20 Creative Ways To Cook With Nut Butter

For foodies, certain items are pantry essentials thanks to their accessibility and versatility. If you didn't previously count nut butter among those ranks, it's time to embrace the tasty spread and incorporate it into your culinary adventures.

While our list contains plenty of ideas for the nation's favorite peanut butter, don't forget you can make homemade nut butter or explore many alternatives at the store (almond, pecan, pine, walnut, pistachio, and cashew, to name but a few), each with individual flavors, textures, and a multitude of unique uses. Always remember, nut butter is more than just a spread — it's a versatile powerhouse that can transform your dishes with its creamy, nutty goodness. The kitchen isn't the place to play it safe! 

So, say goodbye to your days of licking nut butter off a spoon straight from the jar, and open your world to a new way of cooking with nut butter. We'll show you how to experiment with nut butter-infused sauces and savory glazes, plus, we'll help you level up your baking skills by using nut butter as a secret ingredient in cookies, brownies, or even homemade ice cream.  

Impress with nut butter cookies

Gooey, moist, buttery, cookies are practically impossible to resist, and since there are endless variations, you'll never run out of fun baking ideas. Interestingly, adding nut butter to your cookies doesn't just make the flavor even more tempting. The natural fattiness of nut butter can replace dairy butter, making for a more nutritious and affordable swap. 

And that's not all, since nut butter is also starchy and high in protein, effectively meaning you can whip up flourless, gluten-free cookies by including some delicious nut butter. The result will be gorgeously fudgy, but be sure you don't add too much nut butter to your cookies, or they risk turning dry and crumbly. We recommend using almond, hazelnut, or the much-beloved peanut butter when you prepare your next batch of treats. 

Liven up your stir-fry sauce

With only a handful of simple ingredients like soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and a generous amount of nut butter, you can mix a flavorful Thai-inspired stir-fry sauce.

For that genuine Thai taste, peanut butter is the go-to option. But for a twist, cashew, walnut, and almond butter bring charm, enhancing the savory, umami-packed essence of Asian stir-fry meals. These additions create a thick, luscious sauce, perfect for coating your noodles, while the rich nuttiness conveys complexity and depth contrasted by the simple freshness of bright vegetables.

Perhaps the best thing about using nut butter to make a stir-fry sauce is that it's quick and easy — a minute maximum to mix the sauce, and it can be heated or stirred through cold noodles for a refreshing plate packed with punchy flavors.

Use it in protein-packed smoothies

Do you wake up every morning looking forward to your breakfast smoothie? If you're a fan of fruit smoothies, then you need to start incorporating nut butter into your morning or pre-workout rituals. Nut butter works particularly well with bananas, apples, or berries like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries — and tastes so divine it's almost like eating dessert. Additionally, being naturally dense and creamy, nut butter makes the perfect addition to smoothie bowls. Fancier takes on traditional smoothies, the bowls are a visual treat, usually adorned with sliced fruits, sprinkles of seeds, crunchy granola, or even edible flowers.

Then it comes down to choosing which nut butter to use: Peanut and almond butter top the charts for protein-heavy options. On the other hand, hazelnut and macadamia nut butter might be better for a decadent treat focusing on flavor. All varieties of nut butter are loaded with heart-healthy fats, meaning you can't go wrong.

Whip up a French toast sandwich

Picture this: Two thick slices of sweet brioche cooked in a rich, butter, cinnamon-laced French toast mixture, dusted with powdered sugar. Between the two slices, a slathering of smooth, sweet, and subtly salty pistachio butter topped with juicy fresh raspberries. Call it a breakfast worthy of royalty.

If you innovate your French toast with a nut butter sandwich, don't forget to experiment with different stuffing ideas. While we went with pistachio butter, those who appreciate traditional flavors would love peanut butter paired with strawberry jelly, and chocolate lovers can gobble up French toast stuffed with hazelnut butter and chocolate chips. Alternatively, construct a fun breakfast station by laying out an array of nut butter and fresh sliced fruits for people to DIY their own; it's a guaranteed hit.

