Many of our favorite foods aren’t exactly kind to our waistlines. Though bacon and ice cream certainly have a place in a healthy diet, they’re more occasional treats than regular staples. Peanut butter is one happy exception to the rule. Most of us love it for the sweet and salty flavor, but it’s also a nutritional powerhouse, boasting plenty of protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Before we get started with the recipes, let’s delve a little deeper into the history of peanut butter. Though George Washington Carver has become famous for developing about 300 uses for peanuts, the creamy spread actually wasn’t one of them. It turns out peanut butter predates Carver’s discoveries.
Although the history is a little bit fuzzy, The New Yorker reported a St. Louis Man named George Bayle was the first to make and sell peanut butter as a snack food in 1894. It wasn’t until the development of the hydrogenation process in the 1920s that peanut butter became more shelf stable and, therefore, more widely available. The rest is lunchbox history. Time to get cooking.
1. Coconut Peanut Butter Oatmeal
Give peanut butter toast the day off, and make this hearty oatmeal from Pinch of Yum instead. Using coconut milk gives this breakfast a hint of tropical flavor. If you’d like even more texture, use crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy.
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ⅓ cup coconut milk
- 1 cup regular milk or water
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoon shredded sweetened coconut
- 1 to 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
Directions: Combine oats, coconut milk, milk, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until oatmeal is cooked, about 2 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, then let sit for a few minutes. Stir in the flaxseed meal and coconut. Top with peanut butter and additional coconut. If needed, microwave a bit longer to melt the peanut butter. Serve.
2. Peanut Butter Honey Yogurt Dip
With nothing more than peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and a drizzle of honey, this creamy dip from Two Peas and Their Pod is perfect for days when you need a filling snack in a matter of minutes. Just slice an apple to dunk, and you’re mid-afternoon mini meal is ready to go. For even more flavor, add a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- 1 (6-ounce) container plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Sliced apples or other cut fruit
Directions: Mix yogurt, peanut butter, and honey to combine in a small bowl. Serve with fruit.
3. Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers with Peanut Sauce
January often feels a little bit limiting in the food department since most people are trying to eat a little bit healthier. It doesn’t have to be that way, as long as you go for foods with bold flavors. Try The New York Times’ baked shrimp and pineapple skewers served with a tangy peanut sauce. It’s a seriously delicious way to break from your usual chicken and broccoli without derailing your diet. Save any peanut sauce for wraps, sandwiches, and salads later in the week.
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
- 1½ tablespoons lime juice, plus more
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
- ¼ teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt
- 1½ tablespoons peanut oil
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cups pineapple chunks
- Cilantro leaves
- Torn basic leaves
Directions: In a food processor, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, 3 tablespoons hot water, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, Sriracha, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Season with more lime juice or salt, if needed. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk peanut oil, remaining salt, and chile flakes to combine in a small bowl. Thread shrimp onto skewers and brush with half of the peanut oil mixture. Thread pineapple onto separate skewers and brush with remaining oil. Arrange skewers on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Roast skewers, turning halfway through, until shrimp is cooked, about 5 minutes, and pineapple is lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. You will need to remove shrimp partway through. Sprinkle skewers with herbs and serve with peanut sauce.
4. Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts
If pasta salad makes you think of soggy noodles loaded with mayo, it’s time to become acquainted with a version that’s healthier and a lot better tasting. This whole-wheat pasta with broccoli and peanut sauce from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food is a great choice. It’s one of the few meat-free meals that still feels satisfying thanks to plenty of fiber, healthy fats, and protein. Since it’s just as delicious cold as it is warm, this recipe is perfect for lunch.
- ½ pound whole-wheat fusilli
- 2 heads broccoli
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Directions: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cut 1 inch from end of broccoli stalks. Use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to peel off the tough outer layer of the stalks, then thinly slice. Separate florets into bite-size pieces.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper flakes, broccoli, and ¾ cup water. Cover and cook until broccoli is crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid has evaporated and broccoli is tender, 2 to 4 minutes longer.
In a large bowl, whisk remaining oil with vinegar, peanut butter, and soy sauce. Add pasta, broccoli, scallions, and peanuts. Toss to combine. Serve warm or cold.
5. Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
Recipes for African peanut stew are about as abundant as ones for chicken noodle soup. Though it’s hard to go wrong, we particularly like Eating Well’s chicken and sweet potato recipe. It’s a bit thicker than other versions, which makes it perfect for serving with your favorite pasta or grain for a more substantial meal. This recipe uses whole-wheat couscous, but we especially like the slightly chewy texture of farro.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
- ¼ cup creamy natural peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
Directions: Season chicken with 1 teaspoon coriander and ½ teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until browned all over, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add remaining oil to pan along with onion and ginger. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, tomatoes and juice, peanut butter, 1 tablespoon lime juice, cayenne, and remaining coriander, and remaining salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sweet potato is tender, about 14 to 16 minutes. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous and remaining lime juice. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in cilantro. Serve stew over couscous.
6. Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
A healthy diet doesn’t have to mean ignoring your sweet tooth. Many nutrition experts actually recommend regularly treating yourself so you don’t end up binge eating after trying to be too strict. We can’t think of a better way to do it than by making these peanut butter and chocolate cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction. They taste rich and indulgent, but still manage to be pretty healthy thanks to oats and minimal added sugar.
- ⅔ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup homemade peanut butter or store-bought peanut butter
- 6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Combine oats, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine. In a separate medium bowl, beat egg, then mix in peanut butter and brown sugar. Add dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Fold in chocolate chips. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Scoop dough into 1½-tablespoon portions and place on prepared baking sheets until you have 7 cookies on each baking sheet. Gently press dough down to flatten a bit using wet fingers or the back of a spoon. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Cookies will appear pale. Do not overbake. Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.