Chef Michael Kanter started experimenting with savory nut butters in 2013 in the Eliot neighborhood of Portland, Ore., and a few short months later, the mom-and-pop operation introduced its fiery lineup of Eliot's Adult Nut Butters. It's blown up big time since then, with production going from zero to 4,500 jars a month. I picked up a jar at Made Here PDX in the Rose City's Pearl District and was instantly hooked.
I've never been a huge peanut butter fan, totally burning out on the sticky stuff by the time my kiddo graduated from elementary school. Even feel that ambivalence about most things made with peanut butter. Peanut butter cookies are fine, but chocolate chips are way better. Just saying.
So, I'm not exactly sure what prompted me to pick up a jar of the Spicy Thai Peanut Butter. Maybe it spoke to the "adult" and my 10-year-old self that occasionally craves a PB&J. I didn't even wait to get it home before unscrewing the lid and sticking a spoon in. Oh, man. It's got that sweet heat from cayenne and a bit of sugar. Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass bring a citrus-y bounce to the party. And I do mean party. Ever since first falling for it, I've kept a jar on my desk, and when people stop by to say hi, I ask if they want to try it. So far, the approval rating's a whopping 100 percent.
Copycat Recipe Development
I love it so much I even tried to make a DIY imitation, mixing Sriracha into almond butter at home. Let's just say that experiment was a noble failure. And, yes, there is a very real danger of going for too much of a good thing when playing around with everybody's go-to pho condiment. Then again, maybe it was the less-than-fresh-tasting nut butter that was the issue.
Kanter sources non-GMO peanuts from Georgia, and sticks with small batches. He's rolling out two new flavors soon, as Chocolate Chili Peanut Butter and Sriracha Sunflower Seed Butter will join Garam Masala, Honey Chipotle, Espresso Nib Peanut Butter, and Harissa Cashew. There are a few recipes on Eliot's website, and making Thai-style noodles basically involves stirring nut butter, soy sauce, and a little brown sugar into steamy spaghetti. The creator of this crave-worthy stuff said his ultimate PB&J involves pairing Honey Chipotle Peanut Butter and raspberry jam with crispy slices of bacon and sliced jalapenos. The nut butters can be used in all sorts of peanut butter recipes. Still, my favorite way to eat it is straight out of the jar with a spoon, or using apple slices as a scoop.
Eliot's Adult Nut Butter is available at specialty retailers around the Northwest and can be ordered on its website, with the company gradually widening its distribution.