Creative and Tasty Substitutes for Peanut Butter

If you were playing Family Feud and you had to name something that someone might spread on a sandwich, peanut butter would surely be at the top of the list. The ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic lunchbox staple.

But if your child has been diagnosed with a peanut allergy (or if your school is peanut-free), all of a sudden packing lunch may have gotten unexpectedly complicated, since that classic old standby is completely off-limits.

The good news is, there are other things you can use that your child may like as much as, or even better than, peanut butter. Here are nine alternatives you may not have thought of to the old standby PB&J.


Cream Cheese

bread spread with cream cheese and fruit
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This is not for the dairy-allergic, of course, but cream cheese has several virtues as a sandwich spread. It’s got a thick, spreadable texture; it acts as a moisture barrier to keep the bread from getting soggy, and it comes in flavors from fruit (to go with jelly) to chopped vegetable (to go with cold cuts).



Guacamole on toast

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Guacamole is hearty enough to stand on its own as a sandwich topping. It goes especially well in pitas and tortillas and makes a nice counterpart to chicken. And the rich green color may appeal to an adventurous child.


Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce on sandwich

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Many families buy cranberry sauce once a year at Thanksgiving. But it’s a lovely counterpart to turkey or chicken sandwiches throughout the school year. Consider adding mayonnaise to your turkey-and-cranberry sandwiches to keep the bread from getting soggy.



Hummus on sandwich

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Hummus, a Middle Eastern appetizer that’s become quite popular in the United States, is a great, healthy choice for sandwiches (and dips, too). You can buy this sesame-chickpea spread at the deli counter of many supermarkets, or find recipes online to make your own. High in protein, it’s especially good for vegetarian families.

People who are allergic to peanuts may also be sensitive to sesame, so proceed with caution. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have questions.


Vegetable Purees

Vegetable puree

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Many kids who won’t eat vegetables when they look like, well, vegetables will eat them if they’re cleverly disguised. Vegetable purees, like red pepper puree, are colorful and tasty, betraying a little hint of their healthful origins. These purees make excellent sandwich spreads, though you’ll want to add a moisture barrier like cream cheese, butter, or oil to prevent soggy bread, especially if you’re packing lunch to eat later.


Salad Dressing

Salad dressing on sandwich

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Salad dressings are a potential source of hidden allergens, so do check labels closely. But your child’s favorite dressing might be delicious on a sandwich. Try blue cheese, ranch, or Thousand Island dressing.


Bean Dips

Bean dip

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Like hummus, Mexican-inspired bean dips make hearty sandwich spreads. Serve them with Colby-Jack or asadero cheese and some salsa.


Soy and Sunflower Butters

Nut butter

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Two items specifically created for kids with peanut allergies (or who might be attending peanut-free schools) are “soy nut” butter and sunflower seed butter. You’ll find these in the health or specialty food aisle of your grocery store, at specialty retailers like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or at health food stores. Both are peanut- and tree nut-free, although soy nut butter is obviously not safe for children with soy allergies.


Other Nut Butters

Cashew butter

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This may be a risky alternative, as some children who are allergic to peanuts are allergic to tree nuts as well. However, if your child has been tested and is definitely allergic to only peanuts and not to tree nuts, alternative nut butters will be the nearest experience to peanut butter you can get. Almond butter, cashew butter, and hazelnut butter are relatively widely available. Talk to your allergist or dietitian if you have any concerns about the suitability of tree nut butters for your child's diet.

CAUTION: If you’re avoiding peanut butter because your child’s school has a “no peanuts” policy, be aware that substituting other nut butters may not be allowed, either.

A Word From Verywell

When you’re looking for a peanut butter substitute, there’s no doubt that other nut butters will allow you to duplicate the texture, feel, and taste of peanut butter most closely. Your child may be a picky eater, and may balk at something that’s not truly “peanut-like.”

But if you can get beyond that issue, you may find that trying some of these other interesting peanut butter substitutes allows you to introduce some new foods to your child’s diet... and maybe even get some extra vegetables onto her lunch plate.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bublin M, Breiteneder H. Cross-reactivity of peanut allergens. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2014;14(4):426. doi:10.1007/s11882-014-0426-8

By Victoria Groce
Victoria Groce is a medical writer living with celiac disease who specializes in writing about dietary management of food allergies.