Is Peanut Butter Vegan? It’s not that simple to know.

By Hannah Whittaker RD, PGDip | Aug 30, 2023

Peanut butter is a widely consumed food that many of us love. It has a creamy and rich taste, but have you ever wondered if it is vegan? It may sound strange to ask this question when we usually think of it as plant-based food.

Some brands, especially those produced in the United States, may contain honey, dairy products, or even fish oil, which are not considered vegan. They may also include other animal-derived ingredients. Additionally, the risk of cross-contamination with animal bones or other non-vegan substances is always a concern as this may not always be on the ingredient list, especially in grocery stores.

In the blog post; Is Peanut Butter Vegan? It’s not that Simple to know we will explore the answer to this question. We’ll also take a closer look at the nutritional benefits of peanut butter during pregnancy and for your family. Finally, I’ll share my favourite brands of peanut butter, how to make your own and tips to make sure that the nut butter you choose is indeed vegan.

picture of a black woman pregnant

What is veganism?

If you’re already vegan, you know the importance of this ethical and health-conscious lifestyle. But for those who may be new to veganism and want to know more, The Vegan Society defines veganism as:

‘a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals. This means abstaining from any animal-derived products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey,’.

As a little note, as a mum-to-be, you CAN continue veganism throughout pregnancy and as parents you CAN raise your children vegan. However, it is essential to be aware of specific nutrients in your balanced diet that are crucial for your growing baby and family. These include; 

  • Calcium
  • Choline
  • Essential fatty acids – omega 3
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin D

The difference between plant-based and vegan diets

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a plant-based diet and veganism? The truth is, while they may share some similarities the two are not the same.

A plant-based diet focuses on whole foods derived from plants, while excluding animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. On the other hand, veganism is a broader lifestyle that goes beyond just food. It rejects the use of animal products in all aspects of life. Both choices can be healthy during pregnancy, but it’s important to pay particular attention to adequate nutrients that cannot be met via veganism or plant-based diet alone.

Raising a Vegan Family: The Role of Peanut Butter

When it comes to raising a family on a vegan diet, having versatile and nutrient-dense foods on hand is essential. Peanut butter is a great addition to a vegan lifestyle for both parents and children alike. You’ll find that peanut butter is readily available in most grocery stores, making it an accessible choice for many families.

Why Peanut Butter is a Staple for Vegan Families

  1. Rich in Nutrients: As you bring up your family vegan, it’s important to consider sources of protein and healthy fats. Peanut butter offers a good amount of protein and healthy fats that are beneficial for both adults and children.
  2. Convenient and Versatile: With a busy family life, it’s crucial to have quick and easy meal options. Peanut butter can be spread on toast for breakfast, added to smoothies, or used in various recipes for lunch and dinner.
  3. Ethically Sound: If you’re concerned about animal welfare and environmental impacts, natural peanut butter aligns well with these values. Just make sure to read the ingredients list closely to avoid any hydrogenated vegetable oils or animal-derived ingredients, including the risk of cross-contamination with animal bones.
  4. DIY Option: If you prefer making your own peanut butter, it’s an excellent way to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination from animal-derived ingredients, which can be a concern for many in the vegan community. Plus, you can control what goes into it, avoiding cane sugar and hydrogenated oils entirely.

5 health benefits of peanut butter during pregnancy

5 health benefits of peanut butter during pregnancy;

  1. Rich in protein: Peanut butter is a great source of protein, which comes from peanuts contained. Protein is important for building and repairing tissues in the body. During pregnancy, protein supports the growth and development of the baby.
  2. Contains healthy fats: Peanut butter is a great source of the healthy fat omega 3. This helps to support the growth and development of your baby’s brain and nervous system.
  3. Provides fibre: Peanut butter contains dietary fibre, which can help prevent constipation, a common issue during pregnancy.
  4. Rich in vitamins and minerals: Peanut butter is also rich in vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. All which can help support your overall health and your baby’s growth and development.
  5. Peanut butter is a low glycemic index food, meaning it can help regulate blood sugar levels. This can be especially beneficial in pregnancy to support energy levels. Just make sure that the one you choose doesn’t contain added sugar or agave syrup.

