My Favorite Nut-Free Alternative to Peanut Butter

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

As someone with severe nut allergies and a child in a nut-free preschool, I am over-the-moon happy about all the peanut butter alternatives available these days, from store-bought tahini and sunflower butter to homemade pumpkin seed spread (and pumpkin seed butter cups). But even with these satisfactory PB-replacements, I think we can still look at other options, beyond tree nuts and seeds. Because, with an open mind, one ingredient limitation often leads to another ingredient revelation.

Enter: sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes taste nothing like peanuts or tree nuts, so don’t expect anything like that, but when steamed and smashed, sweet potatoes are creamy. They taste rich and buttery, with a somewhat sweet finish, which means they pair well with apple butter, apricot jam, and all other kinds of jelly.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Types of Sweet Potatoes to Use

You can go with the standard orange sweet potato (sometimes labeled as yams), if you want something that lands more on the savory scale. I find the orange sweet potatoes pair best with jams of the apple, pear, and apricot variety.

If you want something more on the sweet side, try Japanese sweet potatoes. They have a yellow-tinted flesh and a slightly sweeter taste. They pair well with darker berry jams and even a tangy marmalade or ginger-infused jelly.

For something just whimsical and fun, try using purple sweet potatoes. Like Japanese yams, they are slightly sweeter-tasting than the orange variety, and they go great with dark berries or a classic strawberry jam.

How to Make Sweet Potato Spread

To make the sweet potato spread, simply wash and then cut your sweet potato into large, even chunks. Place a steamer basket in a large pot and fill with water so it is just below the basket. Place the sweet potatoes in the basket in a single layer, and then cook over medium-low heat with the lid on until the flesh is soft enough to poke and smash with a fork, about 15 minutes. Then let the sweet potatoes cool to the touch. Remove the skin from one large chunk of sweet potato and spread on one half of the bread. Save the remainder in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Or to make things really easy, buy a can of puréed sweet potato.