CHICAGO — It’s that time of year where nostalgia sets in. Some shoppers may splurge for chestnuts to roast on an open fire, or others may attempt to open whole walnuts using a vintage nutcracker. Then there are those who like to eat nuts and will likely reach for a canister to enjoy pecans and cashews.
Some consumers may be drinking their nuts this holiday season. Elmhurst 1925, Elma, NY, processors of plant-based milks and creamers, is offering a seasonal OatNog made with oats and cashews. The company also has added pistachio creamer to its line. The dairy-free product starts with a base of oats and hemp that gets blended with pistachios for flavor.
“We used real pistachios for incredibly indulgent products,” said Heba Mahmoud, senior director of brand marketing. “The Barista Edition has rich, natural hints of pistachio, whereas the Crème Creamer tastes undoubtedly like melted pistachio ice cream.”
Like all Elmhurst products, the new items rely on a process that uses water. It separates the components of a nut, grain or seed before reassembling them as a beverage-ready emulsion, maintaining the full nutrition of the source ingredient without adding gums or emulsifiers.
In addition to drinking nuts, some consumers may be dipping a chip or crudites into them. Core and Rind, St. Louis, was founded by two culinary nutrition experts and friends who yearned for a non-dairy option that would satisfy their cravings for cheese. After years of development and more than 150 variations, the two finally landed on a formulation where cashews are the second ingredient. Pumpkin is first. Other ingredients include olive oil, some apple cider vinegar for tang and nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is dried into a powder and used as a flavoring in vegan meals, as it has a strong cheesy, nutty flavor profile and provides umami, a savory taste some plant-based foods lack. It is also a complete protein, an important consideration when formulating nut-based foods.
While nuts are one of the highest sources of protein in the plant world, they are not complete proteins. This means they do not contain the nine essential amino acids in the ratio the body requires. They can become complete proteins if paired with one or more other proteins to form a “complete” amino acid profile.
To make a front-of-package claim, protein must be calculated as a complete protein. “Good” or “excellent” source of protein claims refer to the amount of complete protein in the product — 5 grams or 10 grams per serving for each respective claim. This is important information for vegans who are at risk of being deficient in some essential amino acids. Deficiency may have a negative impact on muscle repair and growth, fluid balance and hormone production.
Nastasha McKeon, founder of the Choice Superfood Bar and Juicery vegan food chain, Carlsbad, Calif., and author of “Plant Food Is Medicine,” has long been pairing proteins to make them complete. For a vegan taco filling, she combines walnuts with nutritional yeast, tomatoes and spices. Nuts are a go-to for her in many recipes.
To make vegan ceviche, she combines sunflower seeds with cashews, soaking them until soft. They are processed with chopped onion, olive oil and seasonings into a tuna salad-like consistency.
She also developed several flavorful salad toppers, with some providing a complete protein. The “Parmesan” combines Brazil nuts, cashews, hemp seeds with nutritional yeast and a touch of salt and garlic powder.
Ms. McKeon also likes to use cashews as a base in many of her “cheesy” sauces, just like Core and Rind and, now, Follow Your Heart SuperMac. The Los Angeles-based Danone subsidiary’s latest plant-based innovation is a macaroni product paired with sauces containing vegetables, beans and cashews.
Vegans may choose nuts for their protein content, but keto cooks often have another motive. It’s not so much about adding protein, but it’s about avoiding carbohydrates. These folks may be surprised to learn their baked or fried chicken no longer must be bare. Diamond of California, Stockton, Calif., developed a line of gluten-free nut coatings that function as a breading alternative. Made with a base of walnuts and pecans, the coatings are seasoned and available in three varieties: Italian, original and ranch.
The nut coatings withstand everyday cooking techniques. During evaluation, formulators learned that due to the natural oils present in nuts, the coatings adhere without binders, like eggs or flour, and perform best when baked or air-fried without the addition of extra fats, allowing for less fat overall and delivering an appealing texture.
Squeeze packs of nut butters may be the snack of choice while skating this holiday season. High in protein for energy and satiety, the varieties of these packs continues to grow as new brands enter the marketplace.
Charlotte, NC-based Abby’s Better Nut Butter, for example, has added single-serve squeeze packs to its line of 12-oz nut butter jars. Varieties include date pecan, coconut cashew, coffee almond, honey almond and protein-infused cinnamon roll almond. The latter variety includes pea protein isolate, delivering 10 grams of protein per pack, as compared to the 7 grams in the other flavors.
Nestle USA, Arlington, Va., is putting its own spin on the nut butter trend. New Nestle Rallies Nut Butter Bombs are a chilled snack combining nut butters and chocolate. The snacks are chilled to maintain freshness and flavor. They are debuting in brownie almond butter and salted cashew butter, with a third, raspberry peanut butter, to be released in early 2022
For those flying home for the holidays, only to be faced with a delayed or canceled flight, the American Pecan Council, Fort Worth, Texas, has kicked off the “Pecanceled” Flights Set Right campaign. The council is offering some comfort with free pecan pie-inspired snack bites available through Farmer’s Fridge vending machines at eight major airports, while supplies last. The holiday treat is made with pecans, rolled oats, maple syrup and vanilla beans, and is packaged in a portable jar, ideal for travelers.
“While we cannot get your flight out on time, we’re bringing travelers a little taste of home as they await their treasured Thanksgiving meals and moments,” said Alex Ott, executive director of the American Pecan Council.