If you have peanut or tree nut allergies, peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter are off the menu. There seem to be so many nut butter options to choose from, but what are your options if you need to avoid nuts for health or allergy reasons? Are some better than others?
What are your options when it comes to baking where peanut butter is required or you need a safe and simple snack?
Let’s find out - read on for our ultimate guide to the top 4 nut-free peanut butter alternatives.
Why Are Peanut Butter Alternatives So Necessary?
Around 1% of all Americans experience some kind of peanut or tree nut allergy. This figure is steadily rising over time, leading to a necessary shift and diversification of common ingredients such as peanut butter. If this statistic doesn’t cause you to rethink the need for alternatives, this one from The Huffington Post might:
“Americans consume about 700 million pounds of peanut butter annually, averaging about twenty-two tablespoons per person per year.”
Don’t think that sounds so bad? In Europe, the average consumption is less than 1 tablespoon per person each year.
With widespread peanut butter use being so common and there being considerable devotion to this spread, where does that leave those that cannot or will not consume it? Rather than miss out entirely, there are thankfully a number of health and allergy-friendly alternatives that are not derived from peanuts or tree nuts.
What’s In The Jar
Before we delve into some great peanut butter substitutions, let’s look a little closer at what is in a jar of peanut butter. This will help provide some context for comparison. Aside from the allergy concerns, what other impacts does peanut butter have on our health?
For every two tablespoons of peanut butter that is consumed, you are getting:
- Around 190 calories
- 16 grams of fat (3 grams of which is saturated)
- 8 grams of protein
- 3-5 grams of sugar
- 5 grams of salt
- 6 grams of carbohydrate
It also contains omega 6 fatty acids for improved metabolism, bone strength, and fertility. It is not expressly unhealthy when eaten in moderation, however, it is often down to the chosen brand as to whether the salt and sugar content is reasonable.
Top 4 Peanut Butter Substitutions
Whatever your reasons for avoiding peanut butter or other nut butter varieties, here are 4 popular alternatives.
Granola butter is as it sounds, blended granola that has become a buttery paste. It most often contains oats, flax seeds, olive or canola oil, coconut oil, maple syrup, salt, and spices. More sweet than savory, granola butter is not as versatile as peanut butter with regards to baking and cooking.
Per 2 tablespoon serve you are consuming:
- 215 calories
- 12 grams of fat (5 grams of which is saturated)
- 4 grams of protein
- 3 grams of sugar
- 0.2 grams of salt
- 15 grams of carbohydrate
The major watchpoints for granola butter come down to its possible gluten and high sugar content. Should you be gluten-free or following a reduced carbohydrate diet such as the ketogenic diet then it will be an unsuitable replacement for peanut butter.
Made from soybeans that have been roasted, crushed, and blended till smooth with soybean oil, soy butter closely mimics the feel of peanut butter. It is usually slightly sweeter, but with a similar nutty flavor.
Each 2 tablespoon serve of soy butter provides:
- 200 calories
- 3 grams of fat (virtually none is saturated)
- 7 grams of protein
- 3 grams of sugar
- 0.1 grams of salt
- 8 grams of carbohydrates
Soy butter also contains omega-3 fatty acids for heart health and is naturally low in cholesterol, making it quite a healthy option. As soy is part of the legume family, the same as peanuts, it may not be a suitable alternative for those with allergies or sensitivities to peanuts and peanut products.
Sesame butter, not to be confused with Tahini, is made from unhulled, roasted sesame seeds. This thick spread tends to be quite intensely flavored and therefore unsuitable as a swap in baking or cooking. Tahini is made from hulled seeds and is thinner and more runny than sesame butter.
For every 2 tablespoons of sesame butter, you are consuming:
- 187 calories
- 16.3 grams of fat (2.3 grams saturated)
- 5.8 grams of protein
- 0 grams of sugar
- 3.8 grams of salt
- 7.7 grams of carbohydrates
Per serve, 75% of the calories in sesame butter are from fat making it far from the healthiest swap. While sesame seeds do offer a nutritional profile that also includes magnesium, copper, vitamin b6, and phosphorus among others, it is also an allergen. All this combines to make this option less appropriate for both allergy and health reasons.
Sunflower Seed Butter
Made from the hulled, roasted, and finely ground seeds of Sunflowers, sunflower seed butter is an ideal switch when moving away from peanut butter. Sunflower seeds are low allergen, do not contain gluten and are low in saturated fat while also being high in protein and essential vitamins and minerals.
A single seed blend of Sunflower Butter offers the following for each 2 tablespoon serve:
- 187 calories
- 17.7 grams of fat (1.5 grams of which is saturated)
- 5.5 grams of protein
- 3.4 grams of sugar
- Less than one gram of salt
- 7.5 grams of carbohydrates
Sunflower butter is mildly flavored, similar in consistency to peanut butter, and perfect for those on a ketogenic diet.
The Best Of All Worlds
Want an option that gives you the best of everything? Great taste, smooth consistency, and optimal health benefits? Go for a dynamic blend of seeds such as that offered by 5 Seed Butter. We diversified away from standard sunflower butter and added in chia, flax, pumpkin, and hemp seeds. You can read in more detail about our seed butter vs peanut butter and what makes this blend so great here.