I don’t receive negative email very often, but last week I received a doozy. A mom who is new to weelicious and has a child with severe nut allergies said she was disappointed with weelicious’ over reliance on nut butters in school lunch. I don’t feel that I’ve ever aggressively promoted nut butters (in fact I go to great lengths to try and offer substitution ideas and even dedicated a section of the website to nut, dairy, and egg-free recipes), but because they’re inexpensive, have a long shelf life, are a great source of protein, and loved by most kids, they can be a life saver for parents.

Coincidentally, the very same day I received the email from the concerned mother, I was informed that there was a child in one of my children’s classes with a severe peanut allergy. In light of these two events I wanted to understand more about the subject of nut allergies. The first thing I learned was the difference between airborne and non-airborne nut allergies. Children with an airborne nut allergy can get extremely sick from just being in the proximity of a peanut. Children with non-airborne nut allergies are generally OK to sit next to a child with nuts in their lunch, but could have an averse reaction if they ingest them. Non-airborne allergies get even trickier since nut butters can easily smear on a table or spread to common classroom objects via sticky fingers and if a child with a nut allergy accidentally ingests nuts by touching something contaminated and putting their fingers in their mouth, they could become ill or worse. What you realize very quickly, is that whether airborne or not, the risk of a child getting sick is almost equal.

The good news for parents of children with nut allergies (as well as parents of non-allergic children in nut-free schools) is that many seeds — sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and flax among them — are fantastic, high in protein substitutions for nut-free classrooms and can be used in most recipes calling for nut butters. I’ve used sunflower butter for years in recipes like World’s Greatest PB&J, PB&J yogurt and Banana Dog Bites.

These Sunflower Butter Bran Muffins are packed with tons of fiber and are protein-rich to keep kids sated during the day. And since sunflower butter tastes very similar to peanut butter, most kids won’t be able to tell the difference. That’s good news for everyone in the classroom!


Sunflower Butter Bran Muffins

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Servings: 12 muffins
Author: Catherine McCord
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes



  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a bowl, combine the bran flakes and milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the egg, oil and sunflower butter.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, if desired.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Calories: 380kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 340mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 15g
Did you make this recipe?Mention @Weelicious or tag #weelicious!

About the Author

Catherine is a mama of three. A Kentucky girl living in California. Here’s what I know: all kids can be great eaters and mealtime must be easy. I create simple, healthy recipes the whole family will love.


  1. Made them this morning and they were delish!! Relatively easy to make and I had all items in my pantry or fridge. My 3 year old loved them. Just one question – do you happen to have the nutrition information per muffin? Thanks so much!

  2. I made these yummy muffins with almond meal flour and made them mini muffins, but they fell apart. 🙁 Any suggestions how to make them not fall apart?

  3. Best way to store these? Can they be stored in the freezer? If yes for how long? Thanks for sharing great food!!!

  4. I made a double batch of these tonight – the whole family loved them! I made some with and without chocolate chips, and they were both enjoyed. Thanks!

  5. C, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed to bring something to my Son’s school for his bday celebration. It’s a nut-free school. I made a triple batch tonight and am bringing them tomorrow. They are fantastic! Thank you!!

  6. I just wanted to comment to let others know my succes with subbing bob’s red mill oat bran cereal. I found the recipe and they sounded so yummy but I needed them to be wheat free as well. I used one cup of the oat bran and did every thing else the same. They turned out fantastic!!

  7. I made using sunflower seed instead of sunbutter and just blended the sunflower seeds with all the oil the recipe calls for – came out great – just had to add a bit more milk though to the batter.

  8. These are a big hit with my girls (and us parents too.) I’ve been making batch after batch using Wowbutter, mostly because it’s easier to get at the grocery store. Love them!

  9. LOVE your site! A friend of mine whose child has a severe peanut allergy recommended it to me just the other day. I just wanted to point out that peanuts are actually legumes and not nuts. 🙂 As for the mom who sent the doozy email, I’m sure it was from frustration and fear, as I would feel the same way. But, at the same time, she should understand that not everyone is aware of the severity of nut/peanut allergies or that there are even alternatives, like Sunflower seed butter. Thanks again for the great site and I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying your book!

  10. Is there an adequate substitute for bran cereal? I don’t typically buy it and really want to try these muffins without a special trip to the store. Would leftover cooked oatmeal work??

  11. Just finished making this–it was a hit! I used egg replacer, added two ripe bananas and reduced the oil to two tablespoons. Cooked in a loaf pan, as I already made muffins (actually the breakfast cupcakes from the book). Very good!

  12. Catherine–I have been DEVOURING your book for two days! Love, love, love it! Ironic that I landed here on this post today (I was searching for a way to use up some ripe banana and half empty box of bran flakes, here I am making yet another Weelicious recipe!)

