Like most little kids, my toddler loves peanut butter. In fact, she often eats a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast!
But because her sister now has allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, that peanut butter had to go. Even though my toddler isn’t allergic herself, I’m uncomfortable with having any nuts in our home at all and I certainly won’t risk a reckless three-year-old with sticky peanut butter hands “goobering” her sister! She is familiar with Sunbutter since they serve it at her school, so our switch to the product at home was pretty seamless.
That is, until I offered a bit of Sunbutter to her sister one morning. “She can’t have that! She’s allergic!” I mean, you would have thought I had offered Daniel Tiger a peach here. Apparently, some element of my explanation of what nuts are and why her sister can’t have them hadn’t fully registered with her.
I suspected that the trouble was that Sunbutter looks and tastes so much like peanut butter. I can’t really blame a three-year-old for being confused! So I thought she’d benefit from learning just how sunflower seed butter is made. And as it happens, the activity timed up perfectly with this month’s Recipe Redux theme:
What did you cook as a child? Or, what are you cooking with kids now? Share a healthy recipe you remember making as a child – or show us how you have fun in the kitchen with some special kids.
Now, I definitely didn’t make homemade sunflower seed butter myself as a kid. We didn’t even make homemade peanut butter. Like the prevalence of food allergies, homemade nut butter wasn’t much of a “thing” back in the 80s. But I did cook with my mom from time to time and now as a dietitian, it’s the area of family health I’m most passionate about. Cooking together builds confidence in kids and helps them understand more about their food.
So we commenced Mission: Understand Sunflower Seed Butter. Making it is really pretty simple and doesn’t require much more than patience (so it’s actually pretty difficult for a toddler, I guess!) You certainly don’t actually need to stir the seeds after you put them in the food processor as shown here, but it was her idea and I try to encourage her autonomy in the kitchen whenever possible.
If you can get your kid to hang around for long enough, it’s fun to watch the mixture progress from grainy to “globby ball stage” to smooth and creamy.
And of course, there’s the taste testing! Baby L certainly approves (Note: thick nut/seed butter can be a choking hazard, especially when it’s eaten right off of a spoon. There was only a very thin layer on this spoon.)
This method works pretty well with any roasted nut or seed. If you have young kids who don’t have food allergies, I actually encourage you to try out a version with lots of different nuts and seeds mixed in. We now know that early and consistent exposure to potential allergens is the best defense against developing food allergies. So if your non-allergic kid already loves peanut butter, toss in a few tree nuts as well!
Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter
16 oz. roasted sunflower seeds (I used Trader Joe’s Roasted & Salted)
2 tbsp. powdered sugar*
1/2 – 1 tsp. salt (optional, skip if you’re using salted seeds)
Place seeds in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1-2 minutes, then pause to scrape down sides of the bowl.
Continue processing for about 10 more minutes. The mixture will go from grainy to “ball stage” to creamy.
Add powdered sugar and salt if using, process to combine.
Store in a 16 oz. mason jar at room temperature.
*You could use honey as well, but I like how powdered sugar makes the mixture a little less runny (read: messy).