Toasted Almonds with Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon

Not too long ago, I hosted a get together for our local Weston A. Price Foundation in our home, which is an invaluable resource for education, community connections and finding sustainable farms in your area (you can see if there’s a chapter in your area here).   Pressed for time, I had little to offer the potluck table and put a bowl of seasoned almonds together in under ten minutes.  Since that time, I’ve made these toasted almonds several times.  I enjoy the way their flavor is at once salty, and fragrant with herbs and lemon, and I keep them for impromptu nibbles and little snacks.

The trick to making these almonds so very fragrant is to toast them in a bit of lard infused with fresh herbs.  Culinary herbs release their volatile oils easily in fat – whether over a prolonged period of time as called of in making herbed olive oil, or in only a few moments in a hot pan.     Once plucked from the pan, their flavor remains in the hot fat, infusing these almonds with their resonant aroma and taste.  It’s a technique I use often, in braising meats, or in making soups and sauces, too.

herbs in frying pan (1 of 1)

Why I Blanch My Almonds

Almonds make lovely little snacks.  Rich in vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and monounsaturated fat, almonds are thought to support cardiovascular health.  Further, regular consumption of nuts like almonds is associated with longevity, a topic discussed at length in the book the Blue Zones which takes a look at the lifestyle and dietary patterns of some of the world’s longest lived peoples.

Beyond their clear benefits, almonds also suffer from a few detractions.  Just as they’re rich in nutrients, they are likewise rich in antinutrients, namely food phytate and enzyme inhibitors.  Phytates lock up minerals in certain foods like nuts, beans, grains and seeds, preventing you from absorbing the full complement of minerals they offer.  Enzyme inhibitors can make nuts, like almonds, difficult to digest.  Most of these antinutrients rest within the papery brown skin that surrounds the almond, and while you can mitigate the effect of these antinutrients through soaking and drying them, you can also remove them simply by removing that papery skin through blanching the almonds.

I favor blanching almonds because it improves their flavor and removes their bitterness.  You can blanch almonds easily by slipping them into boiling water for a few minutes, then transferring them to an ice bath.  Their skins will pucker with the change in temperature, and the nut itself slips from the papery skin that surrounds it when you pinch it between your thumb and forefinger.  You can use them immediately, or dry them for later use in recipes like the one below.

In Praise of Lard

In making these almonds, I typically infuse hot lard with fresh herbs, remove them from the skillet, and toss in the almonds – stirring them in the hot fat until they release their fragrance and brown a bit (they’re easy to overcook, so be mindful and watch your pan).  Lard is a beautiful fat and, unfortunately, very deeply maligned – and maligned without reason. Lard from pasture-raised pigs – that is pigs raised outdoors under the bright sunshine – is extraordinarily rich in vitamin D, a nutrient severely lacking in both adults and children.

Vitamin D supports bone health and immune system function.  While you can, theoretically, manufacture vitamin D in your skin through exposure to the sun, it is very difficult to do so depending on your latitude and how much time you spend out of doors, making food sources of vitamin D like lard and cod liver oil (which you can find here) more and more critical to health.

Lard is also an excellent source of monounsaturated fat – the same heart-healthy fat found in avocados and olive oil.  In fact, monounsaturated fat comprises about 45% of the fat in lard, and are though to promote weight loss, decrease cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.  Fortunately, lard is beginning to make a bit of a comeback, and you can learn to make it yourself here.

finished almonds blog (1 of 1)

Toasted Almonds with Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Buttery and fragrant with herbs and lemons, blanched almonds make a simple snack or appetizer.
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon pasture-raised lard (learn how to render lard here)
  • 1 branch rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups blanched almonds
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
Instructions
  1. Melt the lard in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in rosemary and thyme, and allow them to sizzle in the hot fat until they crisp. Then remove and discard the herbs.
  2. Toss the blanched almonds into the seasoned fat, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown and they release a deep nutty aroma.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove the almonds from the pan and spoon them into a bowl. Toss them gently, while still hot, with salt and lemon zest. Allow them to cool, and then serve.
Notes
If you do not consume pork, you may substitute clarified butter or grass-fed ghee (available here) for lard.
 

