Going Nuts Over Almonds
It’s time for a new spotlight ingredient! We’re shifting from plums to a sister of plums…almonds! “A sister?”, you may be thinking. Yes, they’re like, super related. Let’s just jump into it so I can explain.
What are Almonds?
We should probably start with the very important fact that almonds are not, in fact, nuts. They’re actually the seed of a fruit from the almond tree. Like cherries, peaches, and plums, that fruit is a stone fruit, having a fleshy fruit exterior and a pit on the inside.
So what the heck is a nut then? Well true nuts have a hard outer shell (think acorns or chestnuts). If it makes you feel better, the food world has taken to calling almonds “culinary nuts” (so as to make them feel included). But whatever you call ‘em, almonds are delicious, nutritious, and we’ll be cooking up an almond storm for the next two weeks!
Varieties of Almonds
There are a number of almond varieties, but you’ll probably only have a variety or two in your local grocery. So today let’s just look at the different ways you might buy almond products in your average store.
- In Shell: These are just plain almonds exactly as they come, in their hard shell.
- Kernel: The part we eat is the kernel of the seed. These can either come natural (unprocessed) or blanches (brown skin removed).
- Slices or Flakes: Thinly sliced and either natural or blanched, these are great for topping salads or garnishing desserts.
- Slivers: These are split lengthwise into quarters (ish), so they’ve got a bit more crunch than sliced almonds. These are great for adding texture to foods.
- Meal: This has a flour-like consistency. You can use it as a thickener, flavor enhancer, to coat pan-fried/fried foods, or in place of wheat flour in some gluten-free recipes.
- Milk: Almonds and water are pulverized then strained to create a delicious faux milk! Learn to make your own here.
How to Store Almonds
- Store almonds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. They’ll stay good in the fridge for quite a few months, and in the freezer for up to 2 years.
- Almonds like to absorbs odors, so try to keep them away from smelly foods, like garlic and onions.
Almond Flavor Combos
Fun fact: You can substitute apricot kernels for almonds in baking (like for making almond paste!) But fun facts aside, here are some flavors that (according to the Vegetarian Flavor Bible), go really well with almonds. You can use these as a starting point for your own cooking experimentation!
- Other stone fruits (cherries, peaches, apricots, plums)
- Maple Syrup
Almond Nutrition Information
per 1 cup of (143 g) whole almonds
- Calories: 822
- Carbohydrates: 31 g
- Fiber: 17 g, 70% of Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 30 g
- Fat: 71 g
- 187% DV of Vitamin E (a.k.a Tocopherols and Tocotrienols): A fat-soluble antioxidant that fights against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) from reacting with oxygen when fat is metabolized.
- 85% DV of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): A water-soluble vitamin that acts as a component of FAD to help your body break down macronutrients in the electron transport chain, creating usable energy.
- 38% DV of Calcium: 1% of the calcium in your body plays a vital role in vascular contraction/dilation and nerve transmission and signaling. The other 99% supports teeth and bone structure and function.
- 30% DV of Potassium: A key mineral and electrolyte involved in countless processes, including healthy nervous system functioning and contraction of the heart and muscles.