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Not-Nut Butters for Back to School

It’s that time again. The kids are heading back to school and you’re thinking about lunches. Of course, you want to pack something that’s easy, portable, fresh, healthy and tasty, and something your kids will love. In my youth, that meant peanut butter. But that was way back when peanut butter was the only nut butter around, and peanut and tree nut allergies were rare.


If you have a child with allergies, take heart. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and soy nuts work great as alternatives. You can purchase seed butters or make your own (I’ll tell you how). They provide healthy fats, natural fiber, vitamins and minerals. Plus, they’re portable, spreadable, tasty and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, snacks and desserts.


Kinds of Not-Nut Butters

  • Both sesame seed butter and tahini are made from sesame seeds, either toasted or raw, although the toasted variety is more flavorful. Tahini is great with bananas, apples, carrots and celery. Some kids prefer tahini mixed with honey and dried fruits.
  • Sunflower seed butter is made from roasted sunflower seeds and is very similar in taste and appearance to peanut butter, so it can quickly become a favorite with kids.
  • Soy nut butter is made from roasted soybeans. Soy nut butter is another peanut-butter-like treat, but remember that soy is an allergen for some folks as well.
  • Pumpkin seed butter is another alternative, especially good from roasted pumpkin seeds. Your best bet is probably making it at home since it’s not ready available commercially.

Make Your Own


It’s not hard to make your own seed or soy nut butter — just a little messy. Add seeds of your choice to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. You may need to add a little oil in order to achieve a smooth consistency. Coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter) make wonderful additions to homemade nut butter. You can add a pinch of sea salt, a drop of honey or maple syrup, or a bit of vanilla extract if desired. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Experient with different seeds and be sure to try roasted varieties.


Serve It Up


Now that you’ve got your not-nut butter, have fun, get creative and try some of these serving ideas — adapting them as noted with seed or soy nut butters:

  • Spread on whole grain bread with fruit such as sliced bananas, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears and plums. Here’s a good recipe for an Open-Faced Apple Tahini Sandwich.
  • Here’s a great Chocolate Buckeye Candy treat made with sunflower butter.
  • This Cucumber and Tahini Sandwich is lunch-box ready and pairs nicely with fresh fruit.
  • Here’s a recipe for Tahini Oat Cookies. Remember, you can use soy nut butter or sunflower butter in place of tahini, if desired.
  • This Chocolate Almond Smoothie can be made with sunflower butter or soy nut butter in place of almond butter.
  • Mix with cream cheese and use as a dip for just about any fruit or raw veggie dippers. Here’s an idea for Cream Cheese and Cashew Dip that can easily be made with your favorite seed butter in place of cashew butter.
  • Pack a side of Carrot Salad with Almond Butter Dressing using soy nut or seed butter in place of almond butter.
  • Bake cookies! Substitute equal amounts of any seed butter or soy nut butter in place of peanut butter in a peanut butter cookie recipe. Here’s a good Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookie that is wonderful made with sunflower butter.
  • Try seed butters in smoothies for a creamy delicious treat. Here’s a cooling Strawberry Almond Butter Smoothie that is simply delicious when made with sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter.
  • What kid doesn’t like a yummy crispy rice treat? Try this Crispy Cashew Rice Treats recipe with tahini in place of peanut butter and soy nuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in place of cashews.
  • Make nut and seed butters into healthy “candy” – here’s a favorite recipe for Chocolate Earth Balls.  Try soy nut or sunflower butter in place of peanut butter and pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds in place of chopped nuts.

Got some ideas for nut-free kids you’d like to share? Let us know.

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Jenny YOMC says …

I am so inspired by this post! I just started doing all sorts of experiments with tahini, nut butters, cashew cheeses andmaking my own dressings using nuts instead of oil. I never thought of using pumpkin seeds!

Angela says …

I bought my food processor largely to begin making my own nut and not-nut butters. I've mastered the peanut and cinnamon almond nut butter but do you have any recommendations for sun-nut butter. It wouldn't really come together. Do I need to add additional oil?

Sky7 says …

thank you so very much for the information.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANGELA - I went straight to our Healthy Eating experts for their advice! They said, "yes, for sunflower butter, it needs a bit of oil added. Nuts are higher in fat, so release more oil when ground. Unless you have a high speed commercial grinding machine, then you will need a bit of oil added. Try pecan butter, with cinnamon and pinch of salt. Amazing on toast." Yum! I hope this helps.

Richard Frehs says …

Great idea. I want to experiment with this.

Lila Kahan says …

I bought some cashew butter at Whole Foods but it's too hard to spread. What can I use to soften it without changing the taste?

Angus says …

Did I miss a reference to hummus? If you can make tahini, it's no big deal to make hummus. And with homemade hummus you can adjust flavorings like garlic, smoked paprika, ground chilis, even ground sumac berry.

Beth says …

I know this is a "no-nut" article. But I have to put the shout out of making it yourself. I had purchased a bag of the 365 Whole Food peanuts and wasn't getting to eating them. So I sat down one day, shelled them all, processed them a little at a time, added oil, a little salt and sugar to taste. When it was over, it was not the traditional "peanut butter" you think of. It had it's own flavor, and it was glorious!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LILA - You could add oil, coconut oil or ghee, to make it more spreadable. If you are still having problems, I would suggest reaching out to the store you purchased the cashew butter as they would probably exchange it for you for a more spreadable container!

Kaci! says …

I love sunflower seed butter! It's my absolute favorite!

kaettie says …

I have a jar of pumpkin seed butter in my refrigerator!!!

Marcia says …

Thanks for the ideas - I have made some nut butters at home in the past, but never thought of pumpkin seed butter before!

Janet says …

I just made some sesame seed butter. I added oil, salt and honey. Sesame seeds and oil alone had a bitter taste to it. I only wish I would have measured as I was experimenting with this recipe. Have no idea how much of anything I used--just dumped it all in the blender. I tried to make the butter creamier by adding more oil but I couldn't get the oil to absorb into the sesame seeds. I ended up draining off excess oil. I made this butter in my blender and then tried my mixer. Probably if they were more powerful, it would have blended better. The sesame seed butter tastes pretty good. I really like that it is all natural.

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Joe says …

What alternatives are avaialble for kids with peanut and chocolate allergies?