However, it’s important to keep portion sizes in mind.

Is peanut butter vegan?

Yes, most peanut butter is vegan, as it typically does not contain any animal products. However, it’s always important to check the label to ensure that all the ingredients are in line with your dietary choices. Some peanut butter brands may contain honey or dairy products which are not considered vegan or plant-based. They may also be made with omega-3 fish oils added or other animal byproducts. 

Look for natural and high-quality ingredients, and avoid brands that add refined sugar, additives or hydrogenated oils to their products.

If you’re looking for vegan options, plenty of peanut butter brands are available are are great sources of protein, healthy fats, and other essential nutrients. Have a look for the vegan-friendly leaf or the product to be certified vegan.

Is Peanut Butter Vegan

How to Make Your Own Vegan Peanut Butter

If you are interested in making your own peanut butter, you can usually find all the vegan-friendly ingredients you’ll need at grocery stores. This not only allows you to customise your peanut butter but also eliminates the risk of cross-contamination with animal-derived ingredients, which can be a significant concern for the vegan community. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (600g) of unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • Optional: A pinch of salt, or to taste
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons of a vegan sweetener like maple syrup

Equipment:

  • Food processor or high-speed blender
  • Spatula
  • Glass jar with a lid for storing

Steps:

  1. Place the peanuts in the food processor.
  2. Process on high speed until they go from ground peanuts, to a dry ball, with a smooth, creamy texture. This may take 4-5 minutes depending on the power of your processor.
  3. If you’re adding salt or a vegan sweetener, add it halfway through the blending process, and make sure it’s well incorporated.
  4. Once the peanut butter reaches your desired consistency, use a spatula to transfer it into a glass jar and seal tightly with a lid.

Tips:

  • If you prefer chunky peanut butter, you can set aside some of the chopped peanuts after the initial few minutes of processing, and mix them back into the finished smooth peanut butter.
  • Store your homemade peanut butter in the refrigerator. It should last for up to 2-3 weeks.

Remember to not give crunchy peanut butter to children under 3 years due to the risk of choking. 

Palm oil in peanut butter

The best vegan peanut butter is one that is palm oil-free. 

Many kinds of peanut butter products use palm oil, which comes from the kernel of the palm oil tree. Peanut butter manufacturers generally use palm oil because it is smooth, tasteless, solid at room temperature, and helps maintain the consistency of the product.

The palm oil itself contains no animal products nor does the manufacturing process used to extract the palm oil. Oil palms also have a much higher yield than other vegetable oils and need less land than others to get the same amount of oil.

However, historically, palm oil harvesting has had a negative impact. This includes mass deforestation and destruction of animal habitats and also has links to forced labour. Many people therefore believe that this makes it non-cruelty-free.

What is sustainable palm oil?

There are now organisations that are fighting for sustainable palm oil via oil palm plantations. This industry harvests, manufactures, and sells sustainable palm oil responsibly. The WWF is supporting better practised through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which is a international group of palm oil buyers and environmental and social groups. If you choose a peanut butter with palm oil, make sure it is sustainable.

Types of peanut butter

Peanut butter manufacturers typically use roasted peanuts along with a small amount of salt to create this beloved spread. The good news is, the best way to make your choice among the smooth or crunchy textures that populate grocery store shelves is to read the peanut butter ingredients list carefully.

However here are some of my favourite vegan products available online! 

My top 5 palm oil free peanut butter.

I would always recommend opting for peanut butter that is simply peanuts. 

