One of the many lessons I learned when I first got thrown into the allergy world is that there are a lot of people out there who are ready to judge you. Those on the outside who do not have to deal with life threatening food allergies either completely sympathize with you but want nothing to do with you or they think you are some sort of wackjob nutcase who's recently escaped from a mental facility and worships satan in their free time - and also want nothing to do with you. Then there are people within the allergy community, the ones who totally get it and understand completely what you are going through because they are going through the same thing, and on the other end of the field are the people who live with allergies everyday and so believe that this somehow gives them the right to judge you and how you deal with your child's allergies.
I've met some really generous and understanding parents within the allergy community, many of whom I still connect with today. But I've also met some strangely rigid and insufferable parents. Many allergy parents were shocked (aka judgmental and almost wagged their finger at me)
when they discovered that I still consume foods that contain my daughter's allergens, even when I explained that I do not feed my daughter those things and that I am absolutely careful when eating such foods. Several parents asked how I could possibly keep my daughter safe, and some parents even flat out scolded me and claimed that I was endangering my child. None of those parents had kids with multiple food allergies. It was always the parents dealing with a single allergy. They most likely felt it was easier to ban the allergen altogether than to deal with it. And you know what, I disagree with that. But you know what, I don't have the right to judge so they can do whatever works for them. Because this is what it all comes down to. What works for one family may not work for another and vice versa.
Of those parents (specifically the ones dealing only with peanut allergy)
, many claimed that they do not allow their kids to consume anything remotely resembling peanut butter, in smell, flavor or otherwise. They do not bring it into their house and they do not consume it elsewhere. That's fine because it works for them. And that's also fine because that is their choice. But we are dealing with multiple allergies. Like many of the other allergy parents, my daughter is allergic to a number of foods, dairy being the most severe. If I were to take the same approach, I would never be able to get her to drink anything that looks like milk. That would practically disqualify any healthy alternative out there. They all look white just like milk and some of them even smell like milk. In fact, if I were to apply this whole nonsense about not eating things that look like allergens our daughter would not be able to eat anything really. Come on, crackers, cakes, cookies, sandwiches? All these things can be done without allergens, but you cannot distinguish them from the ones baked with dairy or peanuts just by looking at them and smelling them. So, in this household, the rule is, if it is not from home and not inspected by Mom and Dad then it is a no go and that is final and set in stone. Unless it has cleared the Allergy Mom customs and immigration, and approved for landing on your plate, it cannot be brought anywhere near the mainland. End of story, over and out. That is a safer alternative that works for us.
Now that I've bored you with the details of my philosophy on dealing with allergies let's move on. We are peanut butter people in this house. My husband in particular, is a big fan of peanut butter, and not the cheap imitation stuff. He likes the good stuff, like Kraft, Skippy or some of the big names out there. He likes creamy, smooth peanut butter. So when we learned that peanut butter is going to have to retire from show business we were on the hunt for a new face. We wanted something the same but we found something different. It was different in a good way. We hosted many alternatives, gave them a chance, send them away, brought them back in the hopes that their act might have improved but had to let them go again, until we met Sunbutter. A star was born...What is Sunbutter?
manufacturer describes it as follows: "SunButter is a delicious and healthy alternative to peanut butter. Made from specially roasted sunflower seeds, it is completely peanut-free, tree-nut free and gluten-free. Packed with nutrition, SunButter is an excellent choice for people with peanut allergies. Available in a number of varieties, SunButter is packed with nutrition and tastes great. It is a wonderful complement to fruit, jams, jellies and crackers and can be used in a variety of delicious peanut-free recipes for everything from appetizers to main dishes to desserts."
Sunbutter is sold in a number of varieties and sizes: 454 gram jars, 5 pound pails, 1.5 ounce cups and 1.1 ounce pouches. Only jars are available in our grocery store so that's what I buy. Sunbutter comes in Creamy, Unsweetened, Natural, Crunch and Omega-3 among others.
Good. Now that we know what it is, we need to find out how it compares to peanut butter.Okay, so does it taste and smell like peanut butter?
