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Sunbutter vs. Peanut Butter

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As parent to a vegetarian, I'm always looking for ways to diversify the healthy-protein sources around the house!

A Bite-for-Bite Comparison

I'm not sure what first attracted me to Sunbutter, a spread made from sunflower seeds that is peanut free but looks, "feels" and tastes like peanut butter. Maybe it was the warm, sunny name. Maybe it was the pleasure of imagining that severely peanut-allergic folks, like my nephew and some of my children's friends, might now be able to enjoy a PB-like sandwich or cookie. (Sorry, soy butter never really did it for me :P And almond butter, while tasty, is often processed in facilities that also handle peanuts.)

Whatever the lure, I grabbed a jar of Sunbutter from the local grocery and set up some side-by-side comparisons with our "house" peanut butter, Skippy Natural. The highly subjective ramblings below may at least give you a sense of what Sunbutter is like.

To State the Obvious: Allergy Alert!

This type of product throwdown is safe only for non-allergic types (like me). Even if you're not allergic but have a child or adult in your home with a peanut allergy, you won't want to replicate these shenanigans. Much better safe than sorry.

As for Sunbutter, here's the allergy statement straight from its label:

"Made on equipment that processes soybeans. Processed in a peanut free and tree nut free facility."

For more info, you can call the manufacturer of this brand of sunflower seed butter -- SunGold Foods, Inc. -- directly at 800-437-5539.

Straight From the Jar

On its own, the Sunbutter "natural crunch" variety (which was the only version my store carried) was really quite decent. It had more depth of flavor and was more "roasty"--for lack of a better term--than the Skippy Natural peanut butter, which I had in creamy style. In sweetness, the two products were about equal.

Advantage:: Tie. I'd take the Sunbutter for 2 bites, but if I had to eat 5, maybe the Skippy. Only because the deeper, "roastier" taste might start to wear out its welcome. But who eats more than a couple bites of nut butter out of the jar, anyway?

p.s. As with peanut butter, it's possible to customize the taste by making your own sunflower seed butter. Here's a sugar-free recipe that could easily be adapted, if sugar's okay by you.

In a Sandwich

Hmm. Maybe it's because I used a fairly sweet bread (my kids like cinnamon-swirl bread for their PBJ sandwiches, so that's what I used), but between that and the all-fruit strawberry spread, it was actually pretty tough to tell the difference between the Sunbutter and peanut butter sandwiches. Which is probably a good thing, right?

Advantage: Tie!

On a Cracker

I laid out a few Ritz and spread some with Sunbutter, some with Skippy. The Sunbutter crackers weren't bad or anything, but the peanut butter ones created a knockout punch of nostalgia. After-school snacks. Swim-meet energy boosters. Snacking along to the Partridge Family, circa 1974. Sigh...

Advantage: Peanut butter

With Banana

Even if you don't fry them up in a sandwich like Elvis -- let's not and say we did -- PB and banana pair well together. But in this taste test, I found the Skippy atop a slice of banana a bit cloying. Sugar overload. The roastier flavor of the Sunbutter came in handy here, playing off the banana's creamy sweetness.

Advantage: Sunbutter

In a Milkshake

One of my best discoveries of 2009 was just how much peanut butter one can pack into a milkshake without one's somewhat underweight, protein-averse kid noticing. It's amazing! So I decided to try the same trick with Sunbutter.

Starting with a vanilla shake, I added a heaping tablespoon of Sunbutter. Oddly, the resulting taste reminded me of the old "drumstick" ice cream treat from the Good Humor truck. (Maybe they still sell those? Not sure.) But I like that taste, so it wasn't a problem.

I tasted again after adding 2 heaping tbsp. of Ovaltine to the shake. Yum! Still a bit "drumstick" like, but in a good way.

On the other hand, the Sunbutter's slightly stronger taste means you can probably get away with less of it in a shake than the peanut butter. I also had to blend the Sunbutter shake a bit longer than a PB one to get it creamy enough, but that wasn't a big deal.

Advantage: Peanut butter, if volume or "density" is a goal. If not --tie.

sunbutter

Cookies!