  • Meridian – Roasted Peanuts Whole Skin on (100%)
  • Biona – Peanuts*, * = Certified Organic ingredients
  • Manilife – Hi-Oleic Peanuts 99.1%, Sea Salt 0.9%
  • Pip & Nut – Hi-Oleic Peanuts (99.6%), Sea Salt.
  • Yumelo – Hi-Oleic Peanuts (99.4%), Sea Salt.

Overall my favorite peanut butter brand is Meridian 

Serving size of peanut butter

Just two tablespoons of peanut butter are considered a serving for an adult, and too much of a good thing can be harmful.

Consuming peanut butter in moderation is generally healthy; however, eating it in excess can lead to several issues:

  1. High Caloric Intake: Peanut butter is calorie-dense, and eating it in large quantities can contribute to weight gain, especially if you’re not balancing it with physical activity.
  2. High Fat Content: While the fats in peanut butter are mostly healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, too much fat in your diet can lead to increased cholesterol levels and cardiovascular issues over time.

Nutritional Content of Peanut Butter

Serving size for Adults (2 Tablespoons or approximately 32 grams)

  • Calories: ~190
  • Protein: ~8 grams
  • Fat: ~16 grams (of which 3.3 grams are saturated fats)
  • Carbohydrates: ~7 grams
  • Fiber: ~2 grams
  • Sugars: ~3 grams (varies depending on the brand)

Serving size for Children (1 Tablespoon or approximately 16 grams)

  • Calories: ~95
  • Protein: ~4 grams
  • Fat: ~8 grams (of which 1.6 grams are saturated fats)
  • Carbohydrates: ~3.5 grams
  • Fiber: ~1 gram
  • Sugars: ~1.5 grams (varies depending on the brand)

When incorporated into a balanced diet, peanut butter can be a nutritious addition for both children and adults, offering protein, healthy fats, and various essential vitamins and minerals. But like anything, it should be enjoyed in moderation.

Vegan nut butter

If you’re raising a vegan family or plant-based mum-to-be, you might be wondering what alternatives there are to peanut butter, especially when it comes to getting enough essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy pregnancy and your family. Fear not! There are plenty of delicious alternatives to this classic that also contain nuts and pack a nutritional punch. Try to still opt for a nut butter with simple ingredients that have no additives or processed ingredients.

You will likely find almond and cashew butter also widely available on the market right now.

Is Jif Peanut Butter Vegan?

Ah, the enduring allure of Jif Peanut Butter! When it comes to Jif, it’s not quite cut-and-dry if you are vegan. Several Jif products are okay for vegetarians, but they often contain mono- and diglycerides, which can sometimes come from animal sources. What’s more, some Jif options even have honey, an ingredient strict vegans steer clear of. Additionally, the sugar used in some Jif varieties may be processed with bone char.

Let’s not forget the palm oil contained too. If you’re concerned about the ethical and environmental implications, you’ll want a peanut butter that’s palm oil-free, which Jif doesn’t always offer.

Peanut butter is great!

Peanut butter is vegan and a great food choice during pregnancy. Overall it does not contain any animal derivates and is a rich source of protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. However, it’s always important to check the label for non-vegan ingredients, such as honey, dairy, or omega-3 fish oils. Remember to keep portion sizes in mind, and choose peanut butter that is palm oil-free, natural, and free from additives and refined sugars with as little salt as possible. By being mindful of the ingredients in the peanut butter you choose, you can enjoy its delicious taste and reap its health benefits.

Hannah x

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition

Hannah is a respected figure in the field of nutrition. Renowned as an expert dietitian, captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post. 

Explore Hannah’s inspiring journey as a mum of two, overcoming her own nutritional struggles. Discover how she empowers fellow mums with valuable nutritional knowledge, ensuring balance and offering support on their personal journey. 

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at | info@bump2babynutrition.com | Website | + posts

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.

Credentials

  • Registered Dietitian
  • First Class Degree in Nutrition

Experience

  • Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
  • Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
  • Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition

 

 

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