A Tale of Two Butters

Sunflower seed butters, that is.

Sunflower seed butter has now been a staple for several years at my house. It’s yummy and nut-free and super versatile. We put it in smoothies, baked goods, and have even made ‘peanut’ sauce with it for stir-fry. It’s packed with protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins; way more nutritious than peanut butter. Simply put, it’s wonderful.

The problem is the price tag.

Whole Foods wants $7 for a 16 oz jar, and Trader Joe’s wants at least $6. When you go through it like we do, that’s a lot to spend on something so simple. Shelled and unsalted sunflower seeds are generally $2-3 per pound in the bulk section of most grocery stores.

So I made some.

Yes, there are a lot of recipes about how to make sunflower seed butter online. But they make the whole process sound a lot simpler than it is. It doesn’t work to just toss some sunflower seeds from the bulk aisle into a food processor.

Like anything worth doing, it takes a little concentration and love.

Yesterday was attempt #1 at sunflower seed butter making. While it was somewhat successful, today’s attempt #2 led to much better results.

Lesson learned: roasting is a must.

The first batch of butter was made with raw, hulled sunflower seeds. While it was okay, it required a lot of sweetener and had a very vegetal, almost unpleasant taste. It was kind of gray and a little cakey, despite adding oil to smooth out the mixture. This morning’s batch used roasted seeds and only 2 teaspoons of honey. It was smooth, rich and golden brown. Below you can see the difference between the first batch and the second batch. You can probably guess, but the unroasted batch is on the left and the roasted batch is on the right.IMG_1813

This is an attempt to talk all of you that might not want to take the time to roast all the seeds into the fact that you really do want to. I’m generally not too persnickety about whether things are or aren’t roasted, but here it makes a huge difference.

Toast ‘em!

Magical Delicious Sunflower Seed Butter

1 ½ lbs sunflower seeds (shelled, unsalted)

5 tsp oil (pick your favorite; I used a very light olive oil)

2 tsp honey

¼ tsp salt

PIMG_1801reheat the oven to 490 degrees on ‘broil’ (instead of default ‘bake’). Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and pop them in the ovenIMG_1802 for 4 minutes once the oven is heated. After 4 minutes, stir the seeds and put back in the oven for 2 minutes. Stir again and put back in the oven for another 2 minutes. They should be a light golden brown. If they look or smell like they’re burning, pull them out! Burned sunflower seeds do not make particularly tasty butter.

Pour the roasted seeds into a food processor and run for about 2 minutes. Add the salt and continue to run the food processor for another 2 minutes. Add the honey and 3 tsp of olive oil and run the processor. The entire process will take about 15 minutes. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl when the mixture starts to IMG_1804climb up the edges, which is about every 45 seconds or so. Break up the chunks as the mixture starts to stick together. Make sure to pause if your processor starts getting too hot, too! As you process the seeds, they should get progressively more and more pasty. Depending on the consistency you prefer, feel free to add the extra 2 teaspoo   ns of oil. Although it might seem like you’re not getting anywhere, there will be a moment when a bunch of the sunflower paste that has built up the side of the bowl will fall back down into the middle of the bowl. When that happens, it will all of a sudden seem like everything is much looser and more of a proper sunflower seed butter consistency.  You can’t really over-mix it, so air on the side of blending for two long as opposed to not blending for long enough.

When you’ve got your favorite consistency, stop your processor. Scoop your butter out and into IMG_1809a favorite jar, or onto awaiting apple slices.


It’s another beautiful Seattle summer day: 60 degrees and overcast, with the slightest feeling of a drizzle.


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