These Are the 10 Best Nut and Seed Butters For a Protein Boost

Plus, recommendations for how to cook with each one!

Peanut butter has been a pantry staple for decades, but head to that aisle of the grocery store today and you'll likely find dozens of varieties of peanut butter, along with an assortment of other nut and seed butters. In fact, there are so many options available today, it can be hard to know which butter to buy.

In addition to good-for-you unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds provide a convenient dose of plant-based protein, and are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While all have similar nutrients, there are still some differences between each nut and seed, as well as the corresponding butters.

With all of the choices available now, we're breaking down a selection of our favorite nut and seed butters, and highlighting how each one can positively impact your health. We've also included some cooking and recipe tips, so you know what butters work best on a sandwich, and which ones are better suited for smoothies and sauces. And if consuming more protein is your goal, read on to find out which nut and/or seed butters are best for a protein boost. The results may surprise you!

Nuts and seeds butter in glass jars
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High-Protein Nut Butters

Peanut butter

Protein, per one ounce: 8 grams

While peanuts are technically not a tree nut (they're a member of the legume family), peanut butter is one of the most protein-dense nut and seed butters you can find. A 1-ounce (2-tablespoon) serving of peanut butter provides 8 grams of plant-based protein, along with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats—the good fats that help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.

Peanut butter also contains more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals, including an impressive amount of the antioxidant vitamin E, and magnesium. Additionally, it's an excellent source of the B vitamin niacin, which helps convert food to energy and aids the digestive and nervous systems.

Don't know what type of P.B. to buy? Choose between creamy and crunchy, depending on your preference. Because of peanut butter's thick consistency, it is great right out of the jar, spread on toast, or paired with fruit as a nutritious mid-day snack. It can also be used in cooking, such as in a Thai peanut sauce, if you're looking to add some protein and healthy fats to your meal.

Almond butter

Protein, per one ounce: 7 grams

Almonds deliver a powerful package of nutrients and are among the lowest in calories. A 1-ounce portion of almond butter delivers about 7 grams of protein—the equivalent of the amount of protein in one egg. Almonds are also low in carbohydrates, and among the highest in fiber of all the tree nuts.

One serving of almond butter provides an excellent dose of vitamin E and magnesium and is a good source of the B-vitamin riboflavin. Almond butter also stands out as a plant-based source of calcium. Lastly, almond butter is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Much like peanut butter, almond butter is also sold in crunchy or creamy varieties. However, creamy almond butter is more granular than peanut butter due to the natural skins on the almonds. Feel free to enjoy it directly out of the jar, with banana or apple slices, or as a filling component of your next smoothie.

Cashew butter

Protein, per one ounce: 6 grams

Cashew butter provides a decent amount of protein, but not as much as peanut and almond butters. Each 1-ounce serving contains 6 grams of protein. Cashews are also higher in carbohydrates and lower in fiber, compared to other tree nuts. More specifically, cashew butter contains 10 grams of carbohydrates per serving and only 1 gram of fiber.

However, cashews are still a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. For example, cashews are exceptionally high in iron and zinc, and also boast a noteworthy amount of magnesium and folate.

Due to their higher starch content compared to other nuts, blended cashews can easily be used as a non-dairy thickener. In this state, cashews can be added to creamy sauces and soups, or used to make a sweetened cashew "cream." If you're looking for a dairy-free cheese alternative, use cashews to whip up some vegan "ricotta.

Walnut butter

Protein, per one ounce: About 5 grams

Walnut butter is one of the highest in calories of all the nut and seed butters due to its high fat content. The upside? The fats it contains are exceptionally healthy. Walnuts themselves are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (the only nut with a significant amount of these nutrients) which can improve eye health, heart health, and more. Walnuts are also a good source of magnesium.

However, in terms of protein, walnuts rank among the lowest—providing around 5 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving. Still, walnut butter is very low in carbohydrates, and half of the carbs come from fiber. The total amount of fiber is still low, but walnut butter is a good option for those watching their carbohydrate intake.

