I keep saying I’ll get to this question and then never do.
It’s a lot like when one of my kids wants my attention and I say, “Just a minute, I’m in the kitchen.” I’m sure they feel like I never get around to coming out of there, either!
To recap, I started exploring the high-powered blender issue with “Is a Blendtec Worth over $500?” and continued with some fun Blendtec vs. Vitamix videos – that post has lots of Vitamix wisdom in the comments, so it’s definitely worth reading if you’re in the market (or own one already).
Today, as promised, I’ll share what happened when I made my first nut butters and also the result of the Blendtec grinding grain next to my Nutrimill grain mill doing its job, as well as a few other foods we made in the Blendtec.
Then, yes, I’ll finally answer the question of WHO might need this expensive machine.
EDIT 6/24/14 –> Now that I’ve had the experience of going back to a regular blender for a few months when I lent out my Blendtec so my mother could make smoothies for my dad while enduring chemo, I’m kind of a fan. I like it. It’s convenient. It’s much faster. But is it worth $400? You still have to make that call, and you might want to look into reviews of lesser blenders that are higher quality than the basic-basic that I have ($100-150 range maybe, many like the Ninja and my mom ended up buying a KitchenAid).
Blendtec Does Nut Butters
Homemade nut butter is something I’ve never tried with a normal machine in my possession. I’d read blog posts about it and been curious, but I never thought my dinky blender or food processor could handle it.
A recipe in the Blendtec book caught my eye, so I tried Cocoa-Nut Almond Butter and loved it. Heavenly.
The kids didn’t like it, but I don’t think they really like almond butter.
Once I got over my amazement that the nuts could get so pulverized, I was taken aback by the fact that everything got so HOT! When I opened the Twister jar lid, there was actually some steam rising from the almond butter.
I’m sure I killed most of the enzymes I preserved in the dehydrator making crispy nuts! I wonder if there’s any way to start and stop to lessen the extreme heat, which is really something you want to avoid while exposing the fats in the nuts to oxygen already.
I also made peanut butter, using crispy nuts that I had soaked and dehydrated.
I only tried ½ cup of soaked and dehydrated peanuts in both the food processor and Blendtec’s Twister jar (I didn’t want to get stuck with a ton of homemade peanut butter in case no one would eat it).
The directions for Blendtec said to use level 7 for 40 seconds (for 1 ½ cups) – it took less than 12 seconds in the Twister jar for the peanuts to be completely peanut butter! I was so surprised I didn’t even time how long the food processor took, but it was at least three if not four times longer. Both have decent texture but not great, but no flavor. Do I add salt? What gives?
I’m still kind of upset that you can’t take it apart – I think it’s much harder to get food out of the bottom, especially something thicker like “ice cream” or nut butters. You definitely save a ton of time on the front end making the food though!
How NOT to Make Peanut Butter
I thought I might have found a brilliant time-saving idea to make nut butter with fewer phytates (the nasty little anti-nutrients that soaking is supposed to help reduce).
I have learned that when I make what I call “power bars,” the homemade version of a Larabar with dried fruit and nuts from my Healthy Snacks to Go eBook, I can soak and drain raw nuts but skip the dehydrating, and they work out just fine. My first peanut butter test was that way, with soaked and drained peanuts that were not dried.
The resulting peanut butter wasn’t the greatest consistency, a little powdery in fact, but if you squashed a bit with your fingers, it would form a paste/ball. After only two hours of soaking, this method did not exactly yield creamy peanut butter. It tasted pretty yucky. I added honey and salt, and it tasted better but still not like peanut butter. The texture was too far off. In the food processor, the powdery texture was even worse.
As if that wasn’t enough to tell me you can’t make “wet” crispy peanut butter, both batches, which I left on the counter at first intending to refrigerate later, became totally moldy after only a week.
Grinding Flour in the Blendtec
One of the reasons I was always excited about a high-powered blender in general was that it can actually grind whole grains into flour, so it ought to be a 2-for-1 deal that would replace a grain mill in the kitchen. Better yet, it can also grind almonds into meal/flour, which is something my Nutrimill cannot do because of the oils in nuts.
