Food and Nutrition

Peanut Butter Is Not Always Vegan—Here’s How To Tell if Yours Is

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Photo: Getty Images/ LaylaBird

Maybe it’s because it conjures up childhood memories of snacking on PB&J sandwiches, but there’s just something so comforting about peanut butter. And now that we’re all grown up, we can get creative with the ways we consume it—chocolate peanut butter smoothies, protein-packed peanut butter bread, or crunchy peanut butter balls, to name a few. What’s more, some brands now even make flavored versions of this pantry staple by swirling in other ingredients like cinnamon, honey, and chocolate. Which begs the question: Is peanut butter vegan? Or, like other surprising foods that aren't vegan or vegetarian, such as kimchi, marshmallows, and orange juice, does it contain animal byproducts? Ahead, we chatted with an RD and a nutritionist for the answer. 

So really, is peanut butter vegan?

The short answer: Yes, if you're talking about plain peanut butter (as in just ground nuts), says Dalina Soto, MA, RD, LDN, a registered dietician. Although some companies may incorporate additional ingredients into their packaged peanut butter for enhanced flavor, such as honey or milk, in which case the peanut butter would not be vegan. Serena Poon, CN, a celebrity chef and certified nutritionist, adds that peanut butter brands can contain omega-3 SKU with fish oil, which would not make it vegan peanut butter. Other ingredients sometimes added to peanut butter include processed sugar (which is not vegan), which Soto says is used to make the peanut butter smoother. 

So, as long as you double-check the ingredient list and ensure that there are no non-vegan ingredients added, you should be good to go. In general, Poon recommends sticking to peanut butter that is organic and contains only one or two ingredients. Additionally, she notes that many natural food grocers have a machine to make your fresh peanut butter in the store. 

Benefits of peanut butter

Another common peanut butter question that often comes up: Is peanut butter healthy? Again, the resounding answer is yes; however, Poon emphasizes that this applies to organic peanut butter with minimal ingredients and when consumed in moderation, of course. Here are some of the benefits of peanut butter. 

Good source of plant-based protein

“Protein is an essential macronutrient that supports growth and overall health,” Poon says, and peanut butter really packs a punch in the protein department containing 8 grams in a 2-Tbsp serving. 

High in fiber

PB provides 2 grams per 2-Tbsp serving—more if you opt for a chunky style peanut butter, Poon says. “Eating fiber is really important for maintaining overall health, supporting everything from digestive health to heart health and disease prevention,” she adds. 

Supports heart health

In addition, peanut butter contains monounsaturated fats, which Poon says are considered healthy fats known to support heart health.

High in potassium

Not a fan of bananas? Look to peanut butter, which is also high in potassium, as an alternative source of the vital nutrient. “Potassium is an important mineral that supports heart and bone health, as well as helps balance sodium levels,” Poon says. 

Good source of magnesium

“Peanut butter supplies magnesium, which is an important mineral for nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar control, and is one of the most commonly inadequate micronutrients in the United States,” Poon says.

Vegan-friendly ways to eat peanut butter

All in all, organic, natural peanut butter is a great vegan food to include in your rotation, Poon says. Some vegan-friendly ways you can enjoy it, whether you’re vegan or not, include spreading it on veggies or fruit—Poon suggests celery and apples and bananas, in particular. Peanut butter spread on sprouted whole-grain toast makes a nutritious snack to fuel you through the day, too, she adds. And, if you’re a smoothie lover, Poon recommends adding a spoonful of peanut butter to your smoothie for long-lasting energy on busy days. 

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