Nut butters are one of our favorite flavor-enhancers for meal prepping. They’re versatile, have a great shelf life, and are delicious, but with so many options available, it can be hard to know which nut or seed will work best in your recipes.
Is raw better than roasted? When is it best to use a natural option? What the hell is pea butter? We’ve come a long way from the days when creamy or crunchy was the only nut butter decision you had to make!
Nut and seed butters are exceedingly popular today and their reach extends far beyond the PB&J sandwiches of yore. Savory sauces, marinades, no-bake treats, soups, smoothies, and much more can benefit from a little nutty flavor.
Workweek Lunch recipes primarily use nut butters in Asian-inspired sauces, baked goods, overnight oats, and granola recipes. Most recipes here will include a note that indicates you should use a nut or seed butter of your choice. We hope this guide helps you decide which nut butter you’ll reach for in the future or give you some alternate ideas for when you’re feeling adventurous!
Now, let’s start with the basics.
Organic vs. All-Natural Nut Butters
The main thing to keep in mind here is that the “Organic” label is a real certification with rigorous standards (and a hefty price tag). These nuts and seeds were grown without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Products labeled as All-Natural cannot contain anything not naturally occurring (i.e. hydrogenated oils) but can contain other oils, sweeteners, flavors, colors, and more.
When it comes to cooking, whether or not your nut butter is organic, all-natural, or conventional doesn’t matter for most recipes. If you’re making a sauce, marinade, or dressing (and don’t want to have to break out a food processor), go for an all-natural nut butter as these are typically already more liquid than solid.
Roasted vs. Raw Nut and Seed Butters
Roasted nut and seed butters are what you’ll find most commonly in your local grocery store. These nuts have either been dry roasted (heated with no oil) or wet- or oil-roasted (heated with oil), which brings out the natural oils of the nut or seed, resulting in a smoother consistency when ground into butter and a more complex, nutty flavor.
Raw nut and seed butters have less depth of flavor and the texture tends to be more crumbly. Most raw nut butters are mild in flavor and can blend in well with other ingredients without being overpowering.
Choosing between raw or roasted nut and seed butters all comes down to the flavor you prefer. When a strong flavor is desired, go roasted. If the role of the nut butter is more to add texture and body to a dish (like adding tahini to a soup, for example), then go raw. In the vast majority of cases, this decision will not impact your recipe too severely, so feel free to go the more affordable route!
Why Are Oils Added to Nut Butters?
As mentioned above, dry-roasting nuts and seeds brings out their natural oils. So why is extra oil added to most nut butters?
The most common reason is to stop separation. Palm, safflower, coconut, and hydrogenated oils act as a stabilizer in nut butter, ensuring the oil stays blended with the nut or seed butter. Added oils can also create a smoother texture and more palatable mouthfeel.
What Other Ingredients Are In Nut Butter?
Besides the nuts (raw or roasted) and the oils, all other nut butter additives will likely fall in one of these four groups:
From straight-up cane sugar to maple syrup to fruit purees, there are many, many different kinds of sweeteners used in nut and seed butters. As a general rule, go for unsweetened nut butters when making savory dishes. If using a sweetened variety for a dessert or smoothie, keep in mind that you may want to tone down the sweetener in the recipe to compensate. Otherwise, it’s all personal preference!
As in meal-prep, spices add tons of depth and variety to nut and seed butters, too. Common spice blends include cinnamon sugar, chai, and pumpkin spice.
Vanilla extract, cocoa, and ground coffee or espresso are common flavor boosts added to nut and seed butters.
Some nut and seed butters include “superfoods” like chia seeds, flax seeds, cacao nibs, and goji berries to give more texture, added nutrients, and a unique flavor profile. Macronutrient enhancements like collagen and protein powder are also common, as well as “taste enhancers” like chocolate chips or toffee bits.
Types of Nut Butters (and Legume Butters)
Average price per 16 oz. jar: $3.75
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.25 non-organic; $0.32 organic
Top Uses: Sandwiches/Toast, Baking, Sauces, Desserts, Smoothies, Dip for fresh fruit/veggies, Oatmeal-Topper, No-Bake Treats, Straight out of the jar
Brands: Smucker’s, Skippy, generic grocery store brand (usually the cheapest)
First up: the classic. Peanut butter is the nut butter that started it all. It’s versatile and can be easily adapted for sweet and savory uses. Coming up with our recommended ways to use peanut butter actually felt pretty silly — assuming you don’t have an allergy, what isn’t peanut butter good for?
One of our favorite ways to use peanut butter is peanut sauce over chicken or tofu and rice or soba noodles. If you’re looking for something sweet and incredibly easy, Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies are delicious and require no equipment beyond a bowl and some measuring cups and spoons. Or freeze up some peanut butter and fruit puree in a muffin tin for a quick snack that’s great for meal prep.