Fix a burnt gravy with creamy nut butter

Of all the delicious meals and hacks you can achieve with a pot of nut butter, we were most surprised to learn that you use nut butter to save your burnt gravy. Gravy might be a small component of a meal, but it's the thing that brings everything together, so if it catches on the bottom of the pan and burns, it's easy to panic. However, thanks to this easy fix, it's rectifiable: remove the gravy from the burnt pan and stir through some nut butter.

This hack works because the natural sugars, oil, and mild acidity balance out any overpoweringly smoky, bitter notes from the gravy catching on the pan. As a bonus, the nuttiness adds a depth of flavor to the already rich, umami seasoning of simple gravy, elevating it to new heights.

Blend up a quick salad dressing

With its creamy texture and natural oils, nut butter provides an excellent base for crafting a deceivingly uncomplicated salad dressing that doesn't skimp on flavor. Like any other classic dressing, you'll want to emulsify the nut butter with lemon juice or vinegar for a splash of acidity, honey or maple syrup for sweetness, spices to taste, and olive oil.

There's plenty of room for creativity, with the textural changes from smooth or chunky nut butter suiting different salads (pair chunky with a robust green, like massaged kale, and smooth nut butter with delicate leaves). Use the intensity of different nuts to compose meals: Peanut butter matches incredibly well with hardy Asian slaws with red cabbage and carrots, while pine nut butter complements Italian-themed plates.

Innovate a new ice cream flavor

Incorporating our chosen nut butter with chocolates containing the same nuts ranks as one of our favorite ways to make nut butter ice cream. This offers textural interest and adds character to the scoop. For example, hazelnut butter ice cream is a match for crushed Ferrero Rocher chocolates, although a spoonful (or two) of Nutella stirred through is equally as mouth-watering. Similarly, peanut butter ice cream swirled with Reese's peanut butter cups tastes heavenly.

Nut butter is also one of the best inclusions for an ultra-luxurious plant-based ice cream, owing to its protein-rich, creamy texture. It requires only cashew or almond butter with non-dairy milk and a dash of buttery vanilla to make a scoop of vegan ice cream you'll crave every summer.

Use hazelnut butter to make an indulgent cup of coffee

Nut butter in coffee might bemuse you, but think about it: toasty, earthy, nutty, and creamy hazelnut butter stirred through a sweet, fruity, and milky iced coffee. Sounds good, doesn't it?

To make this unique concoction, blend a spoonful of hazelnut butter — not too much — with a dash of maple syrup for sweetness, your choice of dairy or plant-based milk, and your favorite brewed coffee. It should become gorgeously creamy and frothy, with a tempting aroma of honeyed notes melded with slightly earthy, bitter, coffee and nutty overtones. At this stage, pour the hazelnut butter-infused mixture over ice and allow it to chill, further intensifying those sweet flavors. To take the indulgence to the next level, optionally top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or hazelnut-flavored gelato.

Swap out the tahini in hummus

Tahini, a condiment made from ground sesame seeds, serves as the foundation of many Middle Eastern recipes, including hummus. The downside to this seed butter is its affordability, or its lack thereof. If you wish to make homemade hummus — and trust us, you do — the price point of tahini can be a barrier. Luckily, there's a solution: nut butter. While nut butter tastes quite different from seed butter, it boasts the essential components: an intensely savory flavor with an integral oily layer that makes homemade hummus smooth and creamy.

Playing around with different nut butters can yield varying tastes. Walnut butter has an underlying bitterness reminiscent of tahini, while cashew and pine nut butter bring a subtle sweetness to the mix. If you feel adventurous, transform the Mediterranean classic with a playful twist by blending chocolate and peanut butter with the chickpeas.

