Peanut butter has long reigned as the go-to nut butter for most people. However, with the rise of peanut allergies, peanut butter is no longer an option for many consumers. This has led to the demand for alternative nut butter products, and now numerous varieties of nut butter are now available. Read our tips for finding a favorite.
Popular alternative nut butter products are made from walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
All types of nut butter offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and varying amounts of fiber and protein.
Get creative in the kitchen by adding nut butter to soup recipes, salad dressings, or marinades.
What is nut butter?
Nut butter is made by grinding or pulverizing nuts into a paste — zero butter is added to the product. Instead, the high-fat content of the nut lends itself to a buttery or creamy texture that makes it spreadable.
In the past, some companies have added ingredients to nut butter to increase flavor, shelf life, aroma, or color. Nowadays, big companies have reduced the number of additives and sugars, and most products have very little added sugars.
Natural nut butter needs to be refrigerated after opening because it doesn't contain preservatives and, thus, is prone to spoilage. For best results, seal the lid tightly and store it upside down to help prevent oil separation.
Also, when working with nut butter, clean utensils should be used to avoid cross-contamination.
Health benefits of nut butter
All nuts are rich in healthy fats, called unsaturated fats. Health research has long shown the benefits of these fats, which are known to be anti-inflammatory.
Although nut butter is ground (considered a healthy type of mechanical food processing), it retains its healthy fats.
A healthy adult can safely enjoy one to two tablespoons of nut butter daily, depending on the individual's energy expenditure. For example, athletes metabolize food much faster and need more calories to perform. Therefore, they could eat more nut butter than the average person without adverse effects.
As well as healthy fats, all nuts are rich in fiber. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that feeds gut bacteria — called probiotics.
On average, an adult needs between 25g–38g of fiber per day and should seek dietary sources as much as possible to satisfy this requirement. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds (including nut butter), and beans.
All types of nut butter have antioxidants, which are compounds that prevent chronic illnesses. Regularly consuming antioxidants is important for maintaining health and reducing harmful inflammation.
Other foods that contain antioxidants include fresh fruits and vegetables, tea, and dark chocolate.
Popular types of nut butter
Most people are familiar with peanut butter, so let’s look at the nutritional qualities of other types of nut butter.
Crunchy vs. smooth
Crunchy nut butter has texture, and small pieces of nuts are still in it. Smooth nut butter has only one texture — creamy. Both are excellent options, but it depends on preference and how they are being used. For instance, a recipe may call for a smooth nut butter so that it can be fully incorporated into the dish, such as a soup or in baking.
The next time you run out of peanut butter, consider trying a different type of nut butter. Most bulk stores sell a variety of nut butter. Try buying smaller sizes before committing to a larger container. A fun way to enjoy nut butter is by experimenting with new recipes or by adding it to your favorite dishes. Nut butter can be a great addition to salad dressings, stir fries, and meat marinades.