What are the healthiest nut butters on a ketogenic diet?
If you don’t have all the time in the world to read the labels of all those jars in the nut butter aisle, choosing the right one can seem like an overwhelming challenge.
That’s because grocery stores are overrun with peanut butter — which we’ll deal with later — and almond butter, which doesn’t rate quite as high on our list for ketoers.
So should you cut out nut butters completely?
Don’t even think about it.
In this guide, you’ll learn the subtle nuances between all the keto-friendly nut butters you can both buy and make yourself.
Topics on deck include:
If nut butters can be tricky, you may be wondering why anyone would even mess with them.
So let’s begin with all the positive sides of nut butter and why your keto diet will benefit greatly from just small quantities of it.
You can’t say nut butters are healthy without breaking down what nut butter actually is first.
Nut butter is made by grinding up and processing nuts into a smooth, creamy consistency you can spread or eat with a spoon.
It’s no surprise the healthiest nut butters come from the healthiest keto nuts.
As you may have learned in our guide on the pros and cons of nuts on a ketogenic diet, nuts are awesome because they:
Have more healthy fats than net carbs. This makes them an ideal snack option on a ketogenic diet because they help you feel fuller and more satisfied between meals.
Nuts also contain fiber, which is an indigestible carb you can subtract from the total number of carbs in nuts to get the net carbs.
This healthy dietary fiber is one of the reasons why nuts have been studied for their positive role in improving heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and many other medical issues[*].
However, certain nuts don’t have as much dietary fiber as others so their carb counts are much higher, which is why nuts and nut butters are often to blame for those hidden carbs that keep people from reaching ketosis.
That’s why portion control makes all the difference.
Just like you can’t smash a whole container of nuts and stay in ketosis, you can’t go over your serving size of nut butter — and that’s easier said than done since many of them are only between one and two tablespoons!
But nuts are also incredible because they’re bursting with vitamins and nutrients for their small size. You’ll find:
- Magnesium, which regulates your muscle and nerve function, helps control blood sugar and insulin levels and even aids in blood pressure management[*].
- Selenium, which protects your cells from oxidative stress to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, thyroid issues and even cognitive decline[*].
- Manganese, which helps your body metabolize the food you eat so your cells can use it.
- Vitamin E and other antioxidants to protect your cells from harmful free radicals which may lead to the development of cancer.
Some nuts can also be anti-inflammatory. The combination of fats, fiber, magnesium and L-arginine in nuts and nut butters may lessen your risks for conditions associated with inflammation, such as arthritis, asthma and IBS.
But these are all the good sides of nuts.
Nut butters also have a dark side.
What Makes Nut Butter Unhealthy?
Despite the positive traits we just discussed, nut butter — especially those you’ll find on the shelves at your local grocery store — can be totally unhealthy if you don’t pay attention to:
Added sugar. Nuts do contain a bit of sugar naturally, but they do not need to have sugar added in the mix. If you see sugar in the ingredients list, pass on it. And be alarmed when you see more than 3g of sugar per serving on the label even if added sugars aren’t listed.
Hydrogenated oils, which can be hiding in plain sight or behind “no stir” labels. While you may think you’ll never have to pry your nut butter from the jar again, these just have way more crummy oils like soybean, canola, and vegetable-based oils to give it that creamy texture.
These fully or partially hydrogenated oils are basically trans fats and the worst offenders for your body, as they’re known to[*]:
- Raise bad cholesterol
- Lower good cholesterol
- Promote inflammation
- Stop your body’s ability to fight inflammation
Reduced fat or low-fat options. Nuts are a form of healthy fat, including saturated fat and monounsaturated fat. So to remove this fat during processing means manufacturers have to add other ingredients like sugar and fillers to bulk up the nut butter where that thick, natural fat normally would. Avoid at all costs.
Serving size. Did you know the standard serving size of nut butter is just two tablespoons?
If you’ve never measured out your serving of nut butter, you may be close to eating double what you’re accounting for in your macros.
Since the serving size is so small considering all the carbs, simply eyeballing your portions — even with the healthiest nut butters — isn’t a smart idea when you’re in or trying to reach ketosis.
And one nut butter in particular is really good at rolling all these bad traits in one: peanut butter.
Why You Should Stay Away From Peanut Butter
While peanut butter may fit into your keto macros, it certainly doesn’t make the cut on this list of the healthiest nut butters.
