Is Peanut Butter Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Finding out what products are vegan can be a challenge, and it is often surprising what you can’t eat when you’re following a plant-based diet. There are lots of reasons that you might want to eat peanut butter, but you do need to know if it’s a suitable product for you.

Most brands of peanut butter are vegan, but there are a few that are not considered suitable for vegans as they might contain animal-based products such as fish oils, honey, and cane sugar refined with bone char. All of these things make them unsuitable for vegans.

Figuring out what products are vegan can be challenging even for experienced people, so we’re going to look at what you need to watch out for in peanut butters.

We’ll also touch on the best kinds of peanut butter for vegans to choose from.

Can You Eat Peanut Butter If You Are Vegan?

peanut butter

Peanut butter is a major staple for vegans and a lot of individuals like to eat it because it’s a great source of protein.

However, you need to make sure that the peanut butter you are eating is genuinely vegan because some brands are simply not vegan-friendly. Ingredients to be aware of include:

  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Fish oil
  • Palm oil
  • Chocolate
  • Certain E numbers, such as E417

As you can see, there are quite a few things that you might need to look out for, so let’s explore each by turn. Remember that you should always read the ingredients list in full and make sure there is nothing besides the ingredients to cause alarm.

Even with brands that you are familiar with, it’s a good idea to check that they haven’t changed their recipe recently. This is particularly important if the brand isn’t labeled as safe for vegans, as there’s a higher risk of them changing their recipe in this case.

Why Does Peanut Butter Contain Honey?

Some manufacturers put honey in their peanut butter to make it sweeter and enhance the flavors.

There are some vegans that will eat honey provided that it is sustainably sourced because in theory there isn’t as much harm to the bees as long as the honey is harvested responsibly.

However, most will not eat honey regardless of how it has been harvested, so this is an important ingredient to keep an eye out for. If you don’t have strong feelings about honey, you might decide to eat peanut butter that includes it, but it’s still a good idea to check the list and make a conscious decision about this.

Why Do I Need To Look Out For Sugar In Peanut Butter?

You might be surprised to hear that you should be wary of sugar if it has been added to peanut butter. Sugar is made from plants, after all, so it may not immediately raise alarm bells when you see it listed among the ingredients.

However, sugar can be a problem in some situations. This is because cane sugar is often filtered using bone char, and this means that an animal product has been used during the making of the sugar.

The bone char isn’t in the end product, which may make sugar more acceptable to some individuals, but it has still been used. Buying cane sugar that has been filtered in this way indirectly supports the meat industry, so many vegans prefer to avoid it.

Unfortunately, the peanut butter may not state what kind of sugar has been used, which can make it difficult to determine whether it is suitable for vegans or not. Beet sugar is always safe, but even some kinds of cane sugar can be. If the product doesn’t say “suitable for vegans,” you may need to contact the manufacturers for more information or choose a brand that doesn’t contain sugar.

Why Is Fish Oil Added To Peanut Butter?

Fish oil may sound like an odd ingredient to see on the ingredient list for something like peanut butter, but it is sometimes used to add omega-3 to the product. This could also appear in a few different forms, including being listed as “omega-3 fatty acid,” so look out for this and other forms of omega-3 on the list.

Fish oils are often considered beneficial in terms of the nutrients that they offer, which is why some manufacturers add them to peanut butter, but they aren’t suitable for vegans. They are extracted from fish, like sardines and anchovies, making the butter unsuitable for vegans to eat.

Be aware that omega-3 can appear in a few different forms, so look out for variants of the term and avoid peanut butters that contain them.

Isn’t Palm Oil Vegan?

Palm oil is another product that you may see in peanut butter from time to time. It might puzzle you to see it on this list because technically, palm oil is vegan. It does not contain any animal-based products.

palm oil deforestation

However, many vegans make an effort to avoid palm oil because it involves a lot of deforestation, and this causes the destruction of animal habitats. It is a product that is pretty harmful but in a less direct way. If you follow a vegan diet for either environmental reasons or for the sake of animals, you might try to avoid palm oil.

This is made more complicated by the fact that palm oil is a high-yield crop, so less deforestation is required to produce this oil than other kinds of vegetable oils. There is no easy solution to this, so everyone will need to make individual decisions about the morality of palm oil and decide whether they are happy to eat it.

A lot of peanut butter products don’t contain palm oil because the peanuts themselves contain oil, so you might find this is an area in which you can avoid palm oil if you try to. It’s also worth noting that palm oil isn’t thought to be a very healthy option, so if you’re vegan for health reasons, you should definitely avoid it.

Does Chocolate Stop Peanut Butter From Being Vegan?

