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Alternatives to Peanut Butter (and How to Make Them at Home!)

Peanuts

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Mmm, peanut butter. It has that ideal balance between sweet and salty, making it the perfect companion for everything from whole grain toast to celery sticks. And it's an inexpensive source of protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fats. Generations of kids have gotten through the school day fueled by peanut-butter sandwiches and a carton of milk—you were probably one of them!

But what about the other nut butters out there? How about spreads made from almonds, cashews, and even seeds like sunflower? As an alternative to the old standby, consider these other products most easily found in gourmet, natural and/or organic grocery stores:

Almond butter: Like peanuts, almonds are a source of monounsaturated fats.

Cashew, pistachio or hazelnut butter: Like the nuts themselves, these butters are rich and slightly sweet. They make good additions to Indian curries or Mediterranean dishes.

Macadamia nut butter: Also rich and sweet, this type of nut butter is typically used with chocolate or fruit spreads, in desserts, or sweet snacks.

Seed butters: Pumpkin and sunflower seeds can be ground into a smooth paste and used like nut butter; both contain beneficial nutrients like zinc, iron and potassium. Tahini, made of ground sesame seeds, is a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.

Unfortunately, truly natural butters are more expensive than most mainstream brands, which often contain additional ingredients (sweeteners, oils, etc). If you can find fresh-ground or grind-your-own nut butters (natural foods grocers carry them), you’ll find that the price per pound is somewhere in between major brands and natural, minimal-ingredient butters.

If you really want to cut the cost of buying nut or seed butter by the jar--while knowing exactly what's going into your nut butter--consider making your own at home! Keep reading for a homemade nut butter recipe...

Homemade Nut Butter Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 2 cups of nuts or seeds (your choice) on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning, until nuts are fragrant. Cool slightly, then place the nuts or seeds into a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until a smooth paste forms. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per cup of nuts or seeds if you’d like (this enhances the flavor; omit if you’re watching your salt intake). Kept in an air-tight container in the fridge; your homemade butter will last for weeks!

Nutrition and Serving Sizes:

Thanks to their healthy fats, all nut and seed butters are high in fat and calories. Regardless of nut variety (peanut, hazelnut, almond) and type (natural or regular), one 2-tablespoon serving has about 200 calories, 15% of your RDA for protein, and about a quarter of your daily allowance for fat. Watch your portions to keep your calories in check!

Type of Nut Butter (2 Tbs.) Calories Fat Protein Carbs
Peanut, no sugar added 190-210 16-17 g 7-8 g 6-7 g
Peanut, sugar added 190 16-17 g 7 g 6-7 g
Almond 190-200 18-19 g 5-7 g 6-7 g
Cashew 160-190 14-16 g 4-6 g 8-10 g
Hazelnut 180 17 g 4 g 5 g
Hemp 180 13 g 9 g 4 g
Macadamia 230 24 g 2 g 4 g
Pistachio 180-190 13-15 g 6-7 g 9-10 g
Pumpkin seed 160 13 g 10 g 4 g
Sesame tahini 190 17 g 6 g 7 g
Sunflower seed 180-220 12-20 g 6-9 g 5-9 g

Continued: Tasty Ideas for Nut Butters

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