Walnut butter has an especially savory flavor profile, and can sometimes have a hint of bitterness. Adding a little bit of sweetener, such as maple syrup with a dash of cinnamon, can help reduce the bitter flavor. Try walnut butter in a yogurt parfait, smoothie, oatmeal, or nutritious energy ball.

Hazelnut butter

Protein, per one ounce: 4 grams

Hazelnut butter is a little harder to find in the U.S. and is frequently paired with chocolate, (hello Nutella!) but if you can find it in its pure form (or make it yourself), it is truly delicious.

Nutritionally speaking, hazelnut butter is lower in protein compared to other nuts, providing 4 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving. The carbohydrates are also low, and the fiber content will vary depending on the brand (it typically ranges from 1 to 3 grams), but hazelnut butter is a source of omega-6 and omega-9 unsaturated fatty acids.

Though not as nutritious as those oft-discussed omega-3s, both still have health benefits. For example, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, while omega-9s can help decrease inflammation.

Similar to other nut butters, hazelnut butter is an excellent source of vitamin E and copper, and also contains solid amounts of B-vitamins, magnesium, and iron. One serving of hazelnut butter provides over 80 percent of the daily value for manganese, which helps the body reduce damage from free radicals.

From a culinary perspective, hazelnut butter pairs naturally with sweet flavors. However, you can also try it in a warm vinaigrette tossed over winter vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts or butternut squash. You won't be disappointed!

Pistachio butter

Protein, per one ounce: 6 grams

Pistachio butter is definitely less common than some of the other butters on this list, but it's one of the most nutritious nut butters around. If you can't find it at your local grocery store, we recommend whipping some up yourself.

Pistachios are the only nut mentioned in this list that has all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts to be a complete protein. This means that while the protein content comes out to around 6 grams per serving, pistachio butter is the only nut butter that is labeled by the FDA as a good source of protein. Essentially, while pistachio butter may have slightly fewer grams of protein per serving than other nut butters, the protein it does have is of high quality and is easier absorbed by the body.

What's more? Pistachio butter contains 3 grams of fiber per serving and is high in good monounsaturated fats. Pistachios also have a variety of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, and are a great source of antioxidants—especially those that are important for eye health.

In the kitchen, pistachio butter is incredibly versatile. It's great to use in a savory appetizer (i.e. paired with cheese), in baked goods, or savory cooking. Try it out in pesto or quick Italian-inspired pasta sauce!

High-Protein Seed Butters

Seed butters are a great, allergen-free alternative to nut butters (with the exception of sesame seed butter) and often fly under the radar when it comes to their versatility in the kitchen, as well as their nutritional benefits. It's about time for seed butters to become a new addition to your pantry.

Pumpkin seed butter

Protein, per 1 ounce: 9 grams

Want a way to enjoy pumpkin all year round beyond canned pumpkin purée? Try pumpkin seed butter. Aside from its delicious flavor, pumpkin seed butter actually provides the highest amount of protein of all the nut and seed butters on this list, containing a whopping 9 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving.

A single serving of pumpkin seed butter is exceptionally high in iron compared to other nut and seed butters, providing 15 percent of the daily value. Other vitamins and minerals in pumpkin seeds include vitamin K, B vitamins, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus, along with many antioxidants, including vitamin E and carotenoids. Pumpkin seed butter is also low in carbohydrates, with roughly 3 grams of carbs per serving.

Pumpkin seed butter has a beautiful green color because the outer white shell is removed before the seeds are blended. Try this seed butter swirled into yogurt or a bowl of oats, blended into a smoothie, paired with chocolate, or if unsweetened, used to make a pesto or creamy dressing.

Watermelon seed butter

Protein, per one ounce: 8 grams

Watermelon seed butter is one of the newest seed butters to hit the market, thanks, in part, to a brand called 88 Acres, which produces and sells the sweet stuff. It's made with those commonly discarded white watermelon seeds, which are perfectly fine to eat. In fact, these seeds actually pack a pretty big nutritional punch in a small package; the key is to dry and roast them first to make them more flavorful and easier to digest.

