Shea butter, usually extracted from kernels of Vitellaria paradoxa Gaertn. by rural women in Sub-Saharran Africa, has multiple traditional and industrial uses. Traditional processing methods are not standardized and often lead to the production of poor quality butter, which attract low market prices. The aim of this work was to study the different pretreatments locally applied to sheanuts during processing in order to identify those that can affect butter quality. The effect of cooking, soaking as well as drying on the amount of butter extracted and its minor constituents were investigated. All these pretreatments significantly affected oil quality. The effect of soaking of the kernels on improving oil extraction yields (55%) was comparable to that of kernels digested with α-amylase, acid protease, cellulase/hemicellulase, pectinase, and glucanase enzymes before oil extraction reported in the literature. Drying had a significant negative effect on tocopherol contents of the oil. However, residual amounts of tocopherols in the oil after drying were high enough to suggest that it may still confer anti-oxidant activities. Soaking, cooking, and drying are important pretreatments involved in the production of shea butter locally that need to be standardized in order to produce better quality butter.
Practical applications: In this work, we carried out scientific analysis of methods already used by rural women to process shea fruits into shea butter. This work should be useful for establishing processing conditions for obtaining good quality shea butter.