Whether you prefer to buy your go-to nut or seed butter or make it from scratch, this is one highly customizable protein source that you can derive from a wide range of nuts, seeds, and legumes. While peanut butter has been the classic option that many are most familiar with, there are plenty of other healthful varieties for folks looking to introduce a bit more diversity into their nut- and seed-based spreads.
“When you shop for nut butter, always read over the ingredients label first," says nutrition and functional medicine expert Haylie Pomroy, the assistant director of integrative medicine at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine. "You’re looking for products that are ideally made from raw nuts or seeds, with no sugar or preservatives added. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the store or want to save some money, you can also opt to make your own nut butter with a food processor."
To do so, start by grinding the nuts down to a fine powder, scraping the pieces down the sides of the container as needed. “Just keep grinding—first the powder will clump, then after 10 to 15 minutes the oil will be released and you’ll be left with creamy nut butter," Pomroy says. The longer you grind, the smoother the texture will be. Do be sure to refrigerate leftovers if you won't be using your spread within a week or two, as your homemade nut butter won’t contain any preservatives.
If making your own nut butter sounds a little too involved, however, fret not—we’ve rounded up some of the highest protein nut butters and seed butters that you can buy or DIY.
The 10 highest protein nut butters and seed butters to shmear on everything
1. Peanut butter: 8 grams per ounce
This classic takes the cake when it comes to protein content. Plus, peanut butter is full of antioxidants (particularly resveratrol) as well as folate, manganese, vitamin E, and B vitamins, as well as coumaric acid, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, says nutrition expert Melissa Bolona, founder of Beauty & the Broth. Peanuts have lots of monounsaturated fats, which have been associated with lower inflammation and reduced heart disease risk—and multiple studies have associated peanut eating with better heart health and a reduced risk of mortality.
This nut butter is obviously very versatile. Add a scoop to your morning oatmeal for extra protein, use it as a base for a stir-fry sauce, or make it into cookies. You can also use it to make sweet potato fries with maple-peanut dressing, noodle bowls with a peanut butter dressing, or a batch of vegan three-ingredient peanut butter cups. If you're looking to take your protein-packed snack on the go, we're obsessed with RX's Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter Packets—each one has nine grams of protein per pouch.
Here's what a registered dietitian has to say about the health benefits of peanut butter:
2. Watermelon seed butter: 8 grams per ounce
Watermelon seed butter tastes a bit like a creamy cross between sunflower seed butter and tahini, which Pomroy says makes it perfect for drizzling over roasted root veggies, adding to green smoothies, or stirring into hummus. It's also super nutrient-dense and contains the tons of protein (eight grams!) per serving. “One serving of watermelon seeds also has more than five percent of the daily value of magnesium, 26 percent the daily value of zinc, almost 15 percent the daily need of iron, plus heart-healthy omega-3s,” Rhyan Geiger, RD, owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, previously told Well+Good. Make it from scratch, or save yourself the work and try 88 Acres sweetened and unsweetened varieties.
3. Almond Butter: 7 grams per ounce
Almond butter is beloved for its nutty, naturally sweet flavor, high protein content, and for its deliciously thick texture. Plus, it contains lots of vitamin E, biotin, manganese, copper, and magnesium—as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. While it ranks slightly below peanut butter in terms of protein, almond butter contains more vitamin E, calcium, iron, and magnesium per serving. Slather it on some celery or apple slices, or sandwich between two pieces of toasted sprouted grain bread with sliced bananas and a sprinkle of cinnamon, Pomroy recommends. Go with classic Justin's, or try the delicious vanilla or maple flavors from the brand. (Not to mention, this is one of our favorite avocado substitute options.)
4. Sunflower Seed Butter: 7 grams per ounce
Sunflower seed butter is another super smooth seed butter that's a strong source of plant-based protein, and it's allergen-friendly for anyone with a nut allergy. Sunflower seed butter is rich in vitamin E, copper, thiamin, manganese, selenium, phosphorus and magnesium, Pomroy says, and tastes delicious when spread atop a warm baked sweet potato. SunButter is a classic brand to look out for; we love that they offer a no sugar added option.
5. Cashew Butter: 6 grams per ounce
Decadent cashew butter is a little thicker and less sweet than peanut butter; it's mildly toasty flavor pairs perfectly with toasted English muffins, stirred into a dip for crudite or pita bread, or when added to curries for extra richness. Plus, it’s incredibly high in copper, and also rich in phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Once Again's unsweetened cashew butter is beyond creamy.
6. Sesame Seed Tahini: 6 grams per ounce
Sesame seed butter, commonly known as tahini, is a go-to ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. While you've certainly tasted it's deep, delicately nutty flavor in hummus, you're seriously missing out if you aren't also using it to make marinades for grilled fish or veggies, stirring it into salad dressings, or baking with it. Tahini is rich in protein and copper, plus it's a good source of manganese, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc. In terms of what brand to buy, look no further than silky-smooth Soom Tahini.
7. Pistachio butter: 6 grams per ounce
Pistachio butter is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin B6, which is an important part of brain health, heart health, and immunity, Bolona notes. It contains more potassium than other nut and is a good source of protein and amino acids, including L-arginine, which is important for blood circulation. We’re big fans of pistachio butter in savory preparations, particularly pesto.
8. Walnut butter: 5 grams per ounce
Walnut butter contains the most omega-3 fatty acids of any nut butter, making it an excellent choice for overall health, particularly brain health, Bolona says. “It contains the omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which aids in the reduction of inflammation," she says. Walnut butter's rich, earthy flavor tastes delicious on toast with honey and a pinch nutmeg. We love Artisana Organic's raw walnut butter, which is a blend of walnuts and cashews.
9. Hazelnut butter: 4 grams per ounce
Hazelnut butter contains plenty of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, including omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids (such as oleic acid), which can help fight inflammation as well as lower your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, says Bolona. “It's also high in vitamin E, copper, and dietary fiber, which is super beneficial for gut health, and provides over 80 percent of your daily needs for manganese, which combats free-radical damage,” she adds. Try it with your morning cereal or granola, or swirl it into this sleep-friendly chocolate hazelnut smoothie bowl using Drip by Deux, the five-ingredient chocolate hazelnut butter of your dreams.
10. Macadamia nut butter: 2.5 grams per ounce
Macadamia nut butter is a deliciously decadent nut butter that serves as a decent source of protein, dietary fiber, and healthy fats, Bolona says. “It also contains phytosterols, which help to lower cholesterol levels, and is also high in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants.” We love it as a base for a stir fry sauce, as well as for curry.
TL; DR: When it comes to hunting down the highest protein nut butters that are packed with delicious flavor, you've got options. Need another? Combine them all, which is made deliciously easy thanks to brands like Fix and Fogg. They offer nutrient-rich natural nut and seed butters like Chocolate Berry Everything Butter (made with peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, mixed berries, almonds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds) and their classic Everything Butter (made with peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, pepitas, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds). Talk about a win-win.
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