This part is where most people will either agree or disagree. In my opinion, Sunbutter is in a class of its own. I am not sure why the manufacturer compares it to peanut butter. Perhaps because their largest customer base is mainly people who are allergic to peanut butter (and that's just a speculation on my part; I have no data to support this theory)
. In truth, I would prefer to compare Sunbutter with other seed butters because it is actually a seed and not a nut. It's almost like asking someone to review fish versus turkey. You're sort of comparing apples to oranges and kind of unfair to both products. However, for the purpose of this review, I will stick with peanut butter as a competitor, especially since the manufacturer uses it as the benchmark.
I like peanut butter and ate it several times a week before we discovered Sunbutter. However, as my daughter grew and was able to reach counter tops and other areas in the kitchen, it became prudent to make the environment safer. To my husband and I, that meant giving up peanut butter. It was such a hassle to eat it around her. We had to be extremely cautious and I had to wash everything by hand and had special utensils and special plates for foods containing peanuts. Don't get me wrong, we kept her safe. We had no accidents and everything was fine, but it was just becoming inconvenient for everyone. I must say that since we have become peanut free, cleaning the kitchen has become a lot less of a hassle. I enjoy eating breakfast at the table with my daughter without having to remind her "not to touch or come anywhere near mommy because I'm contaminated with peanut butter". So in that way, for peanut allergy sufferers, Sunbutter brings our family closer during breakfast. Bonus!
Sunbutter does not taste like peanut butter. This is my opinion. People can tell me I'm wrong, but that's like telling someone who thinks beef and mutton taste different that they're wrong. Everyone has different preferences. I think Sunbutter is very good (i.e. cannot stop eating it when I open the jar)
. In fact, it is excellent. I love it and could eat it by the spoonful if I'm not stopped. I need intervention.
My husband who is a true lover of peanut butter is very much in love with Sunbutter too. To the both of us, Sunbutter seems like it holds the common nutty roasted flavor of other seed spreads, such as tahini, which is made from sesame. If you've had tahini, you'll know what I mean. Similar to tahini, Sunbutter has this smooth velvety texture, whereas peanut butter is more creamy. But unlike tahini, Sunbutter is not runny and thin, rather more spreadable like peanut butter but not quite as thick. It's consistency is more like a very, very thick honey.
As for taste and smell, I think Sunbutter is fabulous. It's not as salty as peanut butter. It has a bit more sweetness to it. Sunbutter's flavor also has more depth and rounds out nicely when eaten by itself (read: dip your spoon in the jar and then dip it in your mouth, then go find a support group for Sunbutter Anonymous)
. Sunbutter does not have the familiar salty-bitter aftertaste that often comes with peanut butter. But what it lacks in saltiness and bitterness, more than makes up for with the deep roasted flavor and the smooth velvety texture. And did I mention sweetness. I just love it. I find it quite addictive and often have to hide the jar (from myself)
. Sunbutter may smell similar to peanut butter but honestly I find that all nut and seed butters smell pretty much the same. Perhaps the roasting factor is responsible for that.How does Sunbutter perform in different foods?
Straight from the jar, Sunbutter stands on its own merit. The roasted seeds give the flavor depth and provide contrast to the sweetness. It's smooth velvety texture is very appealing. Taking a spoonful out of a jar is very much recommended if you want to really taste its yummy goodness. On the other hand, perhaps it's not recommended; you may not be able to stop. Hmm.. I wonder if they have Sunbutter Clinics.
On bread, in a sandwich, or on a cracker, Sunbutter mimics peanut butter spot on. It spreads easily, provides just as much coverage and tastes quite good with anything that complements peanut butter, such as jam or jelly. But you know I get creative sometimes and just go off the deep end. Try it with honey - YUMM! I'm salivating just thinking about it.
I often eat Sunbutter with home made jam because I love home made jam and it reminds me of my mother. I know. I'm weird like that. And I've used Sunbutter to make a mock peanut butter and banana sandwich. I'm not even going to tell you how good that was. You're just going to have to try it. Suffice to say, that I thought the Sunbutter banana sandwich tasted far
better. Move over peanuts, there's a new nut in town... errr seed.