Believe it or not, ounce for ounce, watermelon seeds have more protein than peanuts or almonds. When blended with some oil to make butter, the protein content is the same as most peanut butters. (One serving of Unsweetened Watermelon Seed Butter by 88 Acres provides 8 grams of protein.) Watermelon seeds contain primarily polyunsaturated fats, including essential omega-6 fatty acids. Watermelon seeds also contain a variety of minerals, including magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and phosphorus, along with some B vitamins.

The flavor and consistency of watermelon seed butter are similar to tahini, but with some peppery notes, and it can be used in very similar ways—try the unsweetened version in a salad dressing or sauce, or a savory dip or hummus. The lightly sweetened version works well in overnight oats, a smoothie or smoothie bowl, or even cookies. Don't feel like baking? Spread some sweetened watermelon seed butter on toast to find out what all the fuss is about.

And if reducing your carbon footprint is on your list of New Year's resolutions, you'll be happy to know that watermelon seeds are environmentally friendly—they require significantly less water to grow compared to tree nuts.

Sunflower seed butter

Protein, per one ounce: 7 grams

Sunflower seed butter is becoming very popular, as it is the first major allergen-free alternative to nut butters that's widely available in supermarket chains across the country.

Sunflower seed butter has a similar fat content to peanut and almond butter and is also packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fats. As far as protein goes, you'll find 7 grams of the nutrient in a 1-ounce serving—equivalent to almond butter. In other words, sunflower seed butter is a great high-protein substitute for those who need or want to make the switch from nut butters.

Additionally, sunflower seed butter is low in carbohydrates and contains 3 grams of fiber per serving. Sunflower seeds are also a particularly good source of vitamin E, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and phosphorus, as well as the B-vitamins niacin and thiamin. Just keep in mind that many sunflower butters on the market contain added sugar, so opt for a pure sunflower butter if you want to avoid extra additives.

Sunflower seed butter is a great swap for peanut butter in a classic PB&J and can also be used to make energy balls, granola bars, and cookies. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Try it in a sauce paired with vegetables, where you would normally add sunflower seeds.

Sesame seed butter

Protein, per one ounce: 6 grams

Sesame seed butter, also known as tahini, is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, but it can be seamlessly weaved into nearly all types of food and shines in both sweet and savory dishes.

Tahini contains slightly more saturated fat than other nuts and seeds, but it is still primarily made up of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Tahini is especially low in carbohydrates, providing only 3 grams of carbs per serving. It also provides little fiber. Its protein content is comparable to cashew and pistachio butter, providing 6 grams of protein per serving.

What's more? Sesame seeds are mineral-rich, making them an excellent source of copper, iron, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. The tasty seeds also contain some calcium and potassium.

Unlike sunflower seeds, sesame seeds have recently been added to the FDA's list of major allergens, so although they are seeds, they can no longer be considered an allergen-free alternative. Tahini is easily found in major grocery stores, but for an exceptionally high-quality authentic tahini, try this version from Soom Foods.

How to Shop for the Best Nut and Seed Butters

Nut and seed butters often have added oils, sweeteners, and salt for different consistencies and tastes. Labels can often be confusing, so for the most accurate information about what you are buying, go straight to the back of the package and look at the ingredient list.

  • For the purest (and healthiest) butters, the only ingredient listed should be the nut or seed itself (or the nut or seed plus salt).
  • If you are watching your sodium intake, buy unsalted versions.
  • If you want a little sweetness, look for a butter with some added sugar, but keep in mind that when reading the nutrition facts, 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. It's also important to remember that nuts and seeds have minimal naturally occurring sugar (most have 1 to 2 grams) so most of this sugar will be added if it isn't labeled as such.
  • Look out for partially hydrogenated oils that add harmful trans fat; oils are often used to prevent the nut and seed butters from separating. If an oil is added, opt for a butter that uses a simple vegetable oil that does not have the words "partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated" in front of it. Some nut butters contain pure palm oil, but this adds unhealthy saturated fat and is often sourced unsustainably, so it's also best to avoid it.
  • Bottom line: The fewer ingredients the better. You are better off just buying nut butters free of added oils, and giving them a stir before you enjoy them.
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