Make an Asian-style dipping sauce

Summer rolls, grilled meats, spring rolls, and even wontons wouldn't be the same without a complementary dipping sauce to marry the flavors together. One of the tastiest and easiest ways to make a simple dipping sauce is by whisking nut butter with simple condiments. In many South Asian cuisines, such as Indonesian, Thai, and Malaysian, street food isn't served without a bowl of spicy, tangy sauce made from peanut butter. However, you can use whichever nut butter you have on hand, although we recommend sticking to nuts traditionally used in South Asia.

The seasonings you choose will make or break this recipe. We suggest a dash of lime juice for bright zestiness, salty soy sauce, pungent garlic and ginger, thick spicy chili sauce, fresh cilantro, and either honey or brown sugar. To mellow out the spice and add extra creaminess, go with coconut milk. The best part? The dipping sauce is entirely no-cook, making it ideal for hot summers or lazy days.

Add some nut butter to your frosting recipe

Most nut-butter frosting is incredibly effortless: whisk dairy butter with the nut butter of your choice, then beat in the confectioners' sugar until the frosting turns light, fluffy, and velvety. For an extra touch that takes this frosting to the next level, we urge you to add just a pinch of sea salt; it balances the sweetness and adds caramel-like tones to the bake.

There are infinite uses for this flavor-packed icing, but consider using peanut, almond, cashew, and hazelnut butter frosting with indulgent bakes like brownies, chocolate cakes, moist coffee cakes, or cupcakes. Pistachio butter, on the other hand, complements fruity pastries, and walnut butter frosting is a must with carrot cake or nut-laden heavy treats.

For creamy soups, add almond butter

If you want to thicken your soup, there's no need to be anchored to your pot, constantly stirring away, attempting to make a traditional flour and butter roux. And while cream may be a delicious (and undemanding) addition, it's not inclusive for people with various dietary preferences and can sometimes make your soups too rich and fatty. The solution? As it turns out, nut butter will instantly upgrade creamy soups. Our favorite is almond butter, an ingredient as simple as a cream but far healthier.

Almond butter, a comparatively neutral-flavored nut butter, offers a touch of rich nuttiness, while the smooth, silky texture will instantly thicken and add creaminess to any soup. All you need is a spoonful in any hearty soup, although it's particularly palatable in celery, leek, or vegetable-based soups.

Amp up the nutrition in your banana bread

We all know the importance of butter in baking. Not only does it lend richness to recipes, but it also adds tenderness to the texture and luscious flavor. But what if we told you about a butter-baking swap that will add nutty richness to your recipes? You guessed it, nut butter. By swapping out half of the dairy butter in any baked goods for nut butter, you're introducing a myriad of new and exciting flavor depths.

While this swap works for almost all bakes, our undisputed favorite utilization of this hack is banana bread. The nut butter works wonders with the popular treat, adding moistness and harmonizing with the warm, spicy flavors. Peanut or almond butter is our go-to option, but why not try walnut or pecan butter?

Incorporate nut butter into your fudge

Once the holidays come around, we love making a large batch of homemade fudge to gift to our friends and family. Standard fudge typically involves heating condensed milk, salted butter, and sugar in a pan, then pouring it into a container to set into an indulgent, chewy, silky, and soft treat.

However, if you trade the condensed milk and butter for a healthy heaping of nut butter, you've suddenly created a delectable dairy-free treat. Go one step further, and you can adapt the recipe into a keto-friendly fudge with the goodness of chocolate and peanut butter. We find that nut butter fudge pairs well with chocolate, salted caramel, maple syrup, or dates for sweetening, although equally, you can keep it simple and allow the almond, cashew, or peanut butter flavors to shine.

Mix nut butters into your curry paste

With a wealth of spices and seemingly complex techniques, curry can be an intimidating dish to tackle. Nonetheless, whipping up a comforting and perfectly spiced curry right in your kitchen may be easier than you expect — and even quicker than ordering takeout.

Although not technically traditional, nut butter serves as is an excellent addition to homemade curry pastes, adding maturity in flavor, vital nutrition, and a hefty, hearty texture. You can use this tip to make curry dishes from many world cuisines, including mafé, a Senegalese peanut stew, an Indonesian satay-style chicken curry, or diverse Indian dishes.

