Peanut butter is one of the most popular condiments in the United States. Used in everything from the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich to flavoring cookies, adding protein and healthy fats to smoothies, and being enjoyed on a banana or apple, peanut butter is a ubiquitous part of many people’s diets.
Peanut butter is also relatively inexpensive, particularly when considering its nutritional profile and caloric density, so if you are on a budget and want a satiating, nutritious, plant-based protein and source of heart-healthy fats, peanut butter can be an excellent dietary staple.
However, there are certain times when you might need a peanut butter alternative. Perhaps you are one of the millions of adults who suffer from a peanut allergy, or you have a child with a known or suspected peanut allergy.
Whatever the case may be, there are certainly circumstances where people need a viable alternative to peanut butter. So, what are the best peanut butter substitutes? What can you use as alternatives to peanut butter that will replicate the texture and taste as closely as possible?
In this article, we will discuss reasons why you may need a peanut butter substitute and some of the best alternatives to peanut butter that you can use in your recipes, whether just as a plain peanut butter substitute for a condiment on bread or as an ingredient in a recipe that calls for peanut butter.
We will cover:
- Why Might You Need A Substitute for Peanut Butter?
- What Are the Best Peanut Butter Alternatives?
Let’s jump in!
Why Might You Need A Substitute for Peanut Butter?
The primary reason that most people need a substitute for peanut butter is due to having a peanut allergy themselves or living with someone who has a peanut allergy.
According to research, approximately 4.6 million US adults have a peanut allergy, and although we often think of peanut allergies developing only during early childhood, over 800,000 adults with peanut allergies developed their peanut allergy after the age of 18.
Some school systems also prohibit anyone from using peanut butter in lunches or bringing peanut-based foods into the school to protect children who do have a peanut allergy. In these cases, having a kid-friendly peanut butter alternative is particularly useful, meaning that it closely resembles the taste, texture, and enticing palatability of regular peanut butter.
You may also need a peanut butter alternative if you find that you have run out of peanut butter at home and do not have time to head to the store to buy more before finishing whatever recipe you are working on that calls for peanut butter.
From sauces to cookies, peanut butter is an ingredient that may be incorporated into different dishes, and omitting the ingredient will change the flavor profile and texture of your final recipe.
Finally, some people seek lower-calorie peanut butter alternatives if they are on a diet or are trying to reduce fat intake or cut calories in general.
Peanut butter is high in fat and calories per serving. A standard 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains about 200 calories and 16 g of fat.
Although this isn’t necessarily problematic, if you are trying to lose weight, a low-calorie substitute for peanut butter may enable you to enjoy the taste of peanut butter without exceeding your daily caloric limits.
Finally, many commercially-produced peanut butters have added salt, sugar, and processed oils, which can make peanut butter unhealthy.
If you don’t have access to fresh ground, natural peanut butter, you might seek a healthier peanut butter alternative that better aligns with your diet goals.
What Are the Best Peanut Butter Alternatives?
There are a handful of different substitutes for peanut butter that could be used in different applications, with varying degrees of overlap in terms of how closely the peanut butter alternative mimics real peanut butter.
Nut butters tend to be ideal, but some people who are allergic to peanut butter are also allergic to nuts, and nuts are typically as high in calories as peanuts.
Therefore, if either a peanut allergy or desire to cut calories and fat is one of the primary reasons why you need an alternative to peanut butter, a nut butter-based alternative to peanut butter will not be ideal.
Fortunately, there are a few other peanut butter alternatives that are not nut-based or are lower in calories that you can try instead.
#1: Almond Butter
Arguably the best peanut butter alternative in terms of flavor, texture, nutrients, and consistency is almond butter.
Almond butter is a safe peanut butter alternative for people with peanut allergies, provided they don’t also have tree nut allergies.
It can also be used in a one-to-one ratio, which makes using it as an alternative to peanut butter in recipes quite convenient.
Almond butter has a nutty flavor, and it is relatively accessible these days in most large grocery stores. There are even flavored almond butter products, such as honey-roasted almond butter and chocolate almond butter, much like some of the gourmet peanut butter products.
#2: Cashew Butter
If you do not have a nut allergy, cashew butter is one of the best peanut butter substitutes because it has a neutral flavor and creamy texture like peanut butter.
However, cashew butter is milder in flavor than peanut butter, so depending on the application, you might want to add additional flavoring.
A little bit of honey or cinnamon can bring out the nuttiness and better replicate the taste of peanut butter. However, just cashew butter works really well as an alternative to peanut butter in a cookie recipe,
If you are using cashew butter as a substitute for peanut butter, you can use it in a one-to-one ratio.
If you enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine, you are probably familiar with tahini, also known as sesame butter.
Like peanut butter or other nut butters, tahini is a nutritious condiment paste. But rather than grinding nuts or peanuts, tahini is made by grinding sesame seeds into a paste.
Sometimes, sesame oil and salt are added as well, yielding a product that has a similar texture, mouth feel, richness, and consistency as peanut butter.
Tahini may be used straight as a condiment on sandwiches or as a dip. It is also an integral ingredient in hummus, baba ganoush, other dips, and salad dressings.
As a peanut butter substitute, tahini works excellently in place of peanut butter in sauces, salad dressings, and dips.
However, it has a more savory flavor, more resemblant to hummus, so tahini will not necessarily work well as a direct peanut butter substitute on peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
Kids, in particular, will probably notice a big difference in the pallet appeal of tahini compared to peanut butter because it is not as sweet.
Tahini can work in baked goods as a peanut butter substitute, as it has a similar texture and will not alter the consistency of the final product, but the flavor is a little less nutty and sweet and a bit more earthy.
#4: Sunflower Seed Butter
Many nut butter substitutes for peanut butter are very expensive, and there’s often an overlap between having a peanut allergy and a tree nut allergy. Therefore, one of the best peanut butter substitutes that is affordable and allergy friendly is sunflower seed butter.
It is also relatively easy to find sunflower seed butter in most grocery stores because it is marketed as a safe peanut butter substitute for children with peanut allergies or in schools that require a peanut-free cafeteria.
Additionally, many sunflower seed butter spreads are sweetened slightly with sugar to better replicate commercial-sweetened peanut butters.
The nutritional profile of sunflower seed butter and peanut butter tends to be similar, but check the ingredients label for added sugars and salt.
#5: Chickpea Butter
Chickpea butter is a relatively new product but makes for a fantastic peanut butter alternative for those with allergies or who want a healthier peanut butter alternative.
Chickpeas are also much more environmentally sustainable than almonds or other nuts.
An example is Little Chickpea, a non-dairy, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, non-GMO, and sustainably-produced butter.
#6: Other Nut Butters
Although cashew butter and almond tend to be more readily available than other nut butters, you can certainly use macadamia nut butter, Brazil nut butter, or pecan nut butter as a substitute for peanut butter if you don’t have a nut allergy.
Any nut butter will have a similar fattiness and creaminess to peanut butter and can be used in a one-to one-ratio, but each will impart a somewhat different taste.
#7: Powdered Peanut Butter
Lastly, if you’re looking for a low-calorie peanut butter substitute, consider a powdered peanut butter like PB2, which is made by defatting and dehydrating peanuts.
You then add water instead of oil to make a low-fat peanut butter paste. Although the texture is less creamy than real peanut butter, the flavor is similar.
What is your favorite peanut butter substitute?
If you are looking to substitute one of our mentioned alternatives to peanut butter, tahini, we also have a guide for tahini substitutes here.