If you want to make peanut-butter-like cookies, you can substitute peanut butter with another nut or seed butter, such as sunflower seed butter. “They’re usually very similar in texture, even if the flavors are slightly different,” says Tiffany Leon, a dietitian and senior manager of training programs at Food Allergy Research & Education, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to educate and promote awareness of food allergies. If you’re looking for a nutty crunch, you can toast whole sunflower seeds, or, maybe even better, roast them with a little honey.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are also an option. Coarsely ground pepitas can serve as a crunchy topping on salads, noodle or rice dishes, pudding, or other recipes that call for peanuts, says Melanie Carver, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s chief mission officer, who oversees that organization’s community outreach, education, and advocacy.
In some cases—for instance, if you want to replace chopped peanuts meant to be folded into or sprinkled on top of a pastry—seeds may be too small, says Dan Zuccarello, who oversees recipe development for cookbooks published by America’s Test Kitchen. “So in that case, you know something like walnuts that you chop similarly would be a good option,” Zuccarello says. That is, if you’re not allergic to them.
Toasted aromatic seeds such as whole fennel, coriander, or cumin seeds are also worth considering for some dishes, Zuccarello says. Top a creamy soup with toasted fennel seeds, or make a fennel oil with toasted seeds and some olive oil, and spread it over a dish like roasted carrots or other vegetables. But be careful not to add too much, because those flavors can be potent.