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Is peanut butter vegan? While clear to most that peanuts are sown and grown, the word “butter” can easily mislead (even the surest of vegans!) into believing this food belongs in dairy territory.

So, whether veteran vegan or brand-new to the plant-based pursuit, you’re in the right place! Let’s dive into this relatively common quandary, spoon-first, shall we?

However, before we discuss “vegan or not vegan,” let’s first talk nuts and bolts (pun-intended) of the manufacturing process to provide some necessary background information on this matter.

How is peanut butter made?

tiny model figures breaking into a peanut with axes on a hessian cloth

Let’s go over the notable stages of peanut butter production. For further detail (i.e. to really nerd out on peanuts) you can check out this breakdown by Madehow.com or this PDF presentation from PeanutsUSA.

Planting and harvesting

Depending on climate, peanuts are typically planted in April or May and form underground. In September and October, harvesting occurs, and mechanical pickets remove the peanuts from their vines. They’re then transported to a peanut sheller and the drying phase commences.

 

Shelling and processing

Once the peanuts have dried, they’re graded based on size and meticulously checked for defects, spots and broken skins. The nuts that pass inspection are either cleaned for sale as in-shell peanuts, or shelled for further processing (e.g. for the making of peanut butter!)

 

Making (roasting, cooling & blanching)

Once manufacturers receive a shipment, peanuts are roasted in one of two ways: with oil or without oil (the latter is a process known as “dry roasting”). The roasting oven often reaches up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit! After cooling off, peanuts are usually blanched, which means they are separated from their heart and skin (…sounds painful, we know!), before they move on to the grinding phase.

 

Grinding

Finally… where peanuts become “butter!” The manufacturer uses devices to adjust for the texture of the product (simply put, they decide whether the butter will be “smooth” or “chunky”) and for how much oil is freed from the nuts.

 

Note: You know how in some jars, you see the oil kind of floating at the top, while in others, it’s seemingly invisible? During grinding, most peanut butter manufacturers add ingredients to the peanuts in order to achieve that flawless consistency you know and love, and further, for the purposes of creating a specific taste or special flavor (this is an important fact to know, and we’ll come back to it very soon).

 

Packaging

Lastly, manufacturers typically use vacuum packaging to reduce oxidation (extending shelf life) as the peanut butter is jarred and capped. Jars are then labeled, placed in cartons and stored until they’re ready to be shipped to retail outlets or directly to customers.

Phew! As you can see, there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into each and every jar of peanut butter that lines the shelves of your local grocer. And, should you be more of a visual learner, here’s an awesome video about peanut butter production for your further infotainment!

So, is peanut butter vegan?

At this point, you’re probably thinking: “Cool. Glad I now know how peanut butter’s made, but… is it vegan?”

Answer: It really depends on the added ingredients during the grinding phrase… for which we now have ample context! So, now that we’ve covered the high-level components of production, let’s get into the nutty-gritty (…pun-also-intended).

Non-vegan ingredients used in peanut butter

vegan peanut butter sandwiches for kids with banana eyes and whole peanuts for mouths atop a wooden table

From household names like JIF and Skippy to lesser known outfits like Justin’s and Peanut Butter & Co., countless peanut butter manufacturers implement additives in their products. Each serves a function, from enhancing taste to extending shelf life to preventing oil separation, and these “extras” can total up to 10% of the total product!

While the most common, run-of-the-mill additives in popular peanut butters, such as salt, sugar and oils, aren’t very healthy or nutritionally dense, they are, however, almost always vegan (an exception would be JIF Omega 3 Creamy Peanut Butter, which contains fish oil and gelatin).

Generally, it’s the fancy flavored peanut butters at greatest risk of having a “non-vegan” status. Below, we’ve listed the most common, non-vegan additives, with a few brands and flavors to watch out for as you peruse aisles and read labels (thankfully, containers are usually clearly marked on the front, and of course, the ingredients are always listed on the back):

Honey

Justin’s (Honey Peanut Butter), Skippy (Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Honey), JIF (Natural Honey Peanut Butter Spread), Smuckers (Natural Peanut Butter with Honey), Peanut Butter & Co. (The Bees Knees). Check out Is Honey Vegan? for more info on this natural product.

 

Milk

PB Crave (all flavors).

 

Chocolate

Reese’s Spreads (Peanut Butter Chocolate).

Choosing an healthy, vegan peanut butter

Now that we’ve thoroughly deconstructed our “Is peanut butter vegan?” predicament from soup to nuts (last pun, we promise) and identified some potential pitfalls, let’s focus on the solution!

Here are some healthy (and affordable!) vegan peanut butter brands up for grabs:

Making your own peanut butter

Whether you’re a whiz in the kitchen or a sometimes-chef who enjoys crafting your own concoctions, another way to guarantee your peanut butter is both vegan and free of artificial additives is to make your own!

Here’s a quick-yet-informative how-to video and a casual twenty-one recipes to get you started. (Quick tip: Make sure you have a great food processor before you get your grind on, too)!

So, while peanut “butter” in its purest state is no more than ground up peanuts, additives implemented during the manufacturing process can quickly morph this protein-packed, all-natural nutty wonder into a less-healthy, non-vegan food-like substance.

But, by sticking to the sticky stuff that’s free from the aforementioned added ingredients (or by making your own supple spread), you can rest assured that your peanut butter is not only vegan, but healthy, too.

Leave us a comment below should you have any further questions or concerns over the “is peanut butter vegan?” question!

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