Over the years, I had read about both people who regularly made flour in their blender and loved it and those who warned that the high-powered blenders would either (a) heat up the grains so much that it would damage nutrients or (b) take too long to make enough because of the smaller batch requirements compared to an actual mill.
I tested my Nutrimill grain mill against the Blendtec with just a cup of wheat berries – you can put two cups total into the blender and about twenty into the grain mill if you want. The Blendtec certainly seemed to do just as well as the Nutrimill on just one cup. The amount of time to grind was similar and the finished product looks similar, too, as you can see above. I am impressed by that!!
Because we don’t eat much gluten in our house (I did the test while making these simple whole wheat bread machine rolls for a friend to whom I was taking a meal), I just didn’t get to try a side-by-side taste test like I wanted. I had hoped to make two batches of something like pancakes, where it would be easy to feel if there was any difference in the texture in the two machines.
I’m not much of a gluten-free baker – I usually stick with grain-free flours like coconut flour and almond flour – so I also, sadly, never got a chance to try brown rice flour or grinding garbanzo beans, both of which I think the Blendtec could do. Those are big money savers if you grind your own.
I did try buckwheat flour, and the Blendtec does great, making a really fine and powdery final product, but here are the reasons I would still choose a grain mill, at least if we were a wheat-based family:
- Grain mill + blender + food processor still would be less than the cost of a Blendtec + Twister jar
- A grain mill doesn’t need to be washed with every use, and I do feel like, most of the time, I need to tackle the Blendtec after flours
- The Blendtec throws the flour all the way up the sides and into the lid – even inside the outer and inner lid, annoying – so it’s really quite messy.
- Difficult to scoop the last bit of flour out of the bottom.
- Still slightly slower than a grain mill for larger amounts of flour – I think if I regularly needed four or more cups of flour, I wouldn’t want to always run the Blendtec twice or more just to achieve that.
Grinding Almond Flour in the Blendtec
As I said, I was most excited about almond flour, since that can be so expensive to purchase. I used crispy almonds which I had soaked and dehydrated and followed the directions in the book.
Using the Wild Side jar, I was allowed to use up to two cups almonds. I made just over a cup, intending to use the flour in some grain-free crackers that I’d made before with both blanched almond flour and almond “meal.”
It takes almost the first ten seconds of the 30-second cycle to get up to the right level. Once ground, even if you stop it as soon as you can, there’s still some clumping like it’s trying to get toward almond butter.
In a real life application, the whole crispy almonds I used DEFINITELY acted differently in almond crackers than blanched almond flour. The crackers were very fragile and haven’t been all that fun to eat, since they totally fall apart. (They stay together well and are crunchy and delicious with blanched flour.) Blanched almonds have the skins removed, and that’s where the phytates are, so blanched almond flour is already plenty healthy.
The process definitely took some time to accomplish especially scraping all the almond flour out of the container. The difference in price per pound between blanched almond flour and just buying almonds gets fairly small, especially after you spend time and electricity soaking and dehydrating them. That, plus the time it takes to make the flour, plus the addition of phytates (some of which are still present even after soaking and dehydrating) means I’m going to stick with buying blanched almond flour.
What Else Did I Make in the Blendtec?
The machine really has been decently busy, so I absolutely believe the many readers who have chimed in to say that they use (and love) their Blendtec (or Vitamix) every day. Here’s a sample of some other recipes and results:
- Black bean dip from Real Food…Real Easy! in the regular Blendtec jar – total fail. Had to keep scraping, redo-ing. I should have used the Twister jar for this recipe, which is like hummus, except that I don’t think I could fit all 4 cups of black beans in the smaller jar. That would make it a fail from the get-go compared to my rinky-dink food processor, which makes the recipe without trouble.
- Mincing garlic in the regular Wild Side jar – I had to get all the way to level TEN before any progress was made, but that was so loud I was afraid of it. I gave up. The same thing happened with mincing herbs before making a recipe in the blender. FAIL! A food processor accomplishes both just fine.Would Twister jar do better? Maybe…
- When making strawberry and banana “ice cream” with Twister jar, which is simple and delicious, I was holding John so I couldn’t push “on” AND hold the lid. I thought I could just push the button and then start twisting the lid a second later, but the lid flew off and stuff went everywhere! I couldn’t get the machine off fast enough (remember that whole annoying “no stop button thing” I mentioned?).The consistency of this dessert is awesome though – see photo above of just frozen bananas, blended.