In smoothies, Sunbutter is absolutely delectable and in ice creams too. It thickens smoothies just like peanut butter and is especially good in a banana chocolate smoothie. Sunbutter requires a bit more blending, as opposed to peanut butter, in smoothies. However, it's a lot more cooperative than peanut butter in ice cream. It tastes divine (with a big D)
. Just don't make the chunky monkey ice cream I made last summer, ok? Sunbutter ice cream with chocolate chips and bananas...
Oh. My. God.
I felt like I died and went to heaven. Heaven has Sunbutter. I'm sure of it.And now, the big question. How does Sunbutter perform in baking?
It's on par with peanut butter when it comes to baking. It works pretty much the same in practically all recipes that call for peanut butter and I substitute cup for cup. It's especially marvelous in chocolate ganache if you want that nutty flavor. It is very good in cakes and squares. It is outstanding in granola bars. In fact, despite my love of peanut butter, I really dislike it in granola bars. However, Sunbutter is fantastic in granola bars. I love it in all the different variations of granola bars that I bake. It does not overpower the other flavors in the granola bar like peanut butter often does.
One particular thing I love about Sunbutter is the fact that I often use it in recipes to replace fat without compromising quality, something I could not do with peanut butter. For example, when I make my granola bars, I omit the margarine entirely and use Sunbutter. For some baked goods the consistency is even better! Sunbutter also works well in cookies and often times it is even hard to tell the difference between a peanut butter cookie and a Sunbutter cookie, which is one of my daughter's favorites.What makes Sunbutter special?
The number one winning bonus to Sunbutter is the fact that it is not only peanut and tree nut free but also free of gluten, dairy, egg and corn. The manufacturer states that the sunflower kernels are roasted on equipment that roasts soy, but there is a cleaning process in between to avoid cross contamination. They also state that there is no soy in Sunbutter. So it is possible that it may be safe for those with a soy allergy as well but you'll have to check with them on that.
As is the case with many nuts, sunflower seeds are high in Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fats, just like peanut butter. The manufacturer states that Sunbutter has 1/3 less saturated fat than peanut butter. Perhaps compared to other brands of peanut butter, but in our case, our brand of peanut butter is Kraft, which lists 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon, same as Sunbutter. There might be other brands of peanut butter that list a higher content of saturated fat. Sunbutter outperforms peanut butter when it comes to Vitamin E, though. One serving (2 Tablespoons) of Sunbutter provides 27 percent of a day's recommended allowance of vitamin E, whereas one serving of Kraft Peanut Butter provides 16 percent. In addition, SunButter also has twice as much fiber and iron compared to peanut butter.
In short, when it comes to nutritional value, Sunbutter gives peanut butter a run for its money, if not bump it out of the race completely. So if your peanut, dairy, and egg allergic five year old child, (who's so thin her stomach is concave and refuses to eat carbs on a good day)
has decided all of a sudden that she is a vegetarian (who eats chicken on weekends)
then Sunbutter is a healthier alternative to peanut butter.Is there room for improvement?
Sunbutter can be a little bit hard to stir initially when you first open the jar. The oil is on top and takes a fair bit of force to mix it in at the beginning. But once it's mixed in, it's smooth and easily spreadable.
Sunbutter is also sold in little pouches called On-The-Go Snack Packs, which I was given by an allergy mom who does not like nut butters in general and her kids don't either. She gave those to me when she found out how much we like Sunbutter so I thought I would give them a try. These pouches are an absolute pain. They are inconvenient and messy. For starters, they have to be kneaded to reincorporate the oil into the sunbutter. But many of them just burst in the process of kneading. They are also hard to open without scissors and only tear half way making it impossible to drizzle the Sunbutter without making an absolute mess of my hands and the sandwich as well as the plate and counter. My husband and I were almost tempted to throw them in the garbage when we first got them. But, I love Sunbutter and I didn't want it to go to waste. So I took all the pouches we had (which was a lot; it was a big box of them)
and I cut one by one and dropped them into a big jar and stirred the whole thing. It created a mess but it was one mess and one clean up. I don't see how a child can open that pouch in their lunch box without creating a mess. I'm going to stick with the jar, thank you. I will put it on a sandwich and stick it in my daughter's lunch box marked "Sunbutter - peanut FREE".
