Once upon a time, you had two nut butter choices: creamy peanut or crunchy peanut. Today, the nut-butter aisle is awash with options—many of which are both creative and healthy.

Peanuts are just one of many base ingredients you’ll find. A few of the alternatives—like almonds or sunflower seeds—have been around for a while, but some of the newer selections might surprise you: say, hemp seeds, or even chickpeas, which, like their cousin the peanut, fall into the legume family. Other trends include mixing a variety of nuts and seeds together, adding flavorings beyond sugar or honey, and delivering in a powder form. Navigating these options can feel overwhelming, so use this chart as a jumping-off point.

Peanut

Our pick: Santa Cruz Organic Dark Roast Peanut Butter

Why we like it: This is peanut butter at its best: organic, creamy, and easy to stir and spread. Plus, it manages a rich and yummy flavor without any added sugar. It’s good for the planet, too: The company matches 100 percent of its electricity use with certified renewable energy.

Our tasters say:“Full-flavored; ideal for any use.”

Bonus points for: kosher, low in sugar, non-GMO, organic

Also try: Crazy Richard’s 100% Peanuts

Flavored Butters

Peanut Butter & Company Dark Chocolate DreamsOur pick: Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams

Why we like it: Peanut butter and chocolate are meant to be together—especially when the chocolate is dark and rich, the ingredients are simple and natural, and there’s no hydrogenated oil involved—just certified sustainably harvested palm oil. And did we mention it’s delicious?

Our tasters say:“Especially good on bananas or pancakes.”

Bonus points for non-GMO, vegan

Also try:MaraNatha Coconut Almond Butter

Almond

MaraNatha Almond ButterOur pick: MaraNatha No-Stir Almond Butter

Why we like it: This super-smooth spread somehow achieves a pleasantly sweet taste with only 1 gram of added sugar, the evaporated-cane variety. It uses sustainably sourced palm oil, is made in small batches and—hallelujah!—does not require stirring.

Our tasters say:“It’s eat-straight-from-the-jar good!”

Bonus points for: low in sugar, non-GMO

Also try: JIF Natural Almond Butter

Mixed Nuts

NuttZo nut butterOur pick: NuttZo Power Fuel Crunchy

Why we like it: Truly original! NuttZo blends seven nuts and seeds for a taste all its own and a hearty, crunchy texture. An upside-down-storage design makes for easy stirring. The price is a bit steep, but a portion of the proceeds benefits kids in orphanages.

Our tasters say:“I love the touch of saltiness.”

Bonus points for: low in sugar, non-GMO, vegan

Also try: Wild Friends Almond Cashew Super Butter

Powder

 

PB FitOur pick: PBfit Peanut Butter Powder

Why we like it: With only a third the calories of regular peanut butter, PBfit allows you to enjoy traditional peanut butter taste—without the calorie commitment. And we love that it’s made from just three ingredients: peanuts, coconut palm sugar and salt. Ideal for mixing in smoothies, shakes or batters.

Our tasters say:“I was surprised: It was tasty even in a fruity smoothie!”

Bonus points for: kosher, non-GMO

Also try: PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

 

Have Nut Butter, Will Travel

Nut Butter To Go

 

For people on-the-go, nothing beats single-serve nut-butter squeeze packets, which are taking up more and more real estate on store shelves. Some packets—like those from Justin’s and Wild Friends—serve up straight nut butter, which others mix in additional goodies (Exhibit A: RX Nut Butter, whose packets include a blend of peanuts, egg white, dates, coconut oil and sea salt). Companies such as PBfit, Crazy Richard’s and Peanut Butter & Co. also offer powdered peanut butter in single-serving packets.

Let’s Talk Nutrition

In its purer forms—minus the loads of added sugar and the hydrogenated oils that some brands include—peanut butter has a lot going for it nutritionally. Most varieties contain 6 to 8 grams of protein per serving, as much as or more than an egg. A serving will also deliver from 8 to 13 percent of your daily fiber needs; more than 20 percent of your daily manganese and niacin requirements; and hearty doses of vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus.

Almond butter has a similar nutrition profile, but with potentially higher levels of vitamin E, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus in some varieties.

Q: How many almonds does it take to make a jar of nut butter?

A: There are 400 to 450 almonds in a 16-ounce jar of almond butter.

Creamy or crunchy?

Women and children tend to prefer creamy, while men lean toward crunchy. Also, more East Coasters opt for creamy, while those on the West Coast are more likely to reach for crunchy. Source: National Peanut Board