What Is Nut Butter?

Last Update: August 18, 2023

Once upon a time, nut butter meant one thing: peanut butter. But as much as we adore the original, times have changed and our obsession with nut butters has become, well, a little more nuts. Today, there are dozens of nut butters to choose from, each offering a wide variety of benefits, including protein, key nutrients, and vitamins.

So what’s the best nut butter to choose? We’re breaking it down—from almond to brazil nut—so you can select (or make) the one that’s right for you. We’ve also compiled our favorite nut butter recipes for making the most of this superfood spread.

What Is Nut Butter

Throw some nuts into a food processor for 5 to 15 minutes, and chances are you’ll get nut butter. But not all of these creamy spreads are created equal. From tree nut-based to legume-based to homemade and store-bought, nut butter comes in many forms. And, if you’re hoping to find a Paleo nut butter, low-carb nut butter, high-protein nut butter, or natural nut butter, nutrition facts are important. Where to begin? Here are some of the most popular and healthiest nut butters on the market:

Almond Butter

Here’s something nutty: Unlike peanuts, which are grown underground and considered legumes, almonds are actually edible seeds that come from the fruit of almond trees. A source of fiber and protein, almonds also contain vitamin E, selenium, zinc, calcium, magnesium (one serving contains 20 percent of your daily value) and B vitamins like folate and biotin (vitamin B7).

Almond butter has quickly grown in popularity as a peanut butter replacement because of its many health benefits. Sandwiched with jelly, drizzled over apple slices, or spread on a rice cake, almond is definitely a beloved butter. And since almonds aren’t legumes, almond butter is also an approved Paleo nut butter. Score!

Brazil Nut Butter

Like almonds, Brazil nuts are also tree nuts. The nuts are grown in a coconut-like shell and are configured much like orange segments. They’re a source of magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E and some B vitamins, but are best known for their selenium content as they’re the richest known food source when it comes to this nutrient. Brazil nut butter is considerably high in fat (about 19g per serving), however, most of this fat is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (both of which are believed to be beneficial to cholesterol).

Cashew Butter

Another tree nut, cashews grow at the base of “cashew apples” (the fruit of a cashew tree). While cashews have less fiber than other nuts, they do contain copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, vitamin B6, and antioxidants. Even better, their natural richness makes cashews an ideal nut for butter-making, instantly adding a decadent, Paleo-friendly spin on just about any recipe, whether a smoothie, cookie, or even creamy cashew butter chicken.

Coconut Butter

These days, it seems like the benefits of coconut are endless. But is there a difference between coconut butter and coconut oil? For starters, coconut oil is pure fat while coconut butter is made of puréed, raw coconut meat—in addition to oil—so it’s not exclusively fat. In fact, one tablespoon of coconut butter delivers 2g of fiber along with potassium, magnesium, and iron. While coconut oil is great for cooking, coconut butter can be used much the way you would use regular butter.

Macadamia Nut Butter

Creamy and rich, macadamia butter tastes so indulgent that its health benefits may come as a surprise. However, macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats (aka “healthy fat”) and low in Omega-6 content (more so than other nuts), which makes them one of the best nuts around. It’s because of this fat breakdown that macadamias and macadamia nut butter are often hailed as a Paleo favorite (when consumed in moderation).

How to Make Nut Butter

Making your own nut butter might sound intimidating, but the process is easier than you may think—if you have the right tools. A food processor, high-powered blender (like a Vitamix), or even a spice grinder will do the trick.

You can choose to make raw nut butter or roasted nut butter. For a roasted version, either purchase pre-roasted nuts or pop raw nuts in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes before adding to your food processor, blender, or grinder for 5 to 15 minutes (depending on your desired consistency). You may notice the mixture looks a bit dry and crumbly at first, but after a few minutes, the fibers will break down, releasing the natural oils in the nuts and creating a creamy texture. Most nut butter will store in the fridge for about three months.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to mix it up and create a blend by combining a few of your favorite nuts in a single batch. You can even throw in chia seeds, flax seed, or hemp seeds for added crunch.

10 Nut Butter Recipes

This satisfying spread can do so much more than just upgrade toast. We’ve gathered our top nut butter recipes that are quick, easy, and full of nut butter benefits.

PB&J Grilled Cheese

Yes, you read that right. Here’s a recipe you can’t knock out of the gate. Cheddar grilled cheese is smothered with peanut butter and jam before being sandwiched between two spongey slices of sourdough bread. It’s a unique spin on a classic, but it just might become your new go-to lunch.

Chocolate-Pear Smoothie

Cacao powder and fresh pear are a winning combo all on their own, but add in almond butter, chia seeds, and a medjool date, and you’ve got a rich and creamy blend.

Blueberry-Ginger Smoothie

Tired of the same old breakfast? Give your banana-berry smoothie some added zip with ground ginger, almond butter, and a pinch of sea salt.

Sweet Potatoes Topped With Almond Butter

If ever there was a recipe that made you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” this is the one. Upgrade your sweet potato to ultimate snack status by topping it with a drizzle of almond butter and a pinch of cinnamon. The nutty-sweet combo is rich and satisfying while still Paleo-friendly.

No-Bake Coconut Cashew Date Bars

A coconut, a date, and a cashew walk into a bar… Seriously, this no-bake bar recipe is no joke! Shredded coconut, medjool dates, cardamom, and raw cashews pair with luscious coconut butter for a delicious, on-the-go snack that will curb those midday hunger pangs.

Paleo Fudge

It only takes five ingredients to make this Paleo-friendly fudge totally indulgent. (It’s actually filled with healthy ingredients. Shh!). Just combine coconut oil, cacao butter, almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cups

Didn’t think peanut butter cups could get any better? This recipe calls for a swirl of strawberry jam in the peanut butter center for an upgraded take on this salty-sweet favorite.

Coconut Butter and Chocolate Hard Shell Topping

Here’s a treat that will take you back to your childhood. All you need is raw coconut butter and a little dark chocolate to coat your cone in a nostalgic, chocolatey, hard-shell topping.

Cashew Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies will always have a special place in our heart, but raw cashew butter, along with gluten-free flour, coconut oil, and honey, make this recipe so much sweeter.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Coconut Hazelnut Filling

Making whoopie pies is easier than you think. All you have to do is pipe frosting between two cookies, but this recipe takes things a step further with gluten-free pumpkin muffin mix and hazelnut spread filling. The fluffy, spiced cookies pair perfectly with the rich hazelnut filling for a comforting, yet not-too-familiar bite.

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Jillian Gordon

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