9 Alternatives to Peanut Butter

Almond Butter

As an almond lover, Leslie Bonci, the director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is also a big fan of this spreadable butter.

She described its taste as a little sweeter than peanut butter with a crunchier consistency. "Some people say it has a cherry overtone, in terms of its flavor," Bonci said.

Lighter in color than the tan tones of peanut butter, almond butter is also higher in calcium and has a little bit more fiber.

In addition, it has similar amounts of good-for-you monounsaturated fats and slightly less protein than peanuts.

"Almond butter lends itself to the same uses as peanut butter," she noted. So you can slather it on bread for a sandwich along with some jelly or honey, or you can put it on celery.

Legumes vs. Tree Nuts

Cashew butter is far lighter than peanut butter.

One of the biggest differences is that peanuts are a legume -- as are beans and peas -- while almonds are a tree nut. And from a salmonella or potential contamination perspective, the legumes, which are grown in closer contact with the soil, might be riskier than tree nuts, which have a stronger outer shell.

Cashew Nut Butter

Lower in protein and fiber than either peanut or almond butter, cashew nut butter is also a little bit higher in saturated fat. And its color is even a lighter shade of brown than almond butter.

It also is more expensive than peanut and even almond butter. The butter has an intense cashew flavor as well as a creamy and oily feel in your mouth, Bonci said. Because of its fatty, almost indulgent taste, you might want to use less of it than other nut or seed butters.

Soy Nut Butter

Soy nuts

Tan in color and not as creamy as peanut butter, soy nut butter comes from a legume -- the soybean -- rather than a nut or seed. As a result, it has a different taste profile than the other spreads.

"You'd have to like the taste of soybean," Bonci said.

Made from roasted soybeans, soy nut butter will have the most protein and the lowest amount of fat than other nut and seed butters, and its fiber content is similar to almond butter. It's a good option for people who have peanut or tree nut allergies.

"Soy nut butter is sweeter than peanut butter and, in terms of nutrition, it's terrific," Ayoob said.

Sunflower Seed Butter

Sunflower seeds

With a slightly grey tinge to it, sunflower seed butter is somewhat bland in taste. But if you like sunflower seeds, you might like this spread as well.

It's high in polyunsaturated fats, so it might spoil more easily than nut butters. People who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts can eat sunflower seed butter.

Three other nut butters that you might see on some store shelves:

  • The rich-tasting macadamia nut butter, which is higher in saturated fat and should be used sparingly because it's higher in calories.
  • Walnut butter, which has a darker brown color and is higher in omega-3 fats.
  • Hazelnut butter, which is more popular in Europe and is familiar to some Americans in the form of Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut blend.

You Can Always Come Back to Peanut Butter

And although not as widely available, some specialty or health food stores are stocking hemp seed butter, which has a nutty taste and, like walnuts, also provides some omega-3 fats, and golden peabutter, made from golden brown peas and has a strong resemblance to peanut butter.

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