We’ve dipped a toe into the wild, wondrous world of non-standard spreads and emollients before, with universally positive results. Let us now turn our discerning gaze to that strange lurker on the peanut butter rack – Trader Joe’s Sunflower Seed Butter.
Here we have a weird and unusual spread. Almond pastes and hazelnut creams have become, if not common, at least wider known in recent years – earning a reputation for packing a delicious punch that belies their simple parts. Sunflower seed butter, on the other hand, is an item I’ve only encountered on the far left hand side of Trader Joe’s shelves, huddled off shyly to itself, away from the lime light of the more popular spreads.
I have long been intrigued by this little guy. Was he, like myself, the poor awkward kid in the school yard hiding a heart of gold, or was he a deserving misfit, a mismade troll rightfully shunned into lurking under the bridge in Trader Joe’s sunny world? Is it, in other words, any good?
The answer is not easy to come up with. Trader Joe’s Sunflower Seed Butter isn’t particularly good or bad. It has a very unusual taste that a certain niche audience might enjoy, and which isn’t offensive, but has nothing in particular to recommend it.
It’s hard, at first, to get past the packaging. The label has a cheap, tossed-off look that screams “We don’t care about this product”, a notion that is backed up by the surprisingly flimsy plastic jar it comes in. Twist off the top, and you’ll discover that sunflower seed butter looks almost exactly like your run of the mill creamy PB. Look closer, do you see how, as you tilt the container from side to side, a sheen of separated oil glimmers on the top? You’ll notice as well that the sunflower seed butter flows quite easily, more like an organic, hand-made peanut butter than a Jiff. In fact, the sunflower seed butter is so loose you could almost pour it out, if you wanted to. This is not all bad, as it makes it easy to spread, though it comes at the cost of being somewhat sloppy to ladle with a knife.
The taste is simple and unmistakable – sunflower seeds. This will be your first blush and the long, lingering tail. The immediately taste is almost identical to popping a shelled handful of those tiny, oily seeds into your mouth. After that, as you roll it around on your tongue, the taste become much more mild and somewhat sweeter (thanks, no doubt, to the evaporated cane sugar used as a natural sweetener). While chewing you’d almost swear you were eating ordinary peanut butter – if it wasn’t for a faint hint of that sunflower seed taste lingering just on the peripheral of your tongue. This is all more or less exactly what I expected from a sandwich spread made of sunflower seeds, what surprised me was that once you swallow, the strong, undeniable taste of sunflower seeds will resume. This is practically identical to the aftertaste left in your mouth when you munch on a handful of dry sunflower seeds, and it is not a quick aftertaste either but long and lingering.
Overall it’s not a bad taste or a very good taste – it’s simply a very strong sunflower seed taste. If you have an aversion to peanuts, and therefore peanut butter, you could very well get used to this instead. That said, there isn’t very much to recommend this over any other peanut-variation butter. Like all nut/seed butters it is mostly fat, and it has very nearly the same amount of sugar and carbs as other alternatives. In the end it comes down to how you feel about sunflower seeds. If you love snacking on them, keep them in your kitchen cupboards and car cup holders, this is your dream product.
A final note, sunflower seed butter is very dense compared to most store bought butters. Like organic peanut butter, a very small amount of sunflower seed butter goes a long way – each dab is dense with the crushed essence of a hundred sunflower seed kernels. One small bite and you’re tongue will feel slathered with the paste, resulting in much dog-like chop licking. As a result, one jar of this stuff is going to last you a lot longer than a similar jar of peanut butter, for better or worse.
Would I Recommend It: Only if you have a peanut allergy and don’t like almond butter.
Would I Buy It Again: Maybe when this jar runs out, 2 or 3 years down the line.
Final Synopsis: Yes, apparently you can make this, and yes it does taste exactly like you think.