Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Freenut Butter

My son was about 20 months old when we realized he had a peanut allergy. I was eating an english muffin with peanut butter on it and he wanted to try a bite, so I shared. He broke out in hives instantly. Thankfully it didn't progress further to anaphylaxis. I hastily administered a dose of liquid antihistamine and made an appointment with our family doctor. A few weeks later we had an official diagnosis of peanut allergy with the always-present potential for anaphylaxis. He is now 11 years old and carries two Epipens with him everywhere.

I am happy that our school has a peanut and nut ban. It's not foolproof, as lunches are only checked for rogue nut products in JK and SK. Alas, having a stated nut ban is still a deterrent and it helps to protect the many children in our school with peanut and nut allergies.

I know not being able to send peanut butter is a pain in the arse for some parents. I know some kids live on the stuff. I was one of those kids who brought a PB&J sandwich to school several times a week back in the 70s. As a parent of a kid with peanut allergy, I am grateful to the many parents who abide by the no nut policy, even if they don't like it very much.

So what can you do if your kid loves the spreadable nutty goodness but you can't, or don't want to, send the real deal.

Freenut butter!

Despite what the labelling claims would persuade you to believe it is not "just like peanut butter." The two brands we have tried are made of soy and golden peas, respectively. My friend whose kids don't have allergies once had the golden pea version on toast at my house. She took a bite and then turned to me with a skeptical look. "It's clear to me that you haven't had peanut butter in a very long time if you think that tastes authentic," she said wryly.

Okay, the golden pea version is a bit of a stretch but the soy version is very close in texture, taste and smell, save for a faint soy-tastic aftertaste. And I never claimed authenticity, people. I just said that it's better than nothing!

My kids actually like the freenut butter a lot. Granted, my son doesn't remember what real peanut butter tastes like but his sisters do and they are fine with the creamy impostor. I use it just like you would use peanut butter:

- Spread it on whole wheat bread with a little honey or jam on top
- Stuff it into that lonely hollow in raw celery sticks
- Layer it between crackers for a stackable snack
- Smooth it on a rice cake with some raisins sprinkled on top

You get the idea. There are lots of possibilities. I have even baked with it. Chocolate covered bonbons at Christmas tastes very authentic. Peanut butter cookies are more of a stretch, but if you add in lots of chocolate chips? Not too shabby.
I live in Canada and both the versions I have pictured here are available through certain regular grocery stores. I know that most health food stores carry some form of freenut butter, too.

Some day my son will be an adult living in his own home. At that point my husband and I will likely invite real peanut butter back into our lives. Until then, the freenut butter is a handy substitute on those days when I haven't got a clue what to send for lunch.


  1. I've looked for those products here to no avail. I did find a soy butter once at Winners in a regular and chocolate flavour version. My daughter liked them on 1st taste but now is no longer keen. But then again, she's not that keen on peanut butter either. She does like tahini, though, so I sometimes send her tahini and jam sandwiches in her lunch box.

  2. I always wondered if those products tasted like the real thing or not. My sons come home for lunch, and so partake in PB&J, but for class trips or the like it might be helpful.

  3. I have always been weary about trying them, we are a die hard peanut butter family, but of course don't send it to school. Thanks for the advice I will give the soy version a try.

  4. My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and soy too, so he can't have either of these (he has reacted to the pea version). We use Sunbutter, which is made from sunflower seeds, and I heartily recommend it. It's amazingly delicious.

    You can buy Sunbutter at some Loblaws in Ottawa (the big one in Barrhaven carries it) and also at Rainbow Foods.

  5. I clicked over to recommend Sunbutter but turtlehead already did - so I second that :)

  6. I've had almond butter, and of course Nutella, as well as "regular" peanut butter. Of course they taste different - they are made from different nuts. But it doesn't mean they can't be delicious in their own right. I'd worry less about whether it tastes like "real" peanut butter, and just consider whether it tastes good.