Peanut butter’s got competition, and not just from almonds. There’s cashews, macadamias, soy, peas, and seeds.

Most nut and seed butters offer a nice dose of nutrients—some protein, magnesium, zinc, copper, and vitamin E—along with their good fats.

But do you also need added omega-3s, egg whites, collagen, or coconut? And which butters add enough sugar and oil to rival frosting? Here’s our guide to the nut-butter aisle.

The information for this article was compiled by Kaamilah Mitchell.

What to Look For

smuckers natural peanut butter
Just nuts and salt.

Spreads run the gamut from nothin’ but nuts to dessert. Here’s what to look for in a serving (two level tablespoons):

Added sugars:No more than 3 grams. That’s the limit for our Honorable Mentions. Our Best Bites have no added sugar. Roasted nuts plus a pinch of salt equals great taste.

Saturated fat:No more than 3 grams. That much (or less) is all you get in most butters made only of nuts, seeds, peas, or soy. A 3-gram limit also lets in some “no stir” types that add a touch of solid (more saturated) fat—often palm oil—to stop their natural oils from separating.

Sadly, palm oil plantations often destroy rainforests and wildlife. And although many labels tout “sustainable” palm oil, those standards may not go far enough, say some environmental groups. Solution: look for no palm oil.

Protein:At least 6 grams. You get roughly 6 to 8 grams in most almond and peanut butters. But some spreads add enough sugar and oil to displace some of their nuts, which cuts the protein to 5 to 7 grams. (Macadamia and cashew butters typically start with just 2 to 4 grams. If you want some plant protein from your schmear, they’re not the best.)

We didn’t set criteria for:

Calories. Nut butters get their roughly 200 calories largely from healthy fats. (Tip: Butters may not be as filling as crunching on whole nuts.)

Sodium. Few top 150 mg. Watching every milligram? Many nut butters have less...or none.

Click here for the full chart of our Best Bites, Honorable Mentions, and other nut butters.

Nut vs. Nut

365 organic almond butter
Whole Foods’ almond butter is one of the best.

Almost any nut can be turned into a butter. The three most popular:

Peanut butter. Our tasters’ favorite, hands down. Bonus: It’s cheap.

Almond butter. Almonds’ sweet taste may not please peanut butter devotees, and a jar usually costs twice as much. But you do get slightly more fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E, plus 8 percent of a day’s calcium (PB has 2 percent).

Cashew butter. Pricey cashews have less polyunsaturated—and more saturated—fat than most other nuts. Another downside: cashew butter has roughly half the protein (4 grams in 2 Tbs.) of almond or peanut butter.

While most nuts and seeds have about the same amount of fat, the percentage that’s saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated varies. Most varieties (and their butters) should help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, especially if they have more poly than sat fat. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, and soy have the most poly vs. sat. Brazil nuts, cashews, and macadamias have the least.

A Better Butter?

rx nut butter
Extra protein or oil? Just marketing ploys.

Nut butter should be simple. But brands add (or subtract) whatever sells. Some claims—which can appear on better or worse butters—that you can ignore:

Protein. Two tablespoons of plain, unadulterated peanut butter have 8 grams of protein. So why bother with more expensive RX “nut & protein spread” (9 grams of protein), with its one egg white per serving? But kudos to RX for adding dates instead of sugar.

Collagen. Wild Friends calls its nut butter “the yummiest way to get your collagen.” But $10 for a jar of peanut butter—or $14 for a jar of almond butter—when there’s no good evidence that eating collagen will improve your skin? You gotta be nuts!

Omega-3. Jif Omega-3 adds just 32 milligrams of EPA + DHA omega-3s from fish oil—what you’d get in roughly 1/20 ounce of salmon.

Keto. “Keto friendly” FBOMB (think “fat bomb”) Nut Butters feature macadamias, so they wind up lower in protein and higher in saturated fat.

Reduced fat. Most powders are fine, but spreads didn’t get Best Bites or Honorable Mentions if sugars or starches like corn syrup solids replaced some healthy nut fat.

Natural. Many regular nut butters use fully hydrogenated oils (which are saturated—not trans—fats) and (safe) mono- & diglycerides to keep their natural oils from separating. But some “natural” nut butters simply replace those ingredients with sat fat from palm oil.

No Nuts

sun butter sunflower butter
Nut-free, nutritious, and delicious.

Can’t eat nuts? Your options:

Sunflower. Of all the no-nut butters, Honorable Mentions Sun-Butter Natural and Trader Joe’s sunflower seed butters won over our tasters. The only ingredients: sunflower seeds, sugar, and salt.

SunButter Natural Sunflower Butter is “processed in a facility free from the top 8 allergens.” That means no peanuts or tree nuts. Trader Joe’s is also processed in a facility free of nuts, the company told us.

Bonus: Sunflower seed butter delivers more folate, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E than peanut butter.

Soy and Pea. Wowbutter blends its toasted soybeans with oil, sugar, and salt. The Sneaky Chef uses golden peas. But flavor-wise, we weren’t, um, nuts about them.


Some sweet spreads look like nut butter, yet they have more sugar than nuts...or no nuts, period.

simply balanced almond butter
Sweet and creamy, with a hint of vanilla.

Nutella, etc. “Nutella hazelnut spread is a happy start to your day!” proclaims the jar. “Enjoy it with whole grain toast, pancakes, strawberries, bananas, and many other foods.”

Not so fast. Nutella calls itself a “hazelnut spread with cocoa.” But a “sugar spread with palm oil” would be more honest. Nutella—which, we estimate, has just 4 or 5 nuts in each serving—squeezes in more calories, saturated fat, and sugar than Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting. Cupcakes for breakfast, anyone?

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread isn’t much better. There’s more sugar (about a third of a day’s max) and oil than almonds or cocoa.

Cookie butter. Lotus Biscoff Cookie Butter is crushed refined-flour cookies plus sugar and oil. Despite Biscoff’s peanut-butter hue, it has no nuts—and little to none of their protein, fiber, magnesium, or other nutrients.

And the sneaky one-tablespoon serving listed on Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter makes it look like it has half the calories of real nut butter (90 vs. 190). In fact, tablespoon for tablespoon, calories are no lower.

Want a sweet nut butter? Some better bets:

Chocolate. Most went beyond our 3-gram added sugar limit. The two best tasting: Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut & Almond Butter (8 grams of added sugar) delivers Nutella-like taste with more nuts than sugar and oil. Yummy Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolatey Dreams (6 grams) is less than half the price of Justin’s.

Vanilla. Look for Honorable Mention Simply Balanced Creamy Vanilla Almond Butter (2 grams) at Target.

Spreading Out

365 organic tahini
Tahini: your new salad dressing ingredient.

Tahini isn’t for spreading on your sandwich. But the paste—made of just toasted sesame seeds and (sometimes) salt—is the perfect base for salad dressings, sauces, and more.

Most brands taste similar. We liked Whole Foods 365 Organic because it’s easy to shake up and unlikely to separate. Store it in the fridge.

For a great tahini-based salad dressing, see this month's Healthy Cook recipe. And while you’re at it, try peanut butter in peanut curry, sesame noodles, or peanut dressing (see

Photos (top to bottom): Nikiko/, Jennifer Urban/CSPI (Smucker’s), Whole Foods Market (365 Almond Butter), Chicago Bar Company LLC, Jennifer Urban/CSPI, Target, Whole Foods Market.

Source for graph: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.