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These alternative nut butters will spruce up that boring PB & J

Peanuts are the menace of many elementary schools. Research presented in October at a meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that peanut allergies in children have increased 21 percent since 2010 and that nearly 2.5 percent of American children may be allergic to peanuts. In many school districts, they’re banned from lunch rooms to prevent kids with life-threatening allergies from having a dangerous reaction.

And in their wake, a host of alternatives have sprung up: Almond and cashew butters are mainstays at grocery stores now, and tahini is finally getting its due as a solo act. But this year, food industry trend-watchers predict that even more alternative nuts — and nut alternatives — will be making their way into our spreads. At the Winter Fancy Foods show, an industry trade show to promote new products, the Kitchn and other sites noted that spreads were a category on the rise.

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The wider range of options will definitely be welcomed by parents of allergic kids. But even those who aren’t allergic might find that a peanut butter sandwich sometimes tastes a little … blah.  Perhaps you’re a grown-up looking for something a little more sophisticated to put on your morning slice of toast. Or maybe you’re  doing the Whole 30 program, or flirting with the Paleo diet — both of which prohibit peanuts.

We tried 10 alternatives to peanut butter, some containing tree nuts, that you may not have known about — from bright green sprouted pumpkin seed butter to a chickpea alternative that could have subbed in for the real thing.

Pumpkin seed butter

Jiva Organics raw sprouted pumpkin seed butter — $14.99 for 8 ounces

Ingredients: Organic raw sprouted pumpkin seeds

Okay, it’s very green. Like pea-soup green. If you put this in a sandwich for your kid, there’s a chance that lunchroom know-it-alls will see an opportunity here and pounce. That said, for adults who want to cut back on sugar, this butter has an earthier flavor.

Sunflower butter

88 Acres organic vanilla spice sunflower seed butter — $19.99 for two 14-ounce jars

Ingredients: Organic sunflower seeds, organic cane sugar, organic sunflower oil, organic vanilla extract, organic cinnamon, organic nutmeg, sea salt.

A lot of nutmeg! It has this pumpkin spice fall morning vibe to it. that makes you instantly want to have it on a dreary day with a cup of cider. When you stir it after it separates, it looks a little bit like canned cat food, but the taste makes up for it.

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Pistachio and macadamia nut butter

Nutrawbar raw pistachio and macadamia butter organic superfood spread  — $15.99 for 8 ounces

Ingredients: organic pistachios, organic macadamia nuts, organic vanilla bean.

It’s green and slimy, and sweet and salty despite containing no sugar or salt. The pistachio is a little more pronounced that the macadamia. It tastes best with something sweet or tart — an apple slice, or some jelly.  And the label boasts of plenty of omega-3, manganese, potassium and fiber.

Coconut butter

Gopal’s raw organic coconut butter — $13.25 for 16 ounces

Ingredients: Raw organic coconut

It’s a little tricky, because it hardens and separates when it’s cold. Health-food bloggers well-versed in the art of coconut butter recommend heating it for a few seconds in the microwave, or a warm water bath, to make it spreadable. But it would make a sweet breakfast on some toast, and it goes well with fruit.

Pistachio butter

Nutty Novelties pistachio butter —  $17.99 for two 3.5-ounce jars

Ingredients: Pistachios, sea salt, sunflower oil.

If you are the type of person who can inhale an entire bag of pistachios, consider trying them in their most concentrated form. This butter is salty in the best possible way and has a slight crunchiness to it. It’s just a bummer that the jars are smaller than a typical face lotion.

Pine nut butter

Living Tree Community Foods’ Lake Baikal Siberian pine nut butter —  $14.99 for 8 ounces

Ingredients: Organic Siberian pine nuts and royal Himalayan pink salt

First of all: Raise your hand if you had any idea that the Siberian pine nut is an entirely different species than the typical pine nuts you find in grocery stores — or so this packaging explains. This butter has a natural sweetness to it, which comes off a little cloying. Forgive me, but it looks a little like snot. But it plays well with salty crackers or tart apples.

Chickpea butter

The Amazing Chickpea creamy chickpea butter — $7.99 for 12 ounces

Ingredients: Roasted chickpeas, roasted sunflower seeds, olive oil, cane sugar, natural flavor

This one is the closest facsimile to my childhood lunches of Jif and strawberry jelly. It nails the creamy texture and the saltiness, and the chickpeas are oh-so-close to the flavor of peanuts.

Walnut butter

Futters Pure Nut Butters walnut butter — $14.50 for 12 ounces

Ingredients: “Just walnuts”

Is it weird to describe this as kind of meaty? Because that’s what it is: a hearty spread, thicker than the rest, with a pleasant bitterness and umami to it. I would pair it with apples and fig crackers.

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Pea butter

Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter —  $13.99 for 16.2 oz

Ingredients: Yellow peas, canola oil, sugar, monoglyceride, salt, sunflower lecithin, cocoa powder, natural flavors.

It plays well with a lot of allergies — completely nut-free as well as gluten-free, soy-free and non-GMO, to boot. It has a sort of gloppy texture, and it’s a touch too sweet, but I bet kids like that about it.

Chocolate soybean butter

Don’t Go Nuts’ nut-free chocolate roasted soybean spread — $12.19 for 16 oz.

Ingredients: Organic dry-roasted soybeans, organic soybean oil, organic powdered sugar, organic cocoa, organic palm oil, organic vanilla flavor, sea salt.

Oh heck yes — if you have a nut allergy and want a substitute for Nutella, this is your jar. It’s creamy and chocolaty, and would go well as a dip for pretzels, or on toast with bananas. Eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon!

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