Average price per 12 oz jar: $5.93
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.50 non-organic; $0.71 organic
Top Uses: Sandwiches/Toast, Sauces, Baking, Smoothies, Dip for fresh fruit/veggies, Oatmeal-Topper, No-Bake Treats, Straight out of the jar
Brands: MaraNatha, Wild Friends, generic grocery store brand (usually the cheapest)
Almond butter was a relative newcomer on grocery store shelves just a few short years ago but has certainly staked its claim. This versatile nut butter has a slightly more neutral flavor than peanut butter and can be used in a wide variety of sauces, dressings, dips, marinades, baked goods, and more.
Similarly to peanut butter, almond butter also lends itself nicely to Asian-inspired cuisine. This Almond Butter Satay Sauce would be delicious over chicken, tofu, or roasted veggies. Almond butter also brings a delicious nuttiness to granola in this Almond Butter Granola recipe from the Kitchn. Or get super creative with Almond Butter Hummus on your veggies all week long.
Average price per 8 oz. jar: $8.90
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $2.14 organic
Top Uses: Desserts, Smoothies, No-Bake Treats
Brands: Crazy Go Nuts Walnut Butters, Artisana Organic Raw Walnut Butter
Walnut butter is a great alternative to almond butter in most recipes. Walnuts can be a little bitter; to reduce this, some companies soak the walnuts prior to processing them and/or add some sweetener to the nut butter to balance out the flavor. Walnut butter is great for no-bake energy balls or for adding a little extra nutrition and depth-of-flavor to a smoothie.
Price per 8 oz. jar: $11 (organic only)
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $1.57 organic
Top Uses: Desserts, No-Bake Treats, Smoothies, Oatmeal-Topper
Brands: Georgia Grinders Pecan Butter, Artisana Raw Pecan Butter
Creamy, nutty, and addictive, pecan butter is a lesser-known (and more expensive) nut butter, but well worth the investment. It tastes best when sweetened a bit. To keep costs down, we recommend making your own pecan butter (check the end of this post for more tips!). Then whip up these Gingerbread Pecan Blissballs during your next prep!
Average price per 16 oz. jar: $10
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.86 non-organic; $1.12 organic
Top Uses: Sandwiches/Toast, Dips, Soups, Baking, Sauces, No-Bake Treats
Brands: Artisana, Trader Joe’s, Once Again, generic grocery store brand (usually the cheapest)
Cashew butter is well on its way to becoming the new darling of the nut butter scene, and for good reason. Like almonds, cashews are extremely versatile with an even more neutral flavor that compliments sweet and savory dishes well. For a sweet meal-prep-friendly recipe, try these Vanilla Cashew Butter Cups or whip up this Herbed Cashew Butter Cheese for your next party spread.
Coconut Butter/Coconut Manna
Average price per 16 oz. jar: $8.31
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.66 organic
Top Uses: No-Bake Treats, Dairy-Free Frosting, Toast, Smoothies, Drizzled over roasted veggies (especially squash), Straight from the jar
Brands: Artisana Raw Coconut Butter, Nutiva Coconut Manna, Nikki’s Coconut Butter
Coconut butter is made by processing the meat of ripe coconuts into a smooth paste or butter. When room temperature, coconut butter is hard and crumbly, often with a film of coconut oil settled on top. For recipes (or eating straight out of the jar – no judgment), warm the coconut butter in the microwave and it’ll become smooth, silky, and easy to work with. These Five-Ingredient Chocolate Coconut Butter Cups are a delicious no-bake way to experiment with coconut butter.
Hazelnut Butter & Hazelnut Spread
Average price per 16 oz. jar: $3.93 for spread; $21 for butter (ouch)
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.40 for spread; $1.75 for butter
Top Uses: Toast, Oatmeal-Topper, Smoothies, Baking
Brands: Once Again Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa, Artisana Hazelnut Cacao Spread, Vör Pure Hazelnut Butter
True, pure hazelnut butter is pretty tough to find. What you’ll likely find in your grocery store is called hazelnut spread, which is typically hazelnuts, cocoa, a stabilizing oil, and some type of sweetener. Making your own hazelnut butter is simple (and easier on your wallet) and if you decide to take it a step further and make your own Mocha Nutella a la Oh She Glows, well, we don’t blame you one bit.
Types of Seed Butters
Sesame Seed Butter (Tahini)
Average price per 16 oz. jar: $7
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.49 non-organic; $0.83 organic
Top Uses: Sauces, Dressings, Desserts, Soups, Marinades, Hummus & other dips
Brands: Once Again Roasted Sesame Tahini, Artisana Raw Tahini
Tahini is an affordable seed butter made from sesame seeds. Most commonly known as the magic ingredient in hummus, tahini is a pantry staple that works well in a variety of cuisines. Tahini dressing is a great, low-risk way to try tahini. From there, we recommend this Broccoli Chèvre soup from Run Fast. Eat Slow. I can attest – it re-heats very well!
