I never imagined I’d have to raise my kids without peanut butter. When Kiwi & I decided to start our family, I prepared myself for early mornings, dirty diapers, temper tantrums, and the exorbitant price of higher education. Peanuts didn’t cross my mind. (Except perhaps when I was in the throes of morning sickness, the only reliable remedy for which was a ritual morning snack of peanut butter spread on saltines.)
Like most of the eighties babies out there, I was raised on peanut butter. Spread on morning toast, slapped between two pieces of bread and tucked into my lunchbox, and stirred into peanut butter cookies—those iconic fork-imprinted childhood treats.
So it was natural to assume I would raise my own kids on PB too. Right?
And I did, for the first few years of the Bean’s life. Right up until her little bro was diagnosed with a peanut allergy at six months old.
When I tell people my son is allergic to peanuts, they often stare back at me with this look of deep sadness. “Oh no” they say. Or “poor little guy,” their voice trailing into nothing as they imagine a childhood without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate peanut butter cups.
But one year into this unfortunate adventure, I can tell you that it’s not that bad. In fact, I don’t miss peanut butter at all. Not one bit. I swear. And neither do my kids.
Turns out that there is a whole world of peanut butter alternatives out there. Some of which taste exactly like PB. Or better. And are healthier, to boot.
Of all the subs, I like sunflower seed butter the best, and I’ve used it to make delicious “peanut” sauce, “peanut butter” and jam sandwiches, homemade “peanut butter” cups, and now these “peanut butter” oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Not only are these cookies free of peanut butter and safe for nut-free schools and peanut-allergic kiddos like mine, they are both healthier and (I think) more delicious than the traditional peanut butter cookies I enjoyed as a kid. The base is sunflower seed butter—which you can buy unsweetened and unsalted at most grocery stores. To that you add oats, a bit of brown sugar, vanilla, ground flaxseed, water and chocolate chips. No flour, no butter, no oil, no eggs. No problem.
You might be wondering how such a simple mixture could possibly produce a sweet, chewy, peanut-buttery and chocolatey delight. I get it. But once you pull these babies out of the oven, cool them off a bit, and take a little nibble, you will wonder no more.
A life without peanut butter tastes pretty darn good.
- 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- ½ cup warm water
- 1½ cups cup sunflower seed butter (ideally unsalted and unsweetened; see note below)
- 1 cup brown sugar (see note below)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup rolled oats (certified gluten free, if necessary)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the flaxseed and water in a large mixing bowl and let it set for a few minutes or until the flaxseed absorbs the water and the mixture thickens.
- Use a wooden spoon to stir in the sunflower seed butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract until the mixture is creamy and well combined.
- Sprinkle over the rolled oats, salt and baking soda, and stir until everything is very well combined.
- Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Roll the mixture into approx. 1½ inch balls, place them onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and press down to flatten. These cookies will not spread too much, so you should flatten them to be just a little bit thicker than what you want them to be when they are baked.
- Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes, or just until they are set in the middle and start to brown around the edges.
- Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store them in the freezer in a sealed container or Ziploc bag. Kiwi and I love to eat them straight out of the freezer. The kids prefer them defrosted.
A note about the brown sugar: If you use sunflower seed butter that has been sweetened (check the ingredients list to find out), you will be able to cut back on the brown sugar, possibly by as much as ⅓ cup. Start with ⅔ cup, then taste the batter and add a bit more sugar if it is not sweet enough.
A final note: you may find your cookies have a greenish hue in the centre. This is completely normal, and is something to do with the reaction between the sunflower seed butter and the baking soda. But never fear -- green or not, the cookies are completely safe to eat and totally delicious.