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Nut Butter Alternatives

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2014

Which makes a better nut-free substitute for peanut butter in baking and otherwise: sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter?

We spread both alternative butters on bread, subbed them for peanut butter in cookies, and made some dipping sauces for crudités.

The soy nut butter was, in a word, terrible. Though its color made it look like a dead ringer for peanut butter, its flavor and texture bore no resemblance. It tasted too strongly of, well, soy when spread over bread, but its flavor then seemed to disappear entirely in recipes, such that the sugar in the cookies and the spices in the dipping sauce completely took over. Worse was its texture, which tasters described as chalky, gritty, and “mouthcoating in an extremely unpleasant way,” both on bread and in sauce.

On the other hand, the sunflower seed butter was surprisingly good, especially to those of us who like sunflower seeds. In all three applications it boasted the pleasantly vegetal, slightly nutty flavor characteristic of the seeds, and though runny, its texture was still perfectly acceptable. We think it makes an interesting alternative to peanut butter, even if you aren’t avoiding nuts. Like peanut butter, it comes in both smooth and crunchy varieties.