A distinctly American invention that has sustained generations for over one hundred years, there is nothing on earth quite like peanut butter. High in protein, perfectly suited for satisfying the sweet tooth or blending into spicy, savory sauces, it’s the ultimate pantry staple that never disappoints.
Some might say it was the original meat alternative, developed by John Harvey Kellogg in 1895 for those who couldn’t otherwise chew conventional animal proteins. However, as food technology and manufacturing advances change the products we find on grocery store shelves, the question remains for those trying to keep up: Is peanut butter vegan?
Yes, peanut butter is a vegan’s best friend! At its core, the most basic peanut butter is made from just one ingredient: peanuts. When you blend peanuts they start to turn into a paste and then become peanut butter!
The same goes for other nuts and seeds—they can all be blended into a nut butter. Think: cashew butter, sun butter (made from sunflower seeds), almond butter, and beyond.
Most commercial nut butters have salt and sweeteners added for enhanced flavor, which is typically no problem for vegans. But occasionally you may run into some trouble. It’s possible to find a few peanut butter ingredients that aren’t vegan (such as honey) hidden among the rest.
But on the whole, peanut butter is usually safe, and a great protein-packed option for herbivores. In fact, in some cases like school cafeterias or airport kiosks, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may be the only choice for plant-based sustenance.
Beyond whole, roasted peanuts, peanut butter formulas can be basic or extravagant. Here are the main players to expect, and what to look out for.
To be legally called “peanut butter” in the United States, the spread must contain at least 90% peanuts, leaving space for additional flavors, sweeteners, and sometimes preservatives or stabilizers.
It’s common for most blends to include at least a small pinch of salt, but you can find some salt-free options in health food stores if you’re particularly concerned about sodium.
Even when used for savory dishes, a little bit of sweetness helps round out flavors and enhance the naturally nutty flavor. Some brands use simple cane sugar, others opt for maple syrup, while still others go for sugar-free alternatives like monk fruit or stevia.
Honey is one of the most common ingredient issues to look out for. It’s a classic pairing for peanut butter but also a more expensive addition, so it’s typically touted on the front of the label. This is the only common additive that would make peanut butter not vegan.
For added smoothness and richness, oils are often added during processing. Commercial brands often opt for hydrogenated vegetable oil as a cheap way to prevent the blend from separating.
Some recipes specifically call for “natural peanut butter,” which begs the question: What is the other stuff, then? Here’s what you need to know, and what to consider for using in recipes.
Natural peanut butter has no additives or stabilizers, which means the solids and oils will separate as it sits on the shelf. As a result, you’ll need to stir it well before each use. These options often have a more coarse, chunky, or slightly gritty texture, akin to what you can expect from something homemade. This would be a great option for mixing into soups and satay sauces, adding richness and texture.
Conventional (processed) peanut butter is silky-smooth and consistent from the top of the jar to the bottom. Unless otherwise specified, this is usually the best option for baking, since wide variations in oil content can throw off carefully balanced ratios. It’s especially well-suited for frostings, fillings, and custards.
There are hundreds of peanut butter brands out there, from small batch producers to million-dollar businesses. You could try a different one every day and never run out of options!
Here are just a few of the most common brands you might find in mainstream supermarkets that offer vegan peanut butter options.
Many stores also offer fresh peanut butter that’s either made in-store, or by a machined before your eyes (it looks a little like a frozen yogurt machine).
And, you can make your own at home with just one ingredient: nuts! More on that (and a simple peanut butter recipe) below.
A quick note about cost. It may seem crazy to drop nearly $10 on a jar of peanut butter when you can grab a plastic container for $2.99. But from our experience, you are in fact getting what you pay for with peanut butter.
Peanuts are never on the dirty dozen list, but they don’t make the cut for the clean fifteen, either. If you’re concerned about pesticide use, it would be wise to opt for organic whenever possible.
Since it’s a prepared, ready-to-eat product, there’s no option for washing or peeling that might otherwise help reduce exposure.
Peanuts don’t have a monopoly on the sandwich spread category. In fact, any nut can be made into butter! Whole seeds are welcome to this party too. That includes but isn’t limited to:
There’s no such thing as too much peanut butter. With the right recipes, a full jar can disappear in the blink of an eye. Here are some compelling eats and treats that will make you want to buy your peanut butter in bulk:
Yes, Jif peanut butter is vegan, except for the Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread and Honey.
Yes, Skippy peanut butter is vegan, except for the Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Honey and Roasted Honey Nut Creamy Peanut Butter.
Yes! PB2 is fully certified as vegan. They’re also involved in the Vegan Strong organization, supporting vegan body builders and providing education about the vegan movement.
Yes, Nutter Butter cookies are “accidentally” vegan! Some of the ingredients are of questionable quality, but they’re a safe snack to enjoy from an ethical standpoint.
No, peanut butter is completely dairy-free. In some cases, it may be produced in factories that share equipment with dairy-based ingredients, so here’s the possibility of trace cross-contamination, but only in rare instances and only a concern for those with life-threatening allergies.
Yes! What’s vegan is automatically vegetarian, so peanut butter easily makes the cut.
Yes, peanuts are technically legumes, like chickpeas and other beans, which means that peanut butter is 100% pure plants.
Yes, dogs love peanut butter! It’s a great treat in moderation, but always look for brands with no artificial sweeteners, since xylitol can be incredibly dangerous for dogs to consume.
Once you see how easy it is to make peanut butter from scratch, and taste the difference it makes, it’s hard to go back to store-bought. The most important ingredient here is patience.
Photos by Amanda McGillicuddy, Michelle Cehn, and Canva.com. Article written with support from Hannah Kaminsky. Be sure to subscribe to World of Vegan to stay tuned to the latest vegan news!
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It’s definitely good to either make at home or buy natural peanut butters because some common brands add a lot of bad oils to it. Love the resources
homemade peanut butter is the best! love this simple recipe on whipping it up so easily!
Love the homemade peanut butter recipe … thanks for the great information!
I love peanut butter so much! This homemade recipe is a must try. Loved learning more about my favorite nutty spread!
So much good information about peanut butter! And the homemade peanut butter is absolutely delicious and so creamy!
Very informative 🙂