I have not tried all the other sizes or flavors. I tried the crunchy and loved it but my husband preferred the creamy (and my little girl announced that she will not be eating anything with weeds in it - strawberry seeds, spices and herbs are also referred to as weeds)
so we buy the jars of creamy Sunbutter.
My biggest beef with Sunbutter is the cost. Here in Atlantic Canada a 454 gram jar of Sunbutter costs $6.99 at a large grocery store chain, the cheapest I've found it so far. In other places I've seen it as high as $8.99. That's a lot of money for a small container. Sunbutter hardly goes on sale here. On a good day it may be as low as $5.49 and that's a sale price. Compare that to Kraft's peanut butter 500 gram jars which go for $4.49 at regular price, and they go on sale often for $1 each. But even at regular price, Kraft's peanut butter 1 kilogram jar goes for $6.49. Compared to Sunbutter, that's more than twice as much for a lesser price. In that regard Sunbutter sounds like it's cost is quite exorbitant. However, when you compare it to other nut butter alternatives such as soynut butter, the price is not that much higher. We've tried a lot of soynut butters, from pea butter (YUCK!, by the way)
to Wowbutter, and to put it bluntly, some of them were inedible. Wowbutter may have been close but not quite. Soynut butters just could not measure up to Sunbutter, not even close, not even in the same league.
Some people are totally freaked out when they see baked goods made with Sunbutter. Apparently, the chlorophyll in the sunflower seeds reacts with baking soda and baking powder. It turns green! You won't see it during baking but when the baked goods cool down, they will turn green. If you want to avoid being interrogated by other family members (or having to convince your spouse that you did not commission the Incredible Hulk to take a dump over your cookie dough)
as to why your oatmeal cookies are suspciously green then you may have to follow the manufacturer's suggestions. On their web site
, they state that if you reduce the baking soda/powder by approximately 1/3 it may not be so green. They also say that depending on the recipe, a splash of lemon juice could help. I've only encountered that problem in cookies. My granola bars never turned green even though they have baking powder, and neither did my cakes or squares, but they also contain baking powder. However, my cookies contain baking soda, and they do
turn green. So I'd say that baking soda reacts with the Sunbutter more readily. I have not tried the lemon juice trick yet. But guess what I'll be doing for Halloween and St. Patrick's day... you guessed it, baking with Sunbutter and baking soda. Just think, I can make cookies in the shape of a witch's fingers; that would be WICKED. Get it? Witch - Wicked. I know, I crack myself up sometimes. Okay, I'll stop now...So what's the verdict?
In all fairness, when it comes to price, given the fact that due to allergies I have no choice but to go with a peanut butter alternative, I would shell out the big bucks to buy Sunbutter. And for the the extra dollar it would cost to buy it compared to other soynut butters, I would definitely prefer Sunbutter. The quality of taste and texture far surpasses that of any soynut butter I've encountered, as they pale in comparison to Sunbutter.
As a stand alone product, Sunbutter definitely delivers. It doesn't fall short like many other products that claim to be peanut butter alternatives. The taste and texture is very appealing. I really love the roasty flavor and also impressed with its nutritional value. As far as taste goes, I prefer it over peanut butter. If my daughter was not allergic to peanuts and if I had the option of peanut butter including all other nut butters, I would most likely still buy Sunbutter for myself. However, the cost may make it inefficient for large families who have the option to buy peanut butter. But we are talking about allergy families here, who have no choice but to buy alternatives, of which most are expensive and cost an arm and a leg. So, would I give up my arm or leg for Sunbutter? Hmm.. I'd have to think about it, because it's tempting. Like I said, I'm sure there's Sunbutter in heaven.Where to buy it?
You can buy Sunbutter through www.sunbutter.com
or other online retailers. In Canada, Sunbutter can be found in large grocery store chains like Atlantic Superstore and Loblaws, as well as other Health Food stores.
Now, go, buy Sunbutter.