Thanks to its rich and earthy savory nature, peanut butter is usually the premier choice for curries. For less punchy plates that call for mellower, subtle flavors, we recommend using small amounts of cashew or almond butter.

Create an incredibly rich cheesecake

Of all the distinct ways you can use nut butter in your cooking, making cheesecake has got to be the most hedonistically inviting. While we're ardent fans of a classic New York cheesecake, the creamy, tangy layer typical of any exceptional cheesecake lends itself to extras, and the smooth, rich taste of nut butter rates as a must-try.

Nut butter works particularly well with no-bake cheesecakes, as it helps to stabilize and thicken the layers, resulting in a glorious mouthfeel. One of the absolute best ways to use pistachio butter is to combine it with white chocolate and Italian soft cheeses like mascarpone — heavenly. Alternatively, a quintessential graham cracker base with a peanut butter and cream cheese layer topped with dark chocolate will always be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Deviate from a traditional pesto

Purists will (incorrectly) say there's only one type of pesto: bright and fresh basil pesto with pine nuts. While this is unequivocally the most familiar variety, pesto comes in many forms, with other traditional renditions including lemon juice, different nuts, and even sundried tomatoes. Each type shares one common denominator: it's always ground to a paste with a pestle and mortar.

It occurred to us that since nuts are typically a traditional component of the Italian sauce, why not experiment with using nut butter in pesto? It's a fantastic way to introduce more flavor without cheese, thereby making this iteration plant-based, and can offer a more affordable alternative for many.

Traditionalists should opt for pine nut butter, although green pesto could also benefit from the vibrancy of pistachio pesto. More accessible options include the typical almond, walnut, and cashew butter, while peanut would be exceptional for Italian-Asian fusion.

Make a flavorsome marinade or glaze

Next time you need to add a little pizazz to your meal, consider making a nut butter-based marinade or glaze. Combine your preferred butter — almond, peanut, cashew, pistachio, or more — with complementary ingredients like honey, vinegar, soy, garlic, chili, salt, and a splash of zesty citrus. Mix them into a sticky, sweet, nutty, and spicy paste, then generously coat your protein of choice.

If using the mixture as a savory glaze, you can cook up your proteins immediately. Otherwise, let the flavors sit and infuse for at least an hour (or overnight, for optimum effect) before hitting the grill. We appreciate the smoky flavor of grilled marinated proteins but pan-searing or baking works just as well. Most nut butters caramelize well, delivering intense flavors to your palate.

Coat your pasta in a nut butter sauce

Just like Asian stir-fried noodles with nut butter is a certified classic, European-style pasta also works surprisingly well with a range of nut butter. Before you shake your head and turn away, give the combination a chance. We promise it may surprise you.

Similar to the recent trend of mixing hummus with pasta, the benefit is simple: how much pure creaminess this addition brings to your Italian meals. That's not to mention the immense advantage that a spoonful or two of nut butter provides heaps of plant-based proteins and healthy fats. There's no overwhelming flavor of nuts — just a rich, creamy pasta base packed with nourishment. We love to pair pasta coated in a velvety nut butter sauce with green vegetables, like spinach or crunchy tenderstem broccoli.

Switch up your PB&J sandwiches with almond butter

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or, for the initiated, PB&J) are a childhood classic filled with nostalgia. Some of us even carried our love for the understated sandwich into adulthood, and it's not difficult to see why. Fluffy white bread slathered with smooth, creamy peanut butter, then topped with thick, glossy strawberry jelly ... It's the ultimate combination of nutty, fruity, sweet, and creamy — all at once.

We know, we know. Sometimes, the classic recipes we pass down to new generations need no changing. But, hear us out ... there's no reason to make plain PB&J sandwiches every single time. If you ever feel like switching things up, it's as simple as reaching for a jar of almond, cashew, hazelnut, or pecan butter instead. You may not believe it now but you may find a new go-to.

Static Media owns and operates The Daily Meal, Mashed, Chowhound, and Tasting Table.