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FRESH In: Sunbutter – Nut-Free “Butter”

At many schools, peanut butter is on the no-fly list. So many kids have peanut or tree-nut allergies, authorities have decided it’s safer just to ban the stuff altogether. So, if you’re searching for a peanut butter alternative, let me suggest Sunbutter.

Sunbutter is made from roasted sunflower seeds, and comes in natural, crunchy and creamy (with sugar and oil added) varieties. It is peanut-free, gluten-free, and tree-nut free, so it’s a safer alternative for many people with multiple food allergies or sensitivities.

If you’re tried alternatives like almond or cashew butter and felt they were too heavy, you might like this better – especially if your family likes the sugar-added commercial varieties of peanut butter more than drier, natural versions.

Sunbutter is nutty and tastes like, well, roasted sunflower seeds; my initial impression was sort of like a cross between peanut butter and tahini. Even the creamy variety has a little bit rougher texture than many smooth peanut butters.

Sunflower seed butter offers about the same amount of protein – about 7 grams per two-tablespoon serving – as peanut butters. However, it’s higher in fiber, Vitamin E, and several minerals, and has less saturated fat.

You can use sunflower seed butter exactly the same way you use peanut butter, including in baking. I substituted it in my favorite bakery-style peanut butter cookie recipe, below, and though the cookies came out a tiny bit darker and drier than those made with peanut butter, friends who ate them thought they were actually peanut butter cookies.

I made half the batch with chocolate chips and half without, and the consensus favorite was the kind with dark chocolate chips and a very light dusting of kosher salt on the top; the salt balances the sweetness of the cookie and the chocolate deepens the flavor.

Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sunflower seed butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Kosher salt, for sprinkling (optional)
3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

In a second large bowl, beat butter and sunflower seed butter together. Add sugars and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Next, add half flour mixture and beat until mixed; add remaining flour and mix thoroughly. If desired, stir in chocolate chips.

Shape cookies by scooping with a soup spoon, then rolling lightly into balls, and drop onto ungreased cookie sheets, about two inches apart. Press down on cookies lightly with the tines of a fork, to flatten slightly, as in peanut butter cookies. If desired, sprinkle a few grains of kosher salt on each cookie.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies may appear to be slightly underdone in the center, but this is correct; do not overbake. Let cool on cookie sheet for five, then remove and let cool on rack or plate. Store in airtight container.

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Posted in: FRESH In, Kids, Recipes