    I am the mother of someone with serious allergies, and personally, I love your site. Great recipes, easy to sub out the allergenic ingredients, especially when other allergy moms leave their trial and errors in the comments.

    Keep doing what you do, and readers–GO GET THE BOOK! Fabulous!

  13. Forgot to ask – is there a decent substitute for milk – will soy milk suffice or will that ruin the texture (plain soy milk?)?

  14. I love your blog and I have two very allergic little boys. I just wanted to put out there that it is possible for kids to be allergic to sunflower butter too. When we were first diagnosed, we tried sunbutter as an alternative to nut butters, and our son had an anaphylactic reaction. Come to find out after more testing- he’s actually allergic to sunflower seeds as well. Oops! Hopefully no one else has experienced that.

    Would love more nut free ones but it’s your blog and I don’t think everyone else has to adjust to our personal reality. It’s my responsibility to make things work for my kids. Thank you for all the awesome recipes!

  15. These sound fantastic! I use sun butter quite a bit as my son has a nut allergy (although he apparently is tired of it lately, but I still sneak it into recipes like I will with this one!) I agree that using a nut-free butter like sun or soy butter is an easy swap for nut butters and you can then make the recipe work for people with nut allergies.

    However, I want to point out for everyone who may use seeds as a replacement for nuts in a nut-free classroom or school, to be sure and read all ingredients on the package. I have picked up packages of sunflower seeds to find that they have been roasted in some type of nut oil, and then they are no longer nut-free! I do not think I have come across any sun butters made with nut oils, but you just never know.

  16. Made these along with breakfast this morning and they turned out great! My kids had FOUR mini muffins each!!! (my kids are picky picky eaters so this was a breakthrough!!!). Thank you so much! They had great flavour and were moist.

  17. My son is allergic to both peanuts and almonds, so I love all of the nut free recipes you have, but also that you also offer suggestions for non nut-butters in so many of your recipes (and even when you don’t say “sunflower seed butter” as an option, it is such a staple in my house as a replacement for nut butters that I use it anyway.

    In the last week alone I have tried fruit and seed bars (my new favorite on-the-go breakfast), oatmeal chocolate chip bars (my 4-yr old daughter’s new favorite snack), and tonight I baked both vegan chocolate chip cookies (with my friend’s son in mind who is allergic to eggs) and fruit and oat bars from my new Weelicious cookbook. I know my kids are going to go gaga over the bars when they come downstairs tomorrow morning!

    I just want to say that I think what you are doing is amazing and I have enjoyed trying out every Weelicious recipe that I have made so far….and I can’t wait to try new ones!

    I am sure the mom that wrote the negative email will soon come to realize how diverse the recipes are that you make and how food-allergy-aware your recipes are.

  18. Catherine, I have been a fan of your site for quite a few years. I love your recipes, as do my children. I have a preschooler with severe peanut and nut allergies and understand the art of substitution. I commend you for your sensitivity and understanding.

    I feel for the mother that was compelled to e-mail you her concerns. Although her message may have been jumbled through her choice of words, she at least took the time to contact you. Many people would move on if a site did not fit their needs. That, in my mind, is an opportunity lost. An opportunity for you to gain another loyal follower. An opportunity for that individual to learn and grow from your understanding and guidance. Thank you for not allowing that opportunity to slip away. Just one more reason I visit your site daily.

  19. We use coconut oil for almost everything, love it! Side note, we also use coconut sugar for a lot of recipes that call for sugar. It’s similar to brown sugar but better for you because it doesn’t cause spikes in your sugar levels.

  20. I use canola oil. You could also use vegetable oil or coconut oil. The coconut oil will give it a different flavor!

  21. I noticed the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of baking powder. Is that a typo? It seems like a lot – maybe should read 1 teaspoon? Thanks!

  22. The price of organic food ment that it was out of my reach. I am lucky thguoh and live on 5 acres so now I grow my fruit and vegies and this year I have grown my own beef and lamb. I have my own chickens so organic free range eggs are also on the menu. This means I have save thousands and this helped my pay off my mortage. So good all round

  23. Thanks for the info on nut allergies – didn’t realize there were different types! I’ve actually never tried nut butter, but thinking I should give it a try now.

  24. I’ve just started thinking about what my daughter could bring when it’s her turn to be snack helper at preschool – it’s a peanut/nut free school – and this sounds like the perfect thing! I’m excited to try them. – they look delicious! One question – if I wanted to use a mini muffin tin, would I cook them for the same amount of time?

  25. And now I know what to bring to play group. Thank you, yet again. 🙂 Just received the cook book, btw. Love. It.

  26. I just made these tonight and they’re delicious, super moist with great flavor! I had never had sunflower butter before tonight, it’s so good!