Right before the kids came home, I threw together some World's Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies (pictured above), replacing peanut butter with Sunbutter. As with peanut butter, this created a sticky dough that needed to be smooshed down on the cookie sheet with a fork. My Sunbutter cookies took about 10 minutes to bake, but ovens vary, so if you make these, start checking after about 8. When the kids trampled in, I nonchalantly handed each a cookie -- no explanation about the Sunbutter, as my guys are not super adventurous and would likely opt out if they had the fully story.

Guess what? They gobbled up the Sunbutter cookies without complaint. And so did I :}

Advantage: Close one. I'd say the peanut butter cookies, but not by much.

If you want to branch out from the World's Easiest but stay gluten free, try a recipe for sunbutter cookies from Karina's Kitchen or Food by Maria.

Note: A weird issue can come up when you bake with Sunbutter. I didn't have this problem with the World's Easiest cookies, because they don't require a leavening agent, but the chlorogenic acid in sunflower seeds can turn some Sunbutter baked goods green! Click here for a concise, witty explanation and tips on prevention. Or limit your baking to March 17 ;)

Is Sunbutter Good for You?

Based on the health benefits of sunflower seeds, I'd say this has got to be an overall "yes."

Like peanuts, sunflower seeds are high in "good fat" that can help ward off heart disease. They're rich in phytosterols, believed to reduce blood cholesterol. They provide magnesium for healthy bones, plus plenty of antioxidant power in the form of vitamin E.

But how does Sunbutter, specifically, stack up nutritionally against its more traditional cousin? Checking the labels, I see equal amounts of fat (16g per 2 tbsp. serving) and cholesterol (0g). They have identical, reassuringly low sugar counts (3g per serving). The Skippy Natural peanut butter has a bit more sodium: 150mg, compared to 120 for the Sunbutter. But they both have 7g of protein--a key figure when your kids are near-vegetarians like mine.

Where to Find Sunbutter

The product's been spotted at national chains like Target and Trader Joe's, so call your nearest branch to check. Or ask your grocery to order, if it's not on the shelves already. You can also grab Sunbutter online, at a bulk price much lower than what I paid for a solo jar at our local store.

Make Your Own Sunflower Seed Butter

I'm not sure if this would save money over purchasing the ready-made Sunbutter, but certainly there's an appeal to homemade food. You can try this recipe which has just four ingredients (though, the blogger points out, it can also be made with just one: roasted -- always roasted -- sunflower seeds) and includes serving suggestions for the finished product that I haven't included here in my Sunbutter vs peanut butter throwdown. No-bake energy balls made with honey and coconut sound particularly appealing, as you don't need to worry about the green color issue described above.

Sunbutter Recipes

The culinary potential of sunflower seed butter is vast! If you'd like to go beyond the classic sandwiches and cookies, give these sunbutter recipes a spin:

Sunbutter muffins, sunbutter banana bread and sunbutter granola would all be great breakfast options. Sunbutter brownies would be my pick for a decadent dessert. For excellent after-school snacks or midday pick-me-ups, try sunbutter rice krispie treats or sunbutter no-bake energy bites

And, for a savory main-dish treat, how about sunbutter noodles or sunbutter African-style stew.

Sunbutter as a Stress Buster?

When we think "tryptophan," most of us think of turkey and a long, lazy post-Thanksgiving-dinner nap. But foods high in tryptophan, touted by many nutritionists as a natural serotonin booster in the body, can assist with stress management as well as sleep. And sunflower seeds are on the list of tryptophan-rich foods. They won't solve all your problems (what food will?) -- but as stress-busting snacks go, they (and their spreadable form: Sunbutter) are worth a shot!

More Peanut Butter Alternatives

If the taste and/or texture of sunflower seed butter does not appeal, try:

Almond butter (my favorite, for both snacking and baking)

Cashew butter -- or cashew/pecan butter as an alternative

Granola butter

Hazlenut butter

Soy butter (in moderation, if you worry -- as I do -- about the health complexities of regular soy consumption)

Pumpkin seed butter

(And the newest I've heard about) Watermelon seed butter


Poll!

Would You Try Sunbutter?

