I practically lived on peanut butter sandwiches as a kid. But today, children are developing food allergies just as quickly as schools issue bans on peanut products in bagged lunches. Students clearly need more options.
Thankfully, many nuts and seeds easily transform into peanut butter alternatives. Creamy cashew butter is decadent on top of sliced apples or mixed into no-bake cookies. Almond butter can be used as a protein-packed frosting substitute for brownies. And sunflower seeds? They aren’t just for snacking at baseball games; they can be made into creamy sunflower butter.
The Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
I reached out to Registered Dietician Nutritionist Kristie LeBeau from Fresh Approach Nutrition, Inc. for some insight into these often-underrated seeds. It turns out they pack quite the nutritional punch.
“Sunflower seeds in particular are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium (which as much as 48 percent of people in the United States are deficient in), folic acid, selenium, and several [types of] B vitamins,” LeBeau explained. As a bonus, sunflower seeds are high in fiber and healthy polyunsaturated fats to help us feel full at the right time.
Nonetheless, LeBeau warns not to eat too much at a time, because the seeds are “relatively high in calories, with 1 tablespoon of dry-roasted sunflower seeds providing about 46 calories.” So, mind your portions.
Making Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter
Let’s get cooking! Start by roasting these seeds in the oven. You can use salted or unsalted seeds, depending on your taste preferences and any sodium restrictions you may uphold. Then, you’ll need a food processor to make this simple spread—which also doesn’t have any added sugar, oils, or fillers.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and spread at least 2 cups of raw, hulled sunflower seeds over a baking pan. Place it in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the seeds are lightly browned. Don’t let them get too dark, or they’ll taste too burnt (you might even skip this step and buy seeds that have already been roasted).
- Remove the seeds from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. While they’re still warm, pour them into a food processor, place the lid on top, and start pulverizing the seeds. If you’re using preroasted seeds, add them to the food processor at room temperature, rather than chilled from the refrigerator.
- Watch the seeds turn into creamy sunflower butter. First the mixture will appear granular, then it may eventually clump to form a soft dough-like ball. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor every few minutes.
- Finally, as the sunflower seed oil releases, the mixture will thin out and resemble a creamy peanut butter. The whole process takes about 10 minutes to go from seeds to thick, creamy butter.
Serve the sunflower butter as is, or mix in some whole seeds to give it a crunchy peanut butter type texture. You can also experiment with adding cinnamon, honey, or a splash of homemade vanilla extract.
How to Use It
With a fresh batch of sunflower seed butter ready to enjoy, how should you use it? Try swapping it out for peanut butter on your next PB&J. Or, consider using it as a cracker-topper in a lunch box. I like adding sunflower butter to my morning fruit smoothies or stuffing it in a celery stick when I want a crunchy, salty snack.
Have you ever tried sunflower seed butter? How do you like to eat it? Share your tips and ideas with other readers in the comments below!
Images source: Angela Tague
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.