Food, Holiday

A Family Tradition: Blanched, Butter-Roasted Almonds With Salt

Blanched, Butter-Roasted Almonds with Salt | Hitchhiking to Heaven

Yesterday, I made three pounds of buttery, salty roasted almonds. It’s a family thing — if a slightly complicated one. My biological dad’s mom taught my mom how to make them. My mom and dad split up when I was small, but my mom carried on the holiday tradition of making the almonds because, in that short time, members of both sides of the family had become addicted to them.

As a kid, I liked to hang around the kitchen while my mom prepared to roast the nuts. There was one main reason for this. The almonds must be soaked and blanched, and one way to liberate a nut from its skin is to squeeze it so that the slick almond shoots across the room at your mother, with missile-like velocity. What kid wouldn’t hang around for that? Every year, I have to launch a few almonds in this way, for old times’ sake.

Blanched, Butter-Roasted Almonds with Salt | Hitchhiking to Heaven

Last year was the first year I made these almonds myself. This is the part of the story that’s harder to tell. My dad loved these nuts so much that for years I would send him a batch that my mom had made, but I always let him think I had done it myself. (He thought “I” made them better than anyone else in the family.) Why I perpetuated this white lie is part of the familial complication — basically, I wanted everyone to be happy. But last Christmas, I decided to come clean. I asked my mom for instructions and I made the nuts. I like to think that I also told my dad the truth, that it was really my mom who had been making the almonds for me to give to him all those years. The sad thing is that I don’t remember if I told my dad the truth or not. And now I can’t ask him, because he passed away in October.

I’m so glad I made the almonds for my dad last year. I expect I’ll continue to make them as the years go on. I want to record the method here, not just because you might want to do this yourself, but so our family doesn’t lose the directions —  imprecise as they may be. Last December, my mom gave me detailed instructions over the phone, but when I went back to my notes, this is what I found I’d written down:

  • boil water
  • steep nuts
  • drain in colander/skin
  • pat dry
  • cookie sheet 1/2 stick melt down
  • add lawyer nuts (my handwriting can be pretty bad)
  • nicely coat with butter/not too close
  • space layer paper towels
  • dump onto towels
  • fine grain salt
  • cool before container

That’s totally clear, right?

Blanched, Butter-Roasted Almonds with Salt | Hitchhiking to Heaven

If it’s not, I can elaborate. What you need for each batch of almonds is:

  • 1 pound almonds
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • plenty of fine grain salt (we’ve found that ordinary Morton’s works best, better quality Kosher or sea salts don’t seem to stick as well)

1. I get a 3 pound bag of almonds from Costco (otherwise this is a very pricey undertaking) and plan for three batches, blanching all the nuts at once. All you need to do is bring a big pot of water to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, then dump in the almonds and let them soak in the hot water until they’ll easily slip their skins. I think this could be as quick as 15 minutes, but today I left them soaking for about an hour. Drain the almonds and remove the skins. I do this sitting on the floor in front of the TV. It takes me exactly the time of a full-length feature film to get the skins off 3 pounds of almonds.

2. If you want to be precise about it, you can weigh out 1 pound of almonds. I measure by eyeballing the 3-pound pile and taking what seems like a third. Pat the almonds dry between paper towels. Turn on your oven’s broiler and place a rack 5-6 inches underneath it. Put the 1/2 stick of butter on a cookie sheet with a lip and melt the butter under the broiler, checking it frequently and sliding it around to be sure the butter doesn’t scorch. Then add a single layer of nuts (they can be “lawyer nuts” if you want, but almonds are probably better) to the pan, coating them well with the butter and making sure they’re not piled on top of each other. Also, at this point you should also lay down a long double layer of paper towels on the counter, so the towels are ready when you bring the almonds out of the oven.

3. Roast the nuts under the broiler, checking and stirring them frequently. Frequently is key. After the first few minutes, you’ll be checking every couple of minutes (every minute toward the end) and “mooshing them around” (says my mom) so they don’t burn. This is where I still have some trouble. I usually don’t moosh often enough and always end up with some burned nuts. Luckily, blackened almonds also have some fans, so you can pull those out and set them aside for the lovers of burned food. The roasting and mooshing process takes about 15 minutes in all.

4. Remove the nuts from the oven and spread them onto the waiting paper towels. While they are still hot, salt them liberally. Use more salt than you think you need, because a lot of it won’t stick.

5. Let the nuts cool completely before you put them into any kind of container. This will keep them crunchy.

Roasted Almonds Under the Christmas Tree

I’d like to end with a link to a short post I wrote about my dad back in 2008. I’d forgotten about it until just now. Merry Christmas, Dad. I’ll leave your almonds under the tree.

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  • Reply Wendy Read December 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

    So sorry for your loss…we are never ready to lose a loved one. peace to you always and especially this holiday season.

    • Reply Shae December 23, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Thank you, Wendy. Happy holidays to you.

  • Reply Julia December 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I love that you are sharing this favorite recipe here, Shae. Hopefully sharing it will make a tough time easier.