The main reason is peanuts and peanut butter can be highly inflammatory.
We’ve mentioned inflammation a few times already so let’s get a rundown on why inflammation is terrible:
Acute inflammation is responsible for healing your body when you trip in front of your coworkers and skin your knee. This is healthy and normal (albeit embarrassing).
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Alzheimer’s disease
In addition to this inflammatory response, commercial peanut butters are often loaded with hydrogenated vegetable oils and added sugars, both of which cause major damage in your body.
Vegetablep oils contain trans fats, which are terrible for your health now and in the long run because they:
- Increase LDL (potentially bad) cholesterol
- Decrease HDL (good) cholesterol
- Increase inflammation
- Lower insulin sensitivity
- Increase the risk of heart disease and strokes
- Induce body fat storage
So when you finally say sayonara to the jar of peanut butter you always loved as a kid, step up your adulting game with these better nut butters.
The healthiest nut butters on a ketogenic diet go way beyond the peanut butter vs almond butter debate.
You’ll want to replace those jars with one of these seven homemade or store-bought keto-safe options:
#1. Macadamia Nut Butter
It’s no surprise our list begins with the king of all keto nuts: the macadamia.
You can’t argue with the macros that set this nut on a pedestal above others. In a 1 oz. serving of macadamia nuts, you’ll find[*]:
- 21g of fat
- 2.2g of protein
- 1.5g of net carbs
That means macadamia nuts are 75% fat and perfect for a ketogenic diet.
Macadamia nuts also contain an omega-7 fatty acid called palmitoleic acid, which has been studied for its ability to improve blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes[*].
You can search for macadamia nut butters, but beware because they can get pricey. You’re much better off making macadamia nut butter at home, combining macadamia nuts with another more affordable keto nut, or hunting down a high-quality macadamia butter blend.
Thanks to its stellar macros and abundance of healthy fats, macadamia is the backbone of our Perfect Keto Nut Butter, which was formulated specifically for the ketogenic diet. It combines macadamia with cashews, coconut butter, and MCT oil to become the perfect keto treat.
Check out the second runner up.
#2. Pecan Butter
Pecans make their rounds near the holidays with carby favorites like pecan pie and sweet potato casserole. Or maybe you’re more familiar with them covered in sugar and pralined.
Despite their sweet reputation, pecans are an amazing nut for ketoers thanks to their macros, which are not too far off from macadamias.
As you can compare, a 1 oz. serving of this nut from the South will deliver[*]:
- 20g of fat
- 2.6g of protein
- 1.2g of net carbs
So not only are these a tasty low carb option, they’re super beneficial too.
In one study, researchers split up participants with normal to mildly elevated blood cholesterol levels and put them on two diets: one following the American Heart Association’s recommended diet and another that replaced 20% of the calories on the AHA diet with pecans.
Then they had participants switch diets for another four weeks.
After eight total weeks, the data revealed participants on the pecan diet[*]:
- Lowered total cholesterol by 11.3%
- Reduced LDL cholesterol by 16.5%, double what the AHA diet did
- Increased HDL cholesterol while the AHA diet decreased HDL
- Lowered triglycerides
Here’s the kicker: even though the pecan diet contained almost 40% more fat, none of the participants on it gained weight.
This just proves nuts — and especially pecans — are a great option for weight loss because eating fat doesn’t make you fat.
Up next is a mild nut that doesn’t draw too much attention (even though it should get more of it).
#3. Walnut Butter
Fun fact: Walnuts are the only nuts with a measurable amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation, prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and even combat type 2 diabetes.
And walnuts are relatively low carb for all the hard work they put in. Just check out the macros for a 1 oz. serving of walnuts[*]:
- 18g of fat
- 4g of protein
- 2g of net carbs
Walnuts and walnut butter should be your best friend when you have insulin sensitivity issues because they’re all-stars at helping your body regulate your blood sugar.
Researchers in one study put 50 overweight adults with type 2 diabetes on a low-fat diet but then gave half the participants 30g of walnuts per day.
In the first three months, the participants eating walnuts “significantly lowered” their fasting insulin levels[*].
And when you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may also be combating insulin resistance.
In a study of 31 women with PCOS, researchers gave half the group walnuts and the other half almonds in servings both equal to 31g of fat each day.