Sunflower Seed Butter
Average price per 16 oz. jar: $6
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.41 non-organic; $0.51 organic
Top Uses: Sauces, Dressings, Desserts, Fresh Fruit Dip, Sandwiches, Straight from the jar
Brands: Sunbutter, Once Again, YumButter
Both affordable and allergen-friendly, sunflower seed butter (also known by the term sunbutter) is a naturally sweet spread. Try it over veggies and rice in Sunshine Sauce, use it to give a nutty flavor to granola, or use it to replace peanut butter in your favorite recipe; the two are similar enough to replace 1:1 in recipes.
Mixed Nut & Seed Butter
Average price per 8 oz. jar: $7
Price per Serving (2 tablespoons): $0.90 organic
Top Uses: Sandwiches, Dips, Sauces, Straight from the jar
Brands: Nuttzo, Trader Joe’s Mixed Nut Butter
Can’t decide which nut butter or seed butter to try first? Try them all at once! Mixed nut and seed butters include a wide variety of nuts and seeds, often including peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and others in a rich, creamy or crunchy blend. As with all the nut butters and seed butters we’ve shared, you can make this one at home, too!
Types of Exotic Nut & Seed Butters
We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a quick nod to all the super unique nut and seed butters out there! For the allergen-friendly crowd, Pea Butter ($0.40/serving), Chickpea Butter ($0.80), and Soynut Butter ($0.47) are great, low-cost options.
Spread some holiday cheer year-round with Chestnut Butter ($1.10/serving) or go gourmet with Pumpkin Seed Butter ($1.25) and Hemp Seed Butter ($1.88). To make Watermelon Seed Butter ($1.36), the hard black shell is shucked, leaving a yellow seed that tastes like a cross between a cashew and sesame seeds.
The priciest of the exotic nut butters include Pine Nut Butter ($2/serving), Brazil Nut Butter ($2.10), and Macadamia Nut Butter ($2.50). The most expensive exotic nut butter we found was Pistachio Butter, clocking in at $2.89 per serving ($13 for a 5 oz. jar – yikes!).
DIY Nut Butter And Seed Butter
One of the easiest ways to save money on nut and seed butters is to make your own. Not only can you keep the cost down (by purchasing nuts and seeds in bulk and/or dry- or oil-roasting them yourself), but it also gives you a ton of control over the amount you end up with and what oils, sweeteners, and other additives go into it.
You will need specific equipment to make your own nut and seed butters. For tougher nuts, you’ll be grinding away for around 25 minutes to achieve a smooth, well-incorporated consistency, so you’ll need a food processor or blender with a strong motor. Talia recommended this Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus Food Processor in her Gift Guide, which would work great for small-batch nut butters and seed butters. If you have the space and the budget (and think you’ll realistically be making your own nut butters frequently), there are options all the way up to 16-cups! I have an 11-cup Cuisinart that works wonderfully for nut butters (and has for more than three years).
How To Roast Nuts At Home
Most nuts can be roasted in a 350º F oven for 10-15 mins, stirring every five minutes or so to avoid burning. The bigger the nut, the longer they can stay in the oven. Keep a very close eye on small nuts like peanuts!
It’s generally recommended to toast seeds in a pan over medium-high heat for 1-5 minutes, depending on the size of the seed, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Again, burning is more of an issue for small seeds, like sesame seeds.
Nuts and seeds are “done” roasting/toasting when they’ve become fragrant. Nuts with skin, like hazelnuts, will start to shed their skins at the end of this process. Rub them with a tea towel to loosen the skins, then remove, and discard.
How To Make Your Own Nut & Seed Butters
The actual process of blending up nut butter or seed butter is very simple!
- Add nuts in first and any added oils. Keep the oils on the lighter side to start – you can always add more in if your food processor is having a hard time keeping up.
- It can take up to 20-30 minutes to get to a butter-like consistency, so don’t get discouraged! Your nut butter will probably look like a crumbly mess at first. Don’t get frustrated – the magic is about to happen!
- Once desired consistency is reached, then add in liquids (like vanilla extract or honey) and powders (like spices or cocoa).
- At the very end, add in texture enhancers and blend briefly to incorporate.
What’s The Shelf Life Of Homemade Nut Butter And Seed Butter?
It’s usually best and safest to refrigerate homemade nut and seed butters as they’re more likely to go rancid. Homemade nut butters are at peak freshness for 3-4 weeks in the fridge, but you can freeze them to extend shelf life. Be sure to let homemade nut butter come to room temperature for easy spreading, measuring, and eating straight from the jar.
We hope that next time you’re walking down the nut butter aisle, you feel more confident and empowered in your decisions!
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