
If all this herby green nut butter talk made your taste buds long for Pesto Land, here are some more non-traditional recipes for tasty homemade spreads and sauces that will transport you there next:
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on August 14, 2012. Last updated on August 1, 2021. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”