After six weeks, the group noshing on walnuts not only lowered their LDL or “bad” cholesterol by 6%, they also increased their insulin sensitivity and the amount of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in their system[*].
Since low levels of SHBG have been connected to insulin resistance, that’s a double win for you ladies.
The next nut butter on the list is also part of the 2g net carb club.
#4. Hazelnut Butter
No, not the popular spread with chocolate, a mountain of sugar and the smallest bit of actual hazelnut — we’re talking real hazelnut butter here.
Hazelnuts, or filberts as they’re also known, are an underestimated and undereaten nut for many ketoers, considering how similar they taste to macadamias.
Their macros for a 1 oz. serving aren’t anything to shy away from[*]:
- 17g of fat
- 4g of protein
- 2g of net carbs
Hazelnuts are also chock full of vitamins, minerals and high concentrations of antioxidants, which may protect your body from cancer.
Specifically, hazelnuts are rich in proanthocyanidins, an antioxidant studied for its protective nature against oxidative stress and cancerous cells[*].
Hazelnuts, like most nuts, are also a portable vitamin E delivery system, another antioxidant responsible for protecting your cells against damage that may lead to cancer[*].
Test-tube and animal trials show extracts from hazelnuts have positive outcomes when treating breast, colon, cervical and liver cancer too.
In one published paper, hazelnut extract was used on colon cancer cells and researchers learned it not only reduced DNA damage but also increased the number of early cell deaths so those cancerous cells would not duplicate[*].
Besides hazelnuts being so healthy for your cells, their buttery nature lends perfectly to making hazelnut butter.
And if you have a sweet tooth and miss the chocolate hazelnut spread that shall remain nameless, you can always make a batch of homemade hazelnut butter with unsweetened cocoa powder and a bit of stevia to scratch that itch.
Cocoa powder should also add a tiny bit more fiber to your nut butter batch.
Adding more fiber to your diet is one of the keys to preventing many types of cancer, heart disease, obesity and several other medical conditions[*].
So with that in mind, this next nut should be on your high-fiber radar.
#5. Almond Butter
Almond butter is the second most popular option on the shelves after peanut butter and that’s all thanks to the current almond craze.
Did you know almond consumption has increased by 220% in America since 2005[*]?
This isn’t a bad thing for ketoers as almonds are more than okay on a ketogenic diet. A 1 oz. serving contains[*]:
- 14g of fat
- 6g of protein
- 2.5g of net carbs
Per serving, almonds deliver more protein than any other nut on this list, and protein is your ally when you’re trying to lose weight and build muscle.
Since it’s so nutrient dense and takes awhile to digest, protein helps you feel full for longer. So a few protein-rich almonds will help you curb hunger and eat fewer calories so you lose weight without starving yourself.
Protein also builds muscle, which burns calories even when you’re playing video games. When you have more muscle using up the calories you eat, it will be easier for your body to create a calorie deficit and lose those stubborn pounds[*].
And protein is essential for recovery after your workouts because every time you tear your muscles at the gym, you need protein to build them back up bigger and stronger.
Plus, when you start building muscle and shedding fat, you may not weigh less, but your body composition will start turning heads.
So you may want to consider adding almonds and almond butter to your post-workout refuel sesh and keto smoothies.
While almond butter may be the easiest switch from peanut butter on this list, this final nut butter is a tasty choice as well.
#6. Cashew Butter
Should you trust cashews and cashew butter on a ketogenic diet?
On one hand, cashews are considered a “fatty” nut because they lack the same amount of healthy fiber other nuts on our list get to boast about.
A serving of cashews has less than a gram of fiber, which makes its net carb count higher.
But that doesn’t mean cashews are totally off limits. In a 1 oz. serving, you’ll snag[*]:
- 14g of fat
- 5g of protein
- 7g of net carbs
So why does cashew butter make the list when it has more net carbs?
While one full serving of cashews may be enough to spoil your carb allowance for the day, combining cashews with another high fat, low carb nut on this list (like macadamia) will help you eat closer to a quarter serving instead of a full one.
Besides the super creamy consistency and smooth texture you’ll get when you make cashew butter, you’ll also be loading up on heart-healthy fats.
Cashews are rich in a monounsaturated fatty acid known as oleic acid, which is the same fatty acid found in olive oil and avocados.
