Is Peanut Butter Keto Friendly?

Here’s what you need to know about eating peanut butter on a keto diet.

Peanut butter is the quintessential American treat with many uses and even more health benefits. We love it in PB & J sandwiches, cookies, smoothies, oatmeal, candy, and stir-fries. Health-conscious folks also appreciate it for its high protein and fiber content.

But what when you’re on a keto diet? You’ve heard peanuts are actually legumes, and you can’t have those on a keto diet. Most peanut butter brands add sugar to their products, which has you worried.

For the keto diet to work, it’s best to base it on low-carb food. These help keto eaters keep their carb intake low while meeting their needs for essential macro and micronutrients. This is important to know when asking questions like: is peanut butter keto-friendly? Because it all boils down to: but does it fit your macros?

With that said, here’s what we know about everyone’s favorite spread and how it fits into the keto diet. We’ve asked registered dietitian Paulina Novak for her expert input and tips. You’ll also learn about the best low-carb peanut butter brands and some alternatives.

Is Peanut Butter Allowed on the Keto Diet?

Yes, it is! The obvious reason being that it’s low-carb. A 2 tbsp serving of regular peanut butter, for example, has only around 4-5g net carbs 1. Peanut butter carbs in reduced sugar and sugar-free versions are even lower, with sometimes up to 1-2g in 2 tbsp 2.

Another reason to eat peanut butter on keto is “because a 2-tbsp serving contains 16g of fat,” says Paulina Novak from Authority Dental. Fat is the primary macro on a keto diet, and you should be eating roughly 100-200g per day. The exact amount, however, depends on your calorie needs. Peanut butter can help you in meeting your daily needs for this important macro.

 

peanut_butter_snack
Peanut butter is a fantastic keto diet snack option.

 

But is peanut butter good for a low carb diet?

When you’re looking if a food ticks all the right keto boxes, your main focus should be on the carb count but also the fat percent. Ideally, a serving of a keto-friendly food should have less than 5g and no more than 10g of net carbs*. It should also provide some amount of fat. But this is just a rough estimate. As long as a food fits your 20-50g of carbs per day limit, it’s ok on keto.

There are, of course, other nutrients needed to stay healthy on a keto diet, and peanut butter is a good source of a couple of key ones.

For example, it’s a good source of protein with 2 tbsp providing 8g. Its protein quality is also impressive. Peanut butter is a botanical legume but a culinary nut. Legume proteins are one of the best for human nutrition according to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which claims that legume protein is nutritionally equivalent to meat and eggs 3.

Peanut Butter Nutrition Facts (2tbs – 32g)
Calories: 188
Fat: 16g
Protein: 8g
Net carbs: 4g
Fiber: 2g

 

A typical serving will also give you 2g or 8% of the daily value for fiber, another important nutrient. Fiber is an indigestible carb that you need for bowel movements, overall gut health, metabolic health, immunity, and to help you feel full 4.

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, peanut butter is highest in vitamin E, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.

* Net carbs are the digestible carbs in a food. You can calculate net carbs by subtracting the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbs.

Which Peanut Butter Is Lowest in Carbs?

There are many different types of peanut butter, with some better for keto than others. The most keto-friendly peanut butter will be sugar-free or natural. However, you don’t really need to avoid peanut butters with sugar in them.

By law, all peanut butter in the US needs to be made with at least 90% peanuts. That leaves little wiggle room for sugar. And when these spreads are made with nothing but peanuts, the extra room is filled with peanut net carbs. This means that natural and regular peanut butters will have a similar net carb count of 4-5g in 2 tbsp.

So, which peanut butter brand you should go for then depends on personal preferences. But if you’re a die-hard keto-er, then a sugar-free version is the way to go.

So, what brand of peanut butter is best for keto? Here are a couple of great options that are lowest in carbs.