  27. Is Sunflower Seed Butter something you should buy organic, or is conventional fairly free of pesticides?

  28. Catherine, I think you do an awesome job of recommending alternates for most of your recipes. Frankly, if people suspect allergies, they can very well do research on their own and find alternates just as easily. My son has a nut allergy, the only safe nut for us is almond. The only thing I might add here is that using Sunbutter as a substitute in recipes that contain Baking Soda and/or Baking Powder can turn them green as they cool. I have first hand experience and almost dumped a batch of cookies out of concern. No worries, it is the chlorogenic acid contained in the seed (instead of the plant) that creates the reaction.! Thanks for the delicious recipes, my family truly appreciates it!

  29. Catherine, I have been a weelicious devotee for a few years now AND have a child with severe tree nut allergies. I have never ever felt it was your responsibility to accommodate all the different food allergies out there. In fact, you have been MORE than sensitive regarding food allergies and have offered substitutions where applicable. You cannot expect to make everyone happy all the time. I have always thought it my responsibility to find suitable substitutions for your various meals, sauces, etc. that call for nuts/nutbutters, NOT yours! On that note, however, THANK YOU for taking the time to post this recipe and the notes that go along with it regarding the peanut/tree nut allergy epidemic. You are so kind and that was not something you HAD to do, but chose to do it! Thank you, you have been life-changing for my family in the kitchen.

  30. Hmm I’m not sure, but it’s worth a shot! You might need to soak that a little longer to get it soft enough!

  31. Oh Catherine! Weelicious is so great! And you, my dear, must have the patience of an angel. As a reader, I sometimes get annoyed just reading the 20 million questions people have about substitutions and such… as though it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone in the whole wide world can eat the recipes. I don’t know how you manage. I could never do what you do and deal with all the comments. You do a great job and it does happen that the recipe that you post is not suitable for my family, then, I just skip over it and come back the next day! You provide so much variety! Thanks for all you do.

  32. The way the bran flakes work in this recipe is they soak up the milk and make for a moist muffin. I did try this exact recipe with unprocessed bran, and although it was delicious, the muffins were very crumbly.

  33. I agree with most of the other comments, it is not your responsibility to cater to every single individual who comes on this site. You clearly have a passion for trying to be inclusive as much as possible, and moms of children who have food allergies have to learn to adapt recipes for their kids. 9 out of 10 recipes I use come from your site, you are inspirational, wonderful and amazing! I do feel for parents of children who have nut allergies, but am confident that because they love their kids they will do everything possible to adapt the way they cook, eat, and live for the betterment of their children (the way most parents do, regardless of allergies). On another note, can I substitute unprocessed bran for the bran flakes? I would never eat bran flakes as a cereal but I use unprocessed bran in a lot of muffin recipes.

  34. Catherine please realize there are a ton of us who love your blog, recipes and passion for getting kids to eat healthy foods. I feel your site is a wonderful inspiration and I am lucky to have two boys with no food allergies. I swear every recipe I read you are always leaving suggestions on how to go dairy free, egg free, etc. In an age where almost everyone has a blog there must be sites dedicated to nut free recipes, there is no reason to complain about your site.

  35. The nut issue is such a tricky one. I feel compassion for moms who have the terrible worry of a serious allergy…but think you are so right in pointing out the myriad options in terms of seed butters. This recipe looks terrific.

  36. I agree, Catherine, I’ve been reading Weelicious since my now 3-year old was starting his ‘solids’ at 6 months and I was frantically scouring the web trying to find how to make my own baby purees that were a bit more exciting than just mashed peas! Several years later, I also have a 15 month old and your site is the first one to turn to when I need to find healthy meals and snacks for both a young and older toddler! I can’t count how many times I have used your recipes for playgroups and have had friends ask me to email it around later. I also credit your site for actually teaching me about substitutes! I now have a pantry stocked full of wheat bran, spelt flour, pepitas, honey, maple syrup, sunflower seed butter and coconut flakes because of you! You aren’t a healh professional claiming that every recipe is safe for every child, you are doing what is healthy and fun for your kids and have a passion for sharing it w/ others. If they are too PB-based, then it’s our responsibility to find that substitute and I find the Weelicious community really gracious in sharing ideas! Thank you for all you do!

  37. that email you received really burns my butter. this is your blog your thoughts by uploading everyday you let us into your life and I appreciate the time you take out of your day to share a little of your creativity with the rest of the world . that said most blogs are meant to be an inspiration for the readers not a life manual, some people forget that. catherine it is not your job to help other mothers find solutions for the child dietary needs. what she wanted you to do was to make her life easier. this is your life this is your blog please don’t ever feel that you have to change because there are people out there who appreciate the information you give us. there’s always going to be someone trying to find something negative in a person who is doing positive things

  38. i totally agree and believe you promote other things. not to mention, if you are somewhat knowledgeable about replacement you would know that nut butter and sunflower butter are interchangeable. i know this and we have no allergies. in fact, I just read this the other day online.

    not to mention i searched ‘peanut butter’ on your site the other day b/c i knew i could change it up and wouldn’t you know you have a picture of sunflower butter-trader joes i believe-and notes about how versatile it is.

