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What’s the best nut butter?

What’s the best nut butter?

I love peanut butter, particularly on toast (True Confession: I love peanut butter plus unsalted butter on toast, but I refrain except in extreme circumstances). But lately I felt like it was time for a change. Grocery stores now carry a variety of nut butters, such as cashew, sunflower and almond. Tahini is also technically a nut butter made from sesame seeds. I chose almond and have been enjoying the slightly sweet flavor. You can find other nut butters in some stores, or online. I found Brazil nut, walnut, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, pistachio, watermelon seed and hemp seed butters online. No idea what watermelon seed butter would taste like.

How do different nut butters stack up nutritionally? The nutritional profile of a nut butter is no different from the nut.

1 tablespooncaloriesproteinfatcarb
almond983.3 gr8.9 gr3 gr
Brazil nut992.1 gr10 gr1.8 gr
cashew942.8 gr7.9 gr4.4 gr
hazelnut1102.5 gr10 gr3 gr
peanut953.5 gr8.2 gr3.5 gr
pecan1101.5 gr11 gr2.2 gr
pistachio963.2 gr7.5 gr4.5 gr
sesame902.5 gr8 gr3 gr
sunflower992.7 gr8.8 gr3.7 gr
walnut1102.4 gr10.4 gr2.2 gr

As you can see, they’re all very similar in terms of calories, protein and fats. Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts tend to be higher fat. Peanuts, almonds and pistachios are higher protein. But the differences are not significant. Most nuts are high in healthier mono-unsaturated fats. In general, nut butters are decent sources of magnesium, iron, niacin and vitamin E. They’re naturally low sodium and low sugar.

More benefits of nut butters:

  • Convenient
  • Keep well
  • Tasty
  • No cooking necessary
  • Good source of plant protein

Check the ingredients list

Many of the nut butters I found were not made purely from the nut listed on the front label. Most of the walnut butters were actually blends of walnuts and cashews. Same for pecan butters. There are probably good reasons for this. Walnuts and pecans are relatively high fat, and butters made just from the one nut might be too oily.

Sugar is frequently added to peanut butter, although it’s completely unnecessary. Salt is added to most nut butters, in varying amounts. If you’re concerned about sodium intake, check the Nutrition Facts panel for sodium content, or buy one without added salt.

Look out for added or hydrogenated fats! Fats like palm oil are frequently added to nut butters for a smooth consistent texture. “Old Fashioned” nut butters (just the nuts, maybe salt) tend to separate over time as the oil rises to the top. It’s not hard to mix separated oil into nut butter. Just use a fork and stir gently from the bottom of the jar. Nut butter that is relatively fresh will have little separation. If you buy nut butter but don’t use it frequently, store it in the refrigerator. The cold slows oil separation, and helps prevent oxidation of those healthy fats, which causes rancidity.

Best Choice?

The best choice is the nut butter(s) you enjoy, can find at the store (or online) and can afford. If you’re
fine with peanut butter and don’t like exploring new flavors, no problem. Nuts all have unique flavors, so if
you enjoy eating almonds or cashews, try the nut butter version and expand your food repertoire.

Using Nut Butters

  • Make sandwiches or wraps
  • Spread on toast or bagels
  • Use for dips for raw vegetables or apple slices (great snack!)
  • Make salad dressing
  • Use in flavorful sauces, such as Mexican molé or Thai peanut sauce.

The one problem with nuts and nut butters is allergy. Some people are highly allergic to one or more nuts. Peanut allergy is common, but that doesn’t automatically mean you are allergic to other nuts. In fact, peanuts aren’t really nuts at all; they’re legumes (like soy). Some people have allergies to more than one nut, including peanuts, even though they aren’t botanically related.

If you buy alternative nut butters because you have an allergy, be sure to check labels. As noted above, some nut butters are actually blends of 2 or more nuts, which aren’t always listed on the front of the container.