Back to all articles

The History of Sunflower Butter

The history of sunflower butter starts with the history of sunflower seeds. Sunflowers are believed to be one of the first crops cultivated in the Americas. Sunflower seeds were used as a source of fat by early hunter-gathers and were domesticated as early as 1000 BCE. They were most likely introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Sunflower seeds became especially popular in Russia, where farmers selected for oil content, resulting in a nearly 100% increase in oil yield from sunflower seeds. These enhanced sunflower seeds made their way back to North America in the 19th century, likely by way of Russian immigrants, and quickly became a staple. In particular, they were used for producing oil and as animal feed. The first attempts at making sunflower butter occurred in the early 1980s, but the product didn’t catch on because many people disliked the flavor. Later, sunflower butter was attempted again, this time as a collaboration between the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and a sunflower seed producer from North Dakota called Red River Commodities. They were cognizant of the flavor problems that plagued previous attempts and were able to create a more palatable product. Today, sunflower butter has become a popular allergen-free alternative to peanut butter. Most modern versions, including as the well-known brand SunButter, are specifically formulated to mimic the flavor and consistency of peanut butter. Since sunflower butter is a bit more earthy and bitter than peanut butter, sunflower oil, salt, and sugar are often added to commercial versions. Today, sunflower butter can be found on most grocery store shelves.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.