- While making power bars, the Twister jar did great, and I could just throw all the nuts and dates right in together instead of one at a time. It still took a good amount of time, I’d say about similar to the food processor although I didn’t time it. I had to check inside for whole dates and start again once or twice.On the emptying end, it’s so much easier to get the mixtures out of the food processor, so I still lean toward that as being more efficient in the long run.
- I accidentally made cocoa powder. !! I didn’t know grinding 99% unsweetened chocolate bars a bit too long would result in cocoa powder! Kind of a waste…I could have just used cocoa powder if that’s what I wanted. (This was for German chocolate power bars, mmmm…)
- A few years ago I dehydrated some tomatoes, intending to make a powder that could be reconstituted into paste or sauce. The instructions never specified a high-powered blender, but both my blender and food processor just made tomato bits and a big mess. I put the same dehydrated tomato rolls into the Blendtec, and it did an excellent job making actual powder (above).
So Who Really DOES Need a High-Powered Blender?
I think there are probably some situations for which a family would (just about) be able to list a high-powered blender as a “need” instead of a “luxury,” including:
- Folks who make smoothies every day, especially if they have two or more kids and need larger batches (and fast!).
- People with food allergies who perhaps need to make their own nut blends, etc., for cost effectiveness.
- People who are grain-free or otherwise might need to grind 9 cups of flaxseed at once, like Adrienne does for this flax bread recipe. I made a batch just today, and I have to admit that the Blendtec made quick work of 2 cups of flaxseed. I tried it once before with just a little bit, and it was a disaster, apparently because it was just a little and the blender kept throwing the seeds around too much. Invest $10 in a coffee grinder if you need to grind a half cup or less of flax at at time; consider a high-powered blender if you grind much more than that.
- Anyone who loves chia seeds. Unless you want to grind the seeds first in a dedicated coffee grinder, a high-powered blender is the only way to get chia seeds incorporated into a recipe. If you use them often, you’d want the time-saving feature of being able to toss them right in.
- Raw vegans who appreciate the “warm” blended soups.
- Preppers who want to dehydrate and powder foods (check out the new dehydrating ecourse if that’s you!). I feel pretty confident in saying that a fancy machine is necessary for this application.
- Gluten-free families who want to save money by making their own gluten free flours as well as almond flour and maybe bean flours which might not be handled well by a grain mill. If you’re a bread-baking family, I would think it might get tedious grinding wheat in the Blendtec. I’d just go with a grain mill. There are also a number of gluten-free recipes that specifically say you need a high-powered blender.
- Tubies, meaning people who require all or most of their nutrition to be sent through tubes – total smoothness is really key. This mom describes how her high-powered blender allowed her daughter to eat real food from infancy, even when the doctors just wanted to shoot her up with formula and high-calorie shakes. I’m totally fascinated and honored that she commented!
Since I began posting the reviews on the Blendtec, I’ve had lots of conversation with both Blendtec and Vitamix owners. Many say they love their high-powered blender, use it every day, and even some would put it as number one on their small appliance list.
However, it really does sound like most people who get to try BOTH fall on the same side I did. Lots of people love their Blendtecs, but I bet they’d love a Vitamix more if given the chance. I even had two different readers share their OWN Vitamix vs. Blendtec write-ups, and although both agreed that either machine does amazing things, both also returned their Blendtec and kept the Vitamix.
How about you? Do you think you’ll invest in a high-powered blender?
Trilight Health Gift Certificate Winner
Last week’s Trilight Health giveaway has closed, and the winner of the $75 gift certificate is:
Laura – [email protected]…
Please email me with your contact information, and congrats!
Disclosure: The Blendtec was a free product sample – sorry, Blendtec company, you see that my opinion is never influenced even by great generosity. If you purchase either machine through my affiliate links, I will earn commission, as well as on eCourses. See my full disclosure statement here.