Or have you already tried it? How does it compare to other peanut butter alternatives you've tried?

© 2009 Mary

Comments

Mary (author) from Chicago area on June 01, 2013:

@Lady Lorelei: lol - the pb shake is for people like my son who need to put on weight! it is yummy, though - very creamy.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on June 01, 2013:

You are certainly creative. I would never have thought of creating a peanut butter milkshake and I have never heard of sunbutter. Both sure sound good though.

TheGardenGuys on May 16, 2013:

Yes - straight from the jar.... It's the only way !!

mrdata on April 30, 2013:

Useful lens! Thanks! I will try your tips for sure :)

geosum on April 10, 2013:

Great lens. Worth a try.

Sunwarrior on February 23, 2013:

I'd love to try Sunbutter. Iv'e made many kinds of nut butters myself, but have neglected to purchase a Sunbutter product. Check out my lens on The Best Nut Butters Available. http://www.squidoo.com/the-best-nut-butters-availa...

Mary (author) from Chicago area on January 28, 2013:

@anonymous: cool! I would think a bit of salt would help the flavor, but of course that's optional...

anonymous on January 20, 2013:

@anonymous: Super easy to make sunbutter at home. Just put roasted sunflower seeds in a food processor till it is done. We buy sunflower seeds for $1.99 at Trader Joes. Work out much cheaper to make than buy.

anonymous on October 13, 2012:

We love sunbutter in our home. my little one has a slight allergy to peanuts. I have to tell you even when she grows out of that allergy. I will continue to buy it. I have never made cookies with it, because it is so expensive but I may have to splurge and make some. :)

Genesis Davies from Guatemala on October 11, 2012:

Cool! I have never tried sunbutter and don't know if we could find it here in Guatemala, but I'll have to try it when we visit Canada again.

anonymous on October 01, 2012:

I used to love peanut butter, but, our son is allergic to ALL things peanut. So, we found Sunbutter. Best decision we ever made! Now that he is out of the house, we still eat Sunbutter instead of peanut butter.

MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on October 01, 2012:

I have never heard of it before, now gotta find it and try it, sounds yummy!

MintySea on October 01, 2012:

i like peanutbutter but other nut butters can be really good like almond butter and hazelnut sunbutter sounds tasty

anonymous on July 16, 2012:

I don't know :) lol

anonymous on June 26, 2012:

One of my favorite sunbutter snacks! Sliced apple dipped in sunbutter and them rolled in granola. Oh boy it's delicious :)

SteveKaye on May 24, 2012:

Yes. Right now I'm buying natural almond butter because it's free of the fat & sugar that gets mixed with standard peanut butters.

Mary (author) from Chicago area on March 22, 2012:

@anonymous: that ants on a log treat sounds so healthy as well as super fun! thx for the tip!

anonymous on March 22, 2012:

LOVE Sunbutter. I too prefer it with bananas on a sandwich. I haven't baked with it as a substitute. My favorite use is to dip celery sticks in it. I usually have a head of celery left over after I have used celery in a recipe and hate to see it go to waste. (I would not eat celery plain with a gun to my head.)A friend recommended schmearing celery sticks in peanut butter. Yum. Celery sticks with Sunbutter? YUMMIER! I have also fed little ones without allergy issues "Ants on a Log"- celery with Sunbutter, unsweetened grated coconut and black currants. They love it!

Mary (author) from Chicago area on January 25, 2012:

@AnnaleeBlysse: I know; isn't that weird? If you make flourless pb cookies without any baking soda or baking powder, though, the green thing shouldn't happen.

KandH on January 24, 2012:

We pretty much replaced peanut butter with Nutella a while ago, but I would definitely like to try Sunbutter.

AnnaleeBlysse on January 24, 2012:

I will always keep a jar of peanut butter handy, but I'd definitely try some sunbutter if I ever run across any. Though maybe not bake with it, except like you said ... on St. Patrick's Day. Never heard of stuff turning green before. I went to read about that too. Interesting.

