Sunflower Seed Butter

Learn how to whip up a tasty alternative to peanut butter packed with good-for-you nutrition.

Harvest sunflower seeds for a nutritious snack straight from the back yard.

Sunflower Seeds

Harvest sunflower seeds for a nutritious snack straight from the back yard.

Shift your family to a healthier spread by making your own sunflower seed butter. Also known as sunbutter, this nutrient-dense spread is versatile in the kitchen, tasting great with jam on bread, subbing for heavy cream in pasta sauces or replacing mayo on sandwiches. It also makes a yummy dipping sauce for veggies, apple slices and crackers. Sunflower butter isn’t tricky to make—all you need is a food processor, raw sunflower seeds and simple ingredients you probably have in your pantry. 

Families with young children love sunflower butter because it offers an inexpensive option to peanut butter. It also provides a spread you can safely send to nut-free environments. Sunflower seed butter boasts 30 percent less fat than peanut butter, and 90 percent of the fat it does offer is the good-for-you unsaturated type. One tablespoon of sunflower butter provides 24 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E, and it’s also rich in magnesium and fiber. 

Start with raw sunflower seeds—unsalted, shelled. You’ll need twice as many seeds as your desired yield. For instance, if you’re aiming for two cups of sunflower seed butter, start with 4 cups of seeds. Don’t buy roasted seeds; they’re too dry to produce a creamy butter (you’ll wind up with a mealy, dry product). Other ingredients you need are salt, a light oil (coconut or olive) and sweetener, such as honey, agave, sugar or whatever your family prefers. 

Roast sunflower seeds by tossing them in a hot skillet on the stovetop for one to two minutes (keep them tossing or they’ll burn). Or oven toast at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or so. Toasting gives the seeds a richer, nuttier flavor. Place toasted seeds in a food processor with ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sweetener. Many home cooks report that a high powered blender can make sunbutter, but it works much harder than a food processor.

Process the seeds until they’re a fine powder. Continue to process, and the seeds will start to release oils. This takes up to 10 minutes or so. What you want is a mixture that looks moist and has a liquid sheen. Some cooks add a teaspoon of sweetener at this point, like honey, maple syrup or liquid stevia, depending on their families’ tastes.

Continue to process the sunflower butter until it resembles peanut butter. Taste the sunflower seed butter to make sure you’re happy with the flavor. Add olive oil to adjust the consistency. Typically cooks add from 1 to 4 tablespoons. Process the sunflower butter until it’s creamy.

Increase the frugal factor of your homemade sunflower seed butter by growing your own sunflower seeds. Choose varieties like Mammoth Russian or Mammoth Gray Stripe. These are the seeds that typically have stripes on them in shades of black, white and/or gray. Sunzilla, Aztec Gold, Jumbo and Paul Bunyan Hybrid are other classic seed producers. These are the giant sunflowers, so you’ll need to give them elbow room in your yard.

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