    On a lighter note, by fine-grained salt do you mean Morton’s regular table salt?

    And for the record, this line made me laugh (although there were a couple of good ones in there): “Luckily, blackened almonds also have some fans, so you can pull those out and set them aside for the lovers of burned food.” Thank you for that!

    • Reply Shae December 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you, Dear Jules. Yes, regular ol’ Morton’s. I do say that above . . . “ordinary Morton’s” . . . do they make any other kind? I also had to look up “burned” v. “burnt” as an adjective for those black almonds. Unlike the salt, I found out we can use either!

  • Reply Leslie December 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Hi Shae! How sweet that you wanted your dad to have those nuts no matter who made them! What a touching description of your connection. I’m sure you miss him. Patrick is my Cindafella – lover of burned foods. He just got a new supply earlier today.

  • Reply Leslie December 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Rest of message was cut off: happy holidays to you both!

    • Reply Shae December 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Hello, Leslie! Thank you and very happy holidays to you and Patrick. You will have to tell me what wonderful thing you burned just for him. :-)

  • Reply Maria December 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing this recipe with us! I used to blanch almonds with my mum all the time when I was little and yes my favourite part was the almond launching war between me and my sister! Mum was not very happy about that though! I am sorry for your loss. My father is suffering from dementia and it is very painful for all of us at the moment. Time is a great healer. Happy Holidays

    • Reply Shae December 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      I enjoyed visiting your Box of Stolen Socks, Maria. I agree with what you said in your last blog post — with all that’s been going on, a quiet and uneventful Christmas was a lovely thing. Happy New Year to you.

  • Reply Pia December 30, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Hello Shae, you write a lovely blog. And what a beautiful post. I’m glad you got a chance to make the almonds for your Dad before he passed away. And no matter who made it before, you gave them with love, and that’s all that matters.

    • Reply Shae December 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      Pia, you write a beautiful blog. I’ve just subscribed to your posts. Thank you for visiting me here, and for this kind comment.

  • Reply Kate @ Snowflake Kitchen January 3, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I am definitely going to make these with lawyer nuts. Hope you had a restful and joyous holiday, Shae.

    • Reply Shae January 3, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Kate, I thought of you. ;-)

  • Reply Kirsten December 13, 2015 at 6:32 am

    Just the recipe I was looking for! I was trying to find a way to mimic Marcona almonds and wondered if I could roast blanched regular almonds!
    Thanks for your post. I enjoyed reading your story. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year.

    • Reply Shae December 13, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks, Kirsten! I hope this recipe works out as well for you as it has for my family. Happy Holidays to you!

  • Reply Robin November 19, 2016 at 10:03 am

    I really loved this post. So happy I found your blog. I came looking for instructions on making blanched almonds (from my childhood) and found so much more. I have told my daughter often that making food for others is a wonderful gift of love.

    • Reply Shae November 19, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Thank you so much for leaving a note, Robin — a little bright spot in a rainy day here. I hope this recipe works well for you if you try it!

  • Reply Elizabeth December 18, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    A lovely post! My dad made these almonds for Christmas every year. He passed away in November 2014 so I can understand how bittersweet this time of year can be. My aunt (his sister) requested that I make these and your recipe will be a huge help :)

    • Reply Shae December 19, 2016 at 11:51 am

      I’m touched that you left this note, Elizabeth, and glad you found your way here looking for ways to carry on your own family’s tradition. Happy Holidays to you!

  • Reply Ellen February 17, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I’ve been checking out many recipes for roasted almonds, trying to reproduce some that were given to me. I haven’t succeeded yet, but they were made with salt, olive oil and some herb/herbs.

    One thing I have learned is that you only need to leave the almonds in the boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute to get the skins off easily. Everyone says if you leave them longer they will soften, but I haven’t tried that yet. And of course when you roast them they might get crisp again.

    I did try one recipe that was very easy not to burn — put them in a 170 degree oven for 8 hours or overnight. These didn’t brown at all, but were crunchy again. I also think you can try roasting instead of broiling and get good results.

    I’ll have to try butter. I used to love, love, love buttered popcorn, but I became celiac, and then developed a cross-sensitivity to corn, so I’ll never have good buttered popcorn again. Maybe buttered almonds will do.

    Thank you.

  • Reply Gary Dickson December 21, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Sounds like a similar recipe our family has passed down. The only difference I can see is that my mom use to slice all the almonds with a paring knife after they were blanched and the skins had been removed. I’ve made roasted almonds that way many times but the slicing is the most laborious part of the process. I think I might try roasting the almonds without slicing them this year.

    • Reply Shae January 7, 2018 at 8:55 am

      Hi Gary! Thanks for this note (and I’m glad we connected on Instagram, too). One thing I find interesting is that, with this recipe, many of the almonds seem to split apart on their own after roasting. I’d be interested to know your experience if you tried it this way as opposed to slicing them by hand, which does sound like a lot of work! — Shae

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