Some peanut butter brands are swirled through with chocolate (or other fillings that are potentially not vegan) and you need to be cautious about these too. Check the ingredients label for products like milk or cream that may be included alongside the chocolate.

On the whole, you are more likely to be successful in getting vegan peanut butter if you opt for plain butters that do not contain additional flavors. If you want to buy flavored peanut butter, make sure you read the ingredient list with care.

What Should I Know About E Numbers?

E numbers are a problem that many vegans will already be familiar with, and they can be frustratingly difficult to deal with because it’s often hard to know what they have been derived from. Peanut butter may contain various kinds of E numbers, but the one you are most likely to see is E471.

E471 is quite frequently made using plant products only, which means it is often suitable for vegans – but unfortunately, there is no guarantee of this and also no easy way to tell whether it’s actually vegan. It can be made using animal products instead, and the labeling is unlikely to indicate if this is the case.

Therefore, if the product does not say whether it is suitable for vegans, you should be very wary of E numbers. You may wish to contact the manufacturer for more information about whether the product is vegan or not.

What’s The Best Way To Tell If Peanut Butter Is Vegan?

Fortunately, there is an easy way to tell if peanut butter is vegan, and that’s by looking for one that is made with 100 percent peanuts. Many peanut butters don’t contain any other ingredients, meaning that they are suitable for vegans.

If there is nothing else in the peanut butter, you don’t need to worry about misidentifying any ingredients, and you don’t have to deal with complicated E numbers. Many people would rather eat peanut butter that was 100 percent peanuts anyway.

This sort of peanut butter is likely to be better for you than peanut butter which contains sugar, palm oil, and other unnecessary ingredients. It’s also much easier to just look for this than sorting through lengthy ingredients lists and trying to figure out if everything is suitable for you to eat.

If you don’t have the option of a peanut butter that is made from just peanuts, you may need to check for the ingredients mentioned above. If none of these are in the peanut butter, it will usually be suitable for vegans, but this isn’t guaranteed. Contact the manufacturer for more information.

Can You Make Peanut Butter At Home?

If you have a good blender, you might want to try making your own peanut butter at home. This is a great way to ensure that nothing unpleasant goes into it, and it’s fully vegan.

You can make peanut butter with just peanuts, so source some high-quality nuts and add them to the blender. Most peanut butters are made using roasted peanuts, but you can use raw if you prefer. Blend in bursts so that you don’t put too much stress on the motor, and stop when the peanut butter reaches your desired consistency.

If you would like a thinner, smoother consistency, consider adding a bit of olive oil or another oil to thin it. You can add other nuts too if you would like to create a mixed nut butter instead of just using peanuts.

Remember that peanut butter that has been made at home may not last as long as peanut butter that contains preservatives, so you might want to make it in small batches so you can use it up quickly.

Is Peanut Butter Good For You?

A lot of vegans include peanut butter in their diets because it is a good source of multiple vitamins and important minerals. It contains vitamin E, vitamin B6, manganese, and magnesium, and it’s also high in protein. It is thought that eating peanut butter may reduce your risk of heart disease.

However, peanut butter is also quite a fatty product, and you don’t want to eat too much of it, especially if you are trying to lose weight. It is particularly important to be careful if the product contains additional salt, sugar, or other sweeteners. 

In moderation, peanut butter is certainly healthy, but you should make sure you aren’t eating it in huge quantities. Keep it balanced with the rest of your diet.

What Are The Best Vegan Peanut Butter Brands?

Some of the best brands to look out for when it comes to choosing peanut butter include:

  • Yum Butter Organic Peanut Butter
  • Trader Joe’s Peanut Butters
  • Naked Nutrition Powdered Peanut Butter
  • CB’s Nuts Organic Peanut Butter
  • Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter
  • 365 by Whole Foods Organic Peanut Butter
  • Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter Co. 100% Peanuts
  • Spread The Love Organic Peanut Butter

There are lots of other brands too. Your local health food store might be the best place to check if you’re looking for an option made just using peanuts.

Even with these brands, it’s always important to check that nothing has changed and that they remain vegan.

Manufacturers do sometimes make changes to their recipes, and this could move one of these butters from the “safe” options to the “unsuitable” pile.

Brands you should avoid include:

  • Peter Pan Crunchy Honey Roasted Peanut Spread
  • Jif Creamy Omega-3 Peanut Butter
  • Peanut Butter; Co. The Bee’s Knees Peanut Butter
  • Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter

These brands all contain animal products and should therefore be avoided by vegans.

Conclusion

You need to check the ingredients of peanut butter before consuming an unfamiliar brand. Although many options are fine for vegans to eat, there are also plenty that contain honey, sugar, fish oil, and then borderline ingredients like palm oil. Checking the ingredients before you select your brand will ensure it is suitable for you to consume.