Are Alternative Nut Butters Better Than the Real Thing?
We taste tested all the buzzy, alternative nut butters.
Published Aug 1, 2018 5:30 PM
We all have warm, fuzzy thoughts about peanut butter on toast or PB&J with the crust cut off. But in today’s wellness landscape, we’re finding peanut butter might not be the best option for your toast, smoothie, or right off the spoon.
Peanuts have one of the highest allergy rates in the nut family, so you may have already been avoiding them. And lately, it’s come to light that peanuts have high lectin levels, which can make you feel terrible and do serious harm to your body over time.
But just because you’ve been avoiding peanuts, that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in some nut butter in your life. From almond to walnut to pistachio to coconut, there are plenty of options readily available at a supermarket near you. And some of the alternatives have impressive health benefits, too.
“Many alternative nut and seed butters are nutrient dense and rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids,” says Lily Kunin, founder of site Clean Food Dirty City and New York’s Clean Market, and author of bestseller Good Clean Food.
We tried the alternatives everyone’s been buzzing about. And we have some thoughts…
CAP Beauty, $26-36 depending on flavor
While not exactly in the traditional nut family, this coconut butter is completely raw and never heated, which preserves the coconut’s nutrients, flavor, and smooth texture. Each flavor has a different super ingredient added in, from ceremonial grade matcha to blue-green algae Blue Majik and superfood berries.
“I love CAP’s stone ground coconut butters,” says Kunin. “The texture is extremely creamy, and I almost always blend a tablespoon into my morning matcha (instead of using a nut milk). I’ve been using the Blue Majik in my matcha for a boost of energy (and it also makes an insanely beautiful matcha). They are also great blended into smoothies and made into desserts.”
Taste Test: Our taste testers almost unanimously preferred the Blue Majik version over Berry and Matcha. This is especially great because the algae Blue Majik is traditionally a very strong, sometimes off-putting flavor. But here, you get the healing and energizing health benefits without that. One tester even went as far as to say that the Blue version tasted like a coconut macaroon.
The texture is another thing to consider with this ‘butter’. It’s very runny, so it’s more ideal in a smoothie or recipe versus toast, although you certainly can easily spread it on. Just know it doesn’t have the traditional, thicker texture you’re used to.
Espresso Nut Butter
Big Spoon, $12.50
One of the most surprising hits of our taste test was this espresso nut butter, with heirloom Mission almonds, Oregon hazelnuts, Equator Coffees & Teas Tigerwalk Espresso, raw, organic coconut crystals, organic Madagascar Vanilla, Vietnamese cinnamon, and sea salt. It’s also worth noting that it has a delightful coffee kick. But if you are caffeine sensitive, make sure you enjoy it in the am.
“This well-balanced blend is sweet and creamy, yielding a broad range of delicate fruit flavors that complement this special nut butter recipe perfectly,” said Ted Stachura, Director of Coffee at Equator Coffees & Teas, in a press release.
Taste Test: The artisanal blend has a delightful crunchy texture that most taste testers thoroughly enjoyed. One tester imagined endless flavor combinations, from spreading on a banana, toast, in ice cream, or even just straight out of the jar.
If you like chunky nut butter, this has a similar crunch to it. If you’re more of a smooth nut butter fan, the blend might be a bit too textured for you.
Sprouted, Raw Almond Butter
Better Almond Butter, $18
Better Almond Butter makes their almond butters with raw, sprouted almonds from Spain. Because they aren’t made in the US, they are unpasteurized, which allows them to have a higher nutritional value and bolder flavor.
“Sprouting nuts can unlock nutrition and make them easier to digest,” says Kunin. “I prefer to purchase organic whenever possible. I love raw nut butters for their superior flavor and texture. Along with that, there is no added oil or sugar.” (Well, you’ll love this brand then, Kunin.)
They make three varieties: Truly Raw (truly just sprouted, raw, organic almonds); Toasted (those same almonds, but toasted for a tasty flavor); and Sweet & Salty (organic, sprouted almonds with honey and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt).
Taste Test: We taste tested their most popular flavor, Sweet & Salty, and we’re blown away by the complex flavor and thick, spreadable texture. It can be a bit sweet for a purist, so feel free to try the raw or toasted version if you like it more simple. Testers loved the bold almond flavor, and most went back for seconds. You won’t miss peanut butter for a second with this blend.
Nutraw Foods, $16.99
Super high in antioxidants, yet lower than other nuts and legumes in calorie count, pistachios make a super delicious alternative to other nuts. We tested an organic, vegan option, and our taste testers thought it was one of the most unique butters at the testing.
Taste Test: This is for chunky butter fans only. The texture of this pistachio butter is quite raw, and can be a little off-putting for some, since it’s so chunky. One tester said the butter tasted like simply chewing a bunch of pistachios, so much so that they’d eat this when they’re feeling too lazy to crack open the green nuts in their shells. And the flavor is pretty straightforward, too: The ingredient list is just pistachios, vanilla bean, and sea salt. One of our food editors thinks that paired with a fig jam, this would make a super next level PB&J.
Wellnut Farms, $13.99
Walnut butters are a unique alternative to the stale peanut and almond everyday options, and because of its incredibly rich omega-3 fatty acid amounts, it’s incredibly nourishing and healthful. But…
Taste Test: Of all the nut butters we taste tested, this one had the most unanimous agreement—we all disliked it. This one in particular was chosen for its low, accessible price and good reviews. But the consistency was like pancake batter, and the texture like stale cake batter. One taster even said it tasted like eating raw Pillsbury dough bread. It does have a very walnutty flavor, but the consistency and texture make it less desirable. (There are plenty of other walnut butters that are worth trying out though, so we’ll keep searching!)
What do you think: Would you try an alternative nut butter? Or do you have a favorite type or brand?
Keep on taste testing: