Learn to make smooth, delicious homemade sunflower butter in your food processor. This easy and all-natural recipe requires only three simple ingredients – sunflower seeds, oil, honey, and sea salt.
I grew up loving peanut butter. I ate it on toast, with apples and bananas, in sandwiches, or just by the spoonful. Nut allergies weren’t as well publicized when I was a kid, and I never had a problem taking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my school lunch.
Things have definitely changed, with good reason. Nut allergy awareness is on the rise. Even trace amounts of nuts can trigger a dangerous nut allergy. My toddler started preschool this month, and her welcome packet came with a big warning against packing nut products in her snack box.
A few years ago, I started looking for a nut-free alternative to peanut butter, something that would be safe to use in sandwiches or serve with fruit. Sunflower butter (or sunflower seed butter), made from sunflower seeds, is often a safe alternative for nut-allergic people. Of course, some people are allergic to sunflower seeds, but it is much less common than tree nut and peanut allergies. Sunflower butter is also delicious! We absolutely love the flavor of this smooth, creamy butter. When I’m feeling hungry between meals, a spoonful of sunflower butter and a piece of fruit always does the trick!
Sunflower Butter vs. Peanut Butter
Sunflower butter is a great spread to have in your pantry. Of course, it is generally more allergy-friendly than peanut butter. Consequently it is often allowed in school lunches, whereas peanut butter is typically not allowed due to dangerous nut allergies. Seed allergies do exist too – so double check your school’s guidelines to be sure. For some folks, sunflower butter may be more easily digested than peanut butter. In a nutritional comparison to peanut butter, sunflower butter has twice as much iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus – and nearly four times as much vitamin E. That said, it is typically higher in fat than peanut butter.
Luckily we don’t have any allergies in our home. I stock both peanut butter and sunflower butter in my kitchen. However, my stomach isn’t always great with peanut butter. Peanuts are legumes, and can be difficult to digest for some people. Of course, the same may be said for seeds – it really depends on an individual’s food tolerance. I am typically able to eat sunflower butter without any issues, and it has become one of my go-to protein butters. I like making it at home much better than store-bought. It’s cheaper, plus I can control the salt and sweetness levels.
The recipe below is my favorite way to make sunflower butter. The oil level tends to vary by batch; add as much as you like based on personal preference. While peanut butter is usually pretty thick, I prefer my sunflower butter on the slightly “goopy” side– it’s easier to spread, and I prefer the texture that way. Make it yourself to see what works best for you! Use sunflower seed butter just about anywhere you’d use peanut butter – on sandwiches, in smoothies, by the spoonful, the sky’s the limit!
Have you tried homemade sunflower seed butter? Better yet, have you tried it homemade?
Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
- 4 cups raw unsalted sunflower seeds, shelled (you may substitute roasted unsalted seeds – see note below)
- 5-9 teaspoons high-oleic sunflower oil (amount may vary – you may substitute avocado oil, see notes below)
- 3 tablespoons honey (or to taste) – for vegan use maple syrup or agave nectar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Measurements: 2.5 cups total, 2.5 tbsp per serving Important notes: This recipe works best in a large food processor. Smaller processors and blenders are not recommended. However, if you wish to try it with a smaller machine, make sure you make it in two or even three batches – and work slowly to avoid burning out your engine. If making this for somebody with a nut allergy, make sure you buy sunflower seeds that are not processed in a facility that processes tree nuts. Also, make sure your kitchen appliances and cooking surfaces have been fully cleaned and sterilized to avoid contaminating the batch with nut residue. Nut allergies are nothing to mess around with! Do not serve to anybody who has a sunflower seed allergy. This is much less common than nut allergies, but it does exist. Always best to be safe and ask! If substituting pre-roasted seeds, you may skip the oven toasting step. I prefer to use high-oleic sunflower oil in this recipe – it makes for a nice, spreadable sunflower butter. High-oleic varieties of sunflower oil are lower in polyunsaturated fat, making them a healthier choice overall. Avocado oil may be substituted in this recipe, but many brands have a greenish-hue – which may affect the look of your sunflower butter. It doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you, stick to sunflower oil.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the sunflower seeds evenly across a sheet tray and roast until lightly golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to check on them often to avoid burning.
- Allow the sunflower seeds to cool to room temperature. In a food processor, combine the roasted sunflower seeds with the honey and salt (use more or less salt and honey to taste, if desired).
- Begin processing the seeds. At first the nut butter will clump together in pieces.
- Add the oil 1 tsp at a time, smoothing out the butter and blending frequently, until you reach your desired consistency. Scrape down the sides of the processor as necessary. I like my sunflower butter on the soft, semi-goopy side, so I tend to use more oil. This also helps to keep the butter moist when it is refrigerated, and easier to stir. You can use less oil for a thicker, drier butter if you prefer. Continue processing until smooth.
- Store your sunflower butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I typically use a mason jar. Use it within a month for freshest taste. As with most natural nut and seed butters, some natural oils may separate from the butter over time. If this happens, just use a spoon to mix the oil back into the butter.