E L Seaton from Virginia on January 24, 2012:

This definitely bears further investigation. I will never abandon the noble peanut, but this is interesting. THanks for sharing1

lilymom24 on January 24, 2012:

I have tried Sunbutter and I like it better than peanut butter. Its been a hard sell on the kids though but I keep trying. =)

anonymous on January 20, 2012:

very nice write up, enjoy your photo on your main topic too.

tedcdelivers on December 17, 2011:

Love this lens, especially like the "advantage" angle. It breaks up your content for a great reading experience.

Cheers,

Ted

anonymous on December 09, 2011:

@verymary: Trader Joe's has a sunbutter that is more reasonable (though still slightly more expensive than peanut butter) at around $3 a jar.

Mary (author) from Chicago area on November 19, 2011:

@anonymous: i would go ahead & try your pb rice krispie recipe with the sunbutter -- there's a good chance it will turn out well. Based on my taste testing, it may not be AS yummy, but it will come close. Thanks for stopping by!

anonymous on November 19, 2011:

Thanks for this post! i love sunbutter - it's what my non-allergenic daughter takes to school b/c her school is nut free. we actually use the organic kind (you can order it in bulk through Amazon) which has no sugar added.

her school has a bake sale coming up and i have a really yummy (and easy) peanut butter rice krisipies recipe. i was hoping someone had used sunbutter as a peanutbuter replacement in a recipe, so this was great to see it held up so well. Thanks!

WorldVisionary3 on July 02, 2011:

It sounds yummy!

Mary (author) from Chicago area on April 19, 2011:

@Jaydoo: Yes, it's twice the price of PB -- unless you get the multipack from Amazon, where it ends up being about 50% more than brand-name PB. For allergy sufferers who can't have PB, Sunbutter runs at least $2 per jar cheaper than almond butter and costs about the same as soy butter (which I hate).

Chris on April 19, 2011:

sounds good, but looks expensive, hmm. I think peanut butter has the advantage there.

Mary (author) from Chicago area on November 15, 2010:

@anonymous: ooh, good idea to try it for satay sauce!

anonymous on November 08, 2010:

I have just recently discovered it and though I haven't turned my peanut-allergic son onto it yet, I totally adore it and have eaten half the jar in only a few days. It is so close to peanut butter, I actually feel paranoid eating it in the house because of my son, though I know it's not made of peanuts and there is no danger. I can't wait to try it in a peanut satay stir fry recipe!

Beth on October 14, 2010:

I have never tried sunbutter. I love peanut butter. I will have to give it a try! :)

elizajane202 lm on October 05, 2010:

I tried sunbutter last year and while it would take some getting use to my two daughters LOVED it. So it is something we don't get all the time but have now got on occasion.

elizajane202 lm on October 05, 2010:

I tried sunbutter last year and while it would take some getting use to my two daughters LOVED it. So it is something we don't get all the time but have now got on occasion.

anonymous on September 30, 2010:

We have sunbutter since my DD has nut allergies. We find it very comparable to peanut butter. My daughter switches between both now and seems to have no preference.

Dianne Loomos on September 24, 2010:

I have never seen sunbutter in the stores, but I would certainly try it if I run across it. Thanks for all the taste testing and letting us know!

anonymous on September 21, 2010:

I never even heard of sunbutter before. Wow!

Going to have to try some one of these fine days.

I love my peanut butter though.

anonymous on June 04, 2010:

That's cool I just found out I'm allergic to peanuts and after having refused to give up shelfish ( was mildly allergic now severe sigh) I decided to give up peanuts entirely. The hardest thing to give up is peanut butter I'm glad there's a substitute that's fairly close.

CodiSpodnik on March 20, 2010:

Thanks for sharing this great info. My son is almost 3 and has severe peanut allergy. We've been eating sunbutter exclusively for almost 2 years now and we have shared it with all our friends. Thanks for getting the word out!

Kylyssa Shay from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on February 12, 2010:

Great, in-depth product review! Thank you for sharing your adventures with Sunbutter.

strayspay on January 29, 2010:

What a great lens!~ I'm anxious now to try sunbutter but have never seen it. I'll definitely look next time I'm at the grocery.

seashell2 on January 26, 2010:

Never heard of this but I do like sunflower seeds so I'd probably enjoy it! Thanks for sharing!

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