Scientific evidence shows oleic acid can help:
- Reduce your blood pressure[*]
- Burn fat[*]
- Manage and even help reverse type 2 diabetes[*]
- Protect your cells from harmful free radicals that contribute to cancer development[*]
So while you may need to watch your serving size extra carefully with cashews, you don’t have to ghost them.
But what if you have to give all tree nuts the red light? Are you totally SOL?
#7. Seed Butter
Though technically not made from nuts, we thought we’d add seed butter to the list in case you have a tree nut allergy — or are partnering with a keto buddy who does.
Seed butters, which are like nut butters except made from ground pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower, hemp, and others, let you snack on all the wonderfulness of nut butters without a trip to the ER.
And if you’ve been enjoying nut butters on the regular, a seed butter will be a nice change-up to add more variety to your keto meal planning.
Here’s the best part: since most seeds are heavy in the fiber department, you should have relatively low net carbs per serving.
You can make or buy hemp butter since a serving per 30g of hemp seeds has[*]:
- 15g of fat
- 9g of protein
- 1g net carbs
That’s even more protein than almonds!
And even though sunflower seed butter is gaining popularity, it’s not as low carb as the other seeds mentioned. One tablespoon of sunflower seeds has[*]:
- 9g of fat
- 2.8g of protein
- 2.8g of net carbs
You can find sunflower seed butters popping up on grocery shelves, but beware of the added sugar in these varieties.
Now let’s talk about how to find the rest of the nut butters on this list.
Did you know it’s pretty easy to make your own nut butter at home?
All you have to do is:
- Find a source for bulk nuts you like or consider a combination of nuts you have on hand.
- Roast your nuts in the oven.
- Add roasted nuts to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until you reach the creamy, velvety consistency you’re after.
- Optional: Add MCT oil, chia seeds, sea salt, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder, or cinnamon for flavor, healthy fat and extra nutrients.
- Marvel at your greatness.
Since nuts naturally contain oil, you don’t have to add any of the bad oils commercial nut butters may contain. And you don’t have to add a single granule of sugar either.
Can you use raw nuts?
But just a heads up: Certain nuts contain a lot of phytic acid, which may cause digestive problems and malabsorption of key minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. While this may not affect everyone, it does affect some.
So if you happen to fall in this category, you’ll want to only eat nuts that are roasted, soaked, or sprouted instead of raw.
If you don’t have time to make your own nut butter, that’s totally cool too. Your grocery store may not carry macadamia or cashew butter, but the internet always does!
Use these rules and you’ll find a jar you’ll be proud to take home and wake up to the next morning:
- Check the sugar first. No sense doing net carb math if you see a ridiculously high amount of added sugar right off the bat. Choose one that doesn’t have any sugar.
- Find the net carbs. A 2-tablespoon serving of nut butter shouldn’t set you back more than 3g of net carbs.
- Pronounce all the ingredients. If you can’t complete this step, put the jar back on the shelf. As you saw with our quick homemade recipe, a jar of nut butter doesn’t need to contain anything other than nuts and whole food flavors.
- Avoid harmful oils like the plague, such as partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, palm oil, soybean oil and canola as these can all cause inflammation and heart disease. If there is oil, make sure it’s one you fully trust, like coconut or MCT oil.
And don’t forget to store your nut butter in the fridge to prevent the natural oils from going rancid. While other jars filled with shelf-stable oils and preservatives will keep your nut butter fresh in the pantry, ditching these means your nut butter will need to stay cold to last longer.
Our Perfect Keto Nut Butter checks all these boxes and then some. It’s a velvety blend of:
- Raw macadamia and cashew nuts, which combines one of the fattiest, lowest carb nuts with one on the higher end to net out at just 2g of carbs per serving.
- Raw coconut butter to give you all the heart-healthy benefits of coconut.MCT oil, which sharpens your mental focus, increases your energy levels, and boosts your blood ketones so you can enter and stay in ketosis more easily.
- Just a pinch of real ground vanilla and sea salt for subtle, yummy flavor.
Another important part of this blend is what’s not in these jars:
- No preservatives, additives or fillers
- Zero added sugars
- No harmful oils. Perfect Keto MCTs are derived from coconuts.
So you can pick up a jar of this healthy, keto-friendly nut butter and take the guesswork out of choosing nut butters, or make your own using the tips we’ve laid out for you.
Either way, you’ll want to stick to these seven options in keto, which are packed with health benefits and have all the best parts of creamy peanut butter without none of the negatives.