Is peanut butter vegan or does it contain animal products?

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Is peanut butter vegan? Or does the world’s favourite nut butter contain animal products? Here’s what to look out for.

Peanut butter is vegan, isn’t it? A staple part of many a vegan diet, nut butters — including peanut varieties — are indeed vegan, and when added to a balanced diet, can be a great source of healthy fats, energy and extra protein.

When a vegan product isn’t vegan

peanut butter veganPeanut butter, depending on the brand chosen, is nothing more than peanuts, oil and maybe some added sugar or salt. Adding oil and salt, or just about anything else, short of animal products will not stop peanut butter from being vegan, but dig a little deeper and the processing methods of certain ingredients can cause plant-based eaters some headaches.

Refined cane sugar is sometimes commercially produced using bone char. Any brand that adds sugar made in this way to what should be vegan peanut butter will negate the animal-free nature of the product itself, making it unsuitable for strict vegans. So what’s the solution?

Get acquainted with food labels

is sugar vegan“When in doubt, leave it out” is a good rule of thumb for vegans to follow, as is always taking the time to check the ingredient list on the packaging of any food bought. No grocery store or supermarket is out to pull the acrylic over vegans’ eyes, so just take a moment to scan through and make sure there’s nothing that you either don’t recognise or think might be an animal derivative.

It’s easier than ever to double-check an ingredient you aren’t familiar with — thanks to smartphones — but you can go a step further and contact the company in question, asking for them to tell you if their products are vegan-friendly or not. Most will be happy to advise you.

If you stumble across a company that doesn’t respond or you can’t get clarity either way, it is best to avoid buying their products, just to be safe. When it comes to veganism, ignorance is not bliss — it can be a recipe for unintentional animal exploitation support.

Make your own peanut butter

how to make peanut butterEven if you’re not the world’s best vegan chef, you can easily whip up a batch of delicious homemade peanut butter. As with the best store-bought options, all you need is high-quality peanuts and a food processor with some decent power to it. You’ll also need a little patience and — potentially — some earplugs. Adding anything like salt, sugar or extra oil will adulterate your perfect peanut spread, so just trust in the process and your mixer.

It’s as simple as placing your cooked peanuts into a food processor and leaving them to be turned into nut butter. Seriously, that’s it. If you want to try something a little more gourmet peanut butter adjacent, try roasting your nuts first, to give them a deeper and more intense flavour. You might be tempted to drizzle a little oil into the mix, to get things moving more quickly, but don’t! The natural oils in the peanuts will release at the right time and create a silky, pure butter that is 100% vegan and delicious.

It’s a noisy and fairly long process to make your own nut butters, so if you can set your food processor going and leave it for a while, you should.

What about other nut butters?

vegan nut buttersThe same goes for all other nut butters. As long as no honey or other animal products have been added and there’s no risk of sugar bone char contamination, they will be vegan. You can also make your own almond, hazelnut and even pistachio butters at home, with experimentation highly recommended. For example, add some cacao powder to your hazelnuts and homemade Nutella is just a blitz away.

Peanut butter is vegan, so keep buying, making and spreading it on everything you eat, because, you know, peanut butter.

Is honey vegan? Read our story on the debate amongst vegans.

Amy Buxton
Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and their beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor, before moving into her external content director role. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.