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Swapping Nut Butters

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2011

Peanut allergies have become so commonplace. Can you substitute other nut butters for peanut butter in cookie recipes?

To find the answer, we substituted almond butter and cashew butter, the two most commonly available “alternative” nut butters, for peanut butter in chewy peanut butter cookies. Since we could only find them unsalted, we bumped up the salt in our recipe to compensate.

The cashew butter cookies were very similar in texture and appearance to those made with peanut butter, but the cashew flavor was so subtle that it was easy to miss, making this nut a poor stand-in for peanuts. The almond butter cookies fared worse: The almond skins made the cookies taste noticeably bitter, and the cookies also spread more than their peanut and cashew counterparts, looking comparatively flat and unattractive. It turns out that almonds contain not only slightly more fat than peanuts and cashews (which share a similar fat percentage) but also a much higher proportion of unsaturated fat. Because unsaturated fat has a lower melting point than the saturated kind, cookies made with almond butter are more fluid, allowing the batter to spread before their structure is set.

In a nutshell: If you’re concerned about peanut allergies, look for cookie recipes specifically designed for other nut butters. A direct substitution with cashew or almond butter won’t produce the same results.

CASHEW BUTTER = BLANDER

ALMOND BUTTER = FLATTER

Neither cashew nor almond butter works well as a direct substitue for peanut butter in a cookie recipe.