  • 365 Everyday Value, Organic Creamy Peanut Butter, Unsweetened (4g net carbs): Paulina Nowak, RD suggests to “Choose a peanut butter that contains only peanuts, maybe salt and beware of those with added sugar!”. Well, this one fits the bill. Just give it a good stir the first time you use it and keep it in the fridge. Buy here.
  • Spread The Love NAKED CRUNCH Organic Peanut Butter (4g net carbs): This one is made with only one ingredient: dry-roasted organic peanuts. That means that with this product you won’t have to worry about added sugar, excess salt, hydrogenated oil, and other ingredients you may be trying to avoid. Buy here or here.
  • MaraNatha Organic No Sugar or Salt Added Peanut Butter, Creamy or Crunchy (2g): Packaged in a glass jar and made with organic peanuts and palm oil, this is a great option when you’re trying to eat clean. But the added fat is also great for keto. Organic palm oil helps improve texture and spreadability. Buy here.
  • Peanut Butter & Co. Old Fashioned Crunchy Peanut Butter (4g net carbs) If you’re looking for quality, then try this one out. It’s made with a special blend of top-quality peanuts that have been roasted to perfection to ensure quality flavor. The only other ingredient is a little bit of salt and that’s it! Buy here.
  • Simply Jif® Peanut Butter (4g net carbs): Your favorite peanut butter company also offers a reduced-sugar version of peanut butter. This one has 33% less added sugar than their other peanut butters, which brings the net carb count down to 4g. This is close to what you get with natural peanut butters and at a lower price. Buy here.
  • Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter 1/3 Less Sodium and Sugar (4g net carbs): Another famous peanut butter brand, Skippy also brings you a reduced-sugar version. Ingredients used include roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, and salt. The biggest pro here is the ⅓ less sugar, while the con is that it has sugar in the first place. But for the price and taste, it’s a great keto option. Buy here or here.
  • Trader Joe’s Creamy No Salt Organic Peanut Butter (4g net carbs): The next time you find yourself at Trader Joe’s, grab this sugar-free, organic gem. It’s also made with nothing but quality peanuts. The flavor is excellent with no bitterness. It is runnier than regular peanut butter, though, so do keep it in the fridge to improve consistency. Buy here.
  • Tru-Nut Powdered Peanut Butter, 6.7 Ounce (2g net carbs): The best peanut butter for keto comes in powder form. Products like these are great for adding to smoothies and protein balls. This specific one has only 2g net carbs in 2 tbsp (12g). It does have added sugar, but its sugar count is low enough to make this a low-carb addition to your keto meals. Buy here.
  • Hoosier Hill Farm Peanut Butter Powder (1g net carbs) On the other hand, if you want to avoid sugar altogether, here’s a sugar-free peanut butter powder. It’s made with roasted peanuts and nothing else! Perfect for adding protein and fiber to your keto meals. Buy here.
  • Santa Cruz Organic Dark Roasted Creamy Peanut Butter Spread (2g net carbs): This peanut butter is made with perfectly roasted peanuts, which creates a perfectly sweet, perfectly smooth spread. No added sugar here! Just quality peanuts at only 2g of net carbs per 2 tbsp. Buy here or here.

What Are Some Peanut Butter Alternatives for Keto?

If you don’t like peanut butter or you or your loved ones are allergic to it, there are alternatives. The best substitute for peanut butter is other nut butters.

Any nut butter is suitable for keto. Almond, cashew or walnut butter are as good as peanut butter,”

explains Paulina. There are a couple other options aside from nut butters as well.

tahini
Tahini is an alternative to peanut butter on keto.

 

If you want to go for something low in carbs, yet similar to peanut butter in taste and texture. Or one that you can use to replace peanut butter for keto recipes. Here are a couple of examples for you to consider.

  • Sunflower seed butter (5g net carbs): The nutrition profile of sunflower seeds is similar to peanuts 5, which may explain why butter made from them is also the closest in taste and texture to peanut butter. But it is slightly higher in carbs at 5g in an ounce (28g) 6.
  • Almond butter (3g net carbs): Almonds are a staple on a keto diet – think almond milk, almond flour, and whole almonds. Feel free to add almond butter to the list. It’s lower in carbs, milder tasting, and has more heart-healthy monounsaturated fats compared to peanut butter 7.
  • Coconut butter (4g net carbs): Also known as coconut manna, coconut butter is made by grinding coconut meat. It has the same carb count as peanut butter but more fat 8. A con is that it isn’t a good source of protein. You can make coconut butter in a food processor and use it in sweet breakfasts or desserts.
  • Tahini (3g net carbs): Tahini or sesame paste is a great peanut butter alternative from a nutritional standpoint. Around 2 tbsp will give you up to 5g of protein and around 3g of net carbs 9. It has a nutty taste and is quite runny compared to peanut butter. Use it to make keto hummus, in creamy soups, smoothies, or salad dressings.
  • Soy butter (2g net carbs): Want to avoid nuts and seeds completely? Then consider soy butter. Brands like Don’t Go Nuts offer soy butter spreads with only 2g of net carbs in 2 tbsp. You’ll also get the same amount of fat and protein you would from peanut butter. The downside is that it tastes rather bland.

So going on a keto diet doesn’t mean you have to give up peanut butter after all. Just make sure that the amount you eat fits your daily macros. One way you could do that is with dieting apps or a food diary. If you’re worried about added sugars, natural peanut butters are your friend. And if you don’t want to or can’t eat peanut butter, then butters made with nuts, seeds, and even soy can work as substitutes in peanut butter keto recipes.

Takeaways

  • Despite being a botanical legume, peanuts are closer to nuts in nutrition, making peanut butter keto-friendly.
  • Almost all brands of peanut butter add a small amount of sugar to their products, which shouldn’t be a problem for keto-ers.
  • Sugar-free and natural peanut butters contain the same number of carbs or slightly less as classic peanut butters.
  • Peanut butter alternatives can be substituted for peanut butter in keto cooking and they can give you many of the same nutrients.

REFERENCES:

  1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData. Peanut butter, smooth style, with salt (Includes foods for USDA's Food Distribution Program). 2019 April 1 - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/324860/nutrients

  2. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData. Peanut butter, lower sugar. 2019 April 1 - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/784419/nutrients

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