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What people are saying

  1. Bobbie says

    Hi Jenny,
    Just to clarify: If I blanch the almonds and remove the skins (where most of the antinutrients are found) I can skip soaking of almonds in salt water overnight?
    Thanks for sharing your NOURISHING knowledge with us!!!!
    Bobbie

    • Jenny says

      Yes. That’s my understanding – since you’re removing the source of the anitnutrients, it should be fine. Indeed, if you look back at old 18th and 19th century American cookbooks, blanched almonds were used very frequently; however, soaking almonds was never done.

  2. Deann says

    Are you starting with unpasteurized almonds, or just almonds sold as raw? Do you think blanching would still help with almonds that are raw but not really unpasteurized? I had no idea that removing the skins could help!

  3. Isabel says

    Re: anti-nutrients in the skin — with all due respect Jenny, is there any scientific evidence to back this up? Just because people did this in the 18th century doesn’t mean that they knew what they were doing. It could just have been the convention of the time. Imagine Martha Stewart (or Jenny!!) of the day advocating this practice, and everyone else following suit. People also used to believe in witches and vampires, and all other sorts of things which *hardly* anyone believes in today. We need to make decisions based on scientific evidence, and not merely on romantic notions of the wisdom of our forebears. There’s just so much controversy about this sort of thing that I’d really like to be sure before doing one thing or another!

    • Jenny says

      Are you questioning whether nuts like almonds contain phytate, or are you questioning whether they exist predominantly in the skin? Both are true.

    • Naomi says

      Marilyn, I’m not Jenny, but I’d try coconut oil. If you’re concerned about the flavor of the coconut oil conflicting with that of the almonds, use refined (flavorless) coconut oil. I also do not do pork, and although I can tolerate dairy, I will probably try this recipe using the coconut oil. I’m glad that blanching will take care of most of the phytates, because personally I think that the soaking process removes not only anti-nutrients, but also most of the flavor (of all nuts and beans). It will be nice to get to taste the wonderful flavor of almonds again, especially toasted!

  4. Heather says

    Jenny,
    With your fermented carrot sticks – can you reuse the brine to ferment more carrot sticks on the counter after it has been refrigerated for some time?

  5. Jenny says

    Thanks for the info about blanching almonds. I’m also interested in trying to make blanched almond flour with almonds blanched at home. I suppose I just need to dry them out after blanching and I’m thinking of drying them in low-temp oven. I have made blanched almond flour from blanched almonds I purchased (Trader Joe’s for 5.99 a pound) and I used a coffee grinder and it worked very well, so I’m thinking of trying this as well. Thanks also for the info about where the anti-nutrients are found in almonds.

  6. Sharon says

    This is great thanks!! The kids and i really enjoyed :) being dairy and gluten free i find snack food WAP friendly hard. My question, if the antinutrients is in the almonds skin is skinless peanuts and cashews ok ‘nude’ too?? I do soak them for baking and sprouting doesn’t seem to work for me and have been told that it is because all raw nuts are pasturised to come into New Zealand :(
    Greatly appreciate your recipes and knowledge x

  7. Josefine says

    Hi!

    Thanks for a great blog! I’m just wondering, aren’t the fat in the almonds very heat sensative? Will not the fat go rancid when you boil the almonds to remove the skin?

  8. Amber says

    I would like to make some of these ahead of time for Christmas gifts. How long would they be ok at room temp? Would they need to be refrigerated?

    • Jenny says

      I would recommend refrigerating them to help them to stay longer, but you can also leave them at room temperature for about 2 weeks without degrading the flavor.

  9. Kim says

    On the question of blanching or no… I use truly raw, (i.e. unpasteurized) organic almonds to make almond milk. If I blanch the almonds, does this effectively pasteurize them? In other words, if you blanch, does using truly raw almonds become pointless? Would it make more sense to use the much cheaper pasteurized almonds when blanching? Thanks!

  10. Sarah says

    sounds delicious. I’m really happy that I can make my own lard as I don’t know of anywhere I can get trustworthy lard. so glad I found this site :-)

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