How Do You Roast Shea Butter?


Roasted Shea Butter?  Seriously?  How do you Roast Shea Butter?

Fact:  All handmade shea butter is roasted to help release the oils.  Factory made shea butter uses chemicals and toxins to release the oils.

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Roasting shea with hand crank

Why do you Roast Shea Butter?

To get the shea nuts ready to release the magical oil that ultimately turns into shea butter.

Handmade shea butter doesn’t use chemicals and solvents to rip the oils from the nut solids the way factory made shea butter does.  Instead the freshly washed shea nuts are crushed, breaking them into small pieces.

These pieces are then roasted to just the right temperature, stirring and turning constantly to avoid burning.  This heat prepares the oils to be released naturally, not requiring chemicals or solvents.

 Related Topic: How Do You Whip Handmade Shea Butter?

How was Shea Butter Roasted Traditionally?

Traditionally they used the pot and paddle method.  The crushed shea nuts were put in a pot, placed over a fire and the lady making the shea butter stood over the pot, stirring the nuts constantly so they didn’t burn.

She had to stand close to the fire, breathing in smoke and ash as the wind shifted, and always at risk of being burnt.

Woman traditionally roasting shea

Hand roasting shea nuts using the pot and paddle method is hard work, not easy to manage quality and the women risk of being burned by the fire and frequently inhaling smoke. 


Woman hand cranking shea

Hand cranked drum roasters were a notable improvement.  Safer, faster, better quality control, easier to use and more fuel efficient.  But, there was still some burning risk and frequent smoke inhalation.

What Changes Have Been Made in How Shea Butter is Roasted?

In recent years two significant improvements have been made in how shea butter is roasted.  Both have improved efficiency, safety, quality control and environmental impact.  Baraka has been at the forefront in helping to develop these improvements and get them into the hands of the hard-working women that make Baraka Shea Butter


Shea Butter Drum Roasters

In 2017  Baraka partnered with evanhealy to make the newly developed drum roasters available to the women who made Baraka Shea Butter.  This was a huge improvement over traditional roasting.

Instead of having to stand over a fire and stir the crushed shea nuts in a pot, women could sit on a stool, a safe distance from the fire and hand turn the drum with a crank, making an easier, faster and safer roasting process.

Eco-Ergonomic Shea Butter Roasters

While the hand-cranked drum roasters were a significant improvement on traditional roasting methods, they still had major drawbacks.

They sat close to the ground and the women had to sit hunched over on a very low bench in order to crank them.  There was nothing to take the smoke away so as the wind shifted direction they would often find themselves engulfed in harmful smoke from the fire.

In 2022, at the suggestion of the Global Shea Alliance, Baraka was approached by Burn Design Lab to work with them on developing and piloting a new eco-egronomic shea roast that would bring major improvements to the process.

Baraka was joined by evanhealy, so sponsors of the original drum roaster initiative and the new eco-ergonomic roasters became a reality, with initial field testing taking place in early November at the Konjeihi Women’s Enterprise Centre.  

  • A scientifically designed burning chamber made tremendous advances in energy efficiency, reducing overall deforestation and carbon impact by up to 90% when used with “shea waste” as a fuel source
  • The design allowed for a higher placement of the roasting drum, eliminating the need for women to crank it from a hunched over position, making it much easier on the back, arms and neck
  • A built in thermometer helped improve efficiency and quality and reduced the likelihood of burnt or under-roasted output (both of which have serious impacts on quality)
  • The overall design allowed for a chimney to take the smoke away, releasing it far above the height of the seated woman and eliminating the unhealthy smoke inhalation that had previously been part of the shea roasting process
  • The enclosed nature of the fire chamber, coupled with the fire-brick lining and controlled air flow eliminated the risk of burns
Woman sitting at new shea roaster
Women can sit comfortable while cranking the roaster, not worried about getting burnt or inhaling the smoke, which dispenses far away through the stovepipes


Built in thermometer
The built in thermometer makes it easier to precision roast, getting the crushed nuts to just the right temperature for quality and yield
Fire bricks

Fire bricks help increase fuel efficiency, improve roasting quality, reduce burning risk and reduce overall fuel requirements

New roasters

The new roasters only need a fraction of the fuel and fire size of earlier methods.  The waste from making shea butter (the nut solids after oil is removed) can supply 90% of the energy for the roasting

Shea Butter Roasting, Climate Change & Circular Economy
The new Eco-Ergonomic Roasters, and the way their burning chamber is designed to use the waste from shea butter production as fuel, is a significant circular economy initiative and a major step forward in reducing the carbon and climate change impact of the shea butter industry.

Baraka is piloting a process of taking the waste, which often creates a major disposal problem for larger shea processing centres, and efficiently turning it into fuel to be used for the roasting and boiling process.

The waste is allowed to dry a certain amount and then shaped into bricks which are then allowed to dry until they are hardened and able to be broken into pieces and used for fuel.

To learn more about the process of making hand-made Shea Butter check out Baraka’s documentary video on it here or search for other blogs and videos on hand-made shea butter here.


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