Peanut butter is a truly exceptional food – it’s delicious, healthy and versatile, equally at home in sandwiches, sauces, cookie dough, and on a spoon straight from the jar. It’s safe to say there’s nothing else quite like it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any suitable substitutes for peanut butter. A variety of nut-free spreads with similar characteristics make excellent alternatives to peanut and other nut butters, each promising their own delicious flavor and nutritional profile.
Whether you’re working around a nut allergy, taste preference, a no-nut policy at your kids’ school, or if you just enjoy experimenting with different ingredients, consider some of the following peanut butter alternatives.
Seed butters, which are available in increasing variety, are the closest non-nut alternative to peanut butter in flavor, texture and nutritional content. Like nuts, seeds are a true superfood, packed with plant-based protein (approximately twice as much per ounce as meat or eggs) and an unmatched concentration of other beneficial nutrients. The following seed butters are among the most popular and easiest to find:
Sunflower Seed Butter
If you enjoy eating sunflower seeds as a snack, you’re sure to love sunflower seed butter too. It tends to be thinner than peanut butter and has a definite sunflower flavor. The food testers at Cooks Illustrated found it to be a great substitute for nut butters in baking and snacking alike. Plus, sunflower seeds have an amazing nutritional profile, providing tons of protein, fiber and healthy fats plus vitamins and minerals.
Sunflower seed butter is great in a sandwich as a PB&J alternative and is nothing short of delightful scooped into smoothies or on top of yogurt or oatmeal. The folks at Serious Eats suggest adding it to homemade granola bars for an extra delicious and nutritional punch. It also works well in savory applications, such as salad dressings, drizzled over avocado toast or blended with fresh herbs as a pesto-inspired sauce.
Tahini, a.k.a. sesame seed butter is a very common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. With its concentrated sesame flavor and smooth, silky texture, it’s a key ingredient in hummus, sauces, and dressings. It’s also used in cookies and other confections. Tahini’s strong flavor and thin-ish consistency mean it’s better substituting for PB as an ingredient rather than a stand-alone snack. Try it in your smoothies and stir-fry sauces.
Mixed Seed Butters
There are many different seeds that make delicious spreads, and their individual flavors and nutritional profiles are amplified when they’re blended together as a mixed seed butter. Look for butters combining two or more of the following seeds:
- Soy nut
Try a few, and see which combinations of seeds you enjoy. Some mixed nut butters also contain other ingredients for a more sophisticated, flavorful spread, such as our Cinnamon Seed Butter which features sunflower and chia seeds blended with cinnamon, organic honey and a touch of Himalayan pink salt.
Other Sweet and Savory Spreads
For non-baking applications e.g. dipping, spreading on toast or in sandwiches, try switching your usual nut butter for hummus, mashed avocado or guacamole, or some cooked beans mashed with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and your favorite seasonings. Also, consider plain cream cheese along with a variety of available flavored versions.
On the sweeter side, you can find on grocery store shelves decadent cookie butters (although we can’t vouch for their healthiness), apple butters and other fruit butters and curds. In some applications, a simple smear of set honey might be a nice choice.