    Catherine, I feel so badly that someone emailed you about your recipes saying that they weren’t diverse enough in such a harsh way. you spend so much of your time creating them for people. also, the readers spend time giving substitutions.i think that if there is an allergy, one can look at the comments and can be helped by them. not to mention you take the time, yourself to comment many times.

    I, myself cook nut free b/c of daycare and sending in foods (which we can not do w/ nuts) and i would feel SO BADLY if somehow peanut oil was transferred from my dd to someone w/ an allergy. i know that this allergy is stressful and hard to deal with and I really hope this mom was just having a bad day as you are great, Catherine and these are your recipes that people can choose to look at and can be modified often, if necessary. You are doing a great job–if you needed to hear that and obviously you are writing recipes for the general public, one one type of diet….

  39. Mandi, in my opinion, sunflower seed butter tastes close to identical to peanut butter, so if your son doesn’t like nutty flavors, he definitely won’t like sunflower seed butter.

  40. I just received my copy of your Weelicious cookbook and it is lovely and interesting and I really like all the recipes. However I did notice that A LOT of your recipes use PB or other nut butters. My son hates anything with a nutty flavor or texture so all nut butters are out. We don’t get sunflower butter here in Israel but I may just have a go at making some myself. Thanks for this post.

  41. Is this a typo error?
    1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped fried fruit, optional
    Should it be dried fruit?
    Thank you and have a nice day.

  42. You can find the bran flakes in the cereal aisle of your local grocery! (Think Raisin Bran without the raisins!) I did get mine at Trader Joe’s!

  43. Agree with all the above posts. Catherine, you are a such great inspiration to all of us and kudos to you for the hard work you do and create/ teach us to make healthy meals.
    My elder one has no nut allergies and the younger one has been advised to stay nut free till he is 3 years old. These Sunflower butter Bran muffins would be perfect fit for my kids. Will definitely try it soon.
    Where do I buy the Bran flakes – Trader Joes/ Fresh Market?

  44. I’m a newcomer to your wonderful website and, in light of the scolding email you received, wanted to send you an uplifting note reassuring you that you are not responsible for feeding all the kiddos in the world. As a volunteer in my boys’ schools from elementary to high school, I’ve had parents lecture me because their child’s special dietary needs were not specifically addressed. The first couple of times I was hurt and embarrassed because the whole entire purpose of my being there was because I cared. Then I realized that it wasn’t my job to take care of those kids with special dietary needs. It was their parents job to both provide a safe, healthy meal for them and to teach them that, because of their allergies, they would have to learn to take care of and provide for themselves. Yelling at us was a lot easier for those parents than finding a solution on their own. Thank you for the time you devote to researching and experimenting and ultimately providing recipes to make my day easier and my child’s meals more interesting and exciting in such a well organized, clean, attractive and pleasing blog. I appreciate all the time and love you give by dedicating yourself to this helpful, useful and attractive blog.

  45. I have been a weelicious fan for about two years. I also have a son with sever peanut allergies. With any recipe using nut butters or nuts I find a way to get creative and sub with flax or pumpkin seeds. We love sun butter, and WOW butter. sunbutter can be tricky and turn green in some recipes. I am always impressed when someone chooses to educate themselves rather than just fight against an issue. It really makes a difference. I am walking in Atlanta, Ga to raise awareness for food allergies. Please feel free to make a donation to our team “peanut free walking feet”

  46. You can substitute in most recipes. I haven’t tested sunflower butter specifically in all the recipes on this site, but I have had success with it when I’ve tried!

  47. Call I substitute peanut butter with sunflower seed butter in all the recipes that call for PB? My sons’ school is nut free.

  48. Amazing facts about nut allergies! I am definitely try this recipe. Also, the bran flakes will help my daughter “go” regular I hope.:)

  49. Hey.. first off, I just LOVE you and your recipes. I’m a mom who does have a child with severe food allergies and never once have I thought it’s your responisiblity to provide/promote recipes for him so that’s he’s more “included”. Never once have I expected for other mom’s, schools, birthday parties, etc to cater to us bc really it’s our deal and the deck we’ve been dealt. Guess I’m kind of over all these parents getting upset with others for not catering to their child. And believe me I get it… again my son’s food allergies are SEVERE. I guess my point is you are doing a fantastic job making cooking fun, healthy and exciting for so many of us out there. Don’t sweat the negative emails and keep doing the great job you are doing!

  50. Ditto to everything you said! I also have a mix of nut allergies in my house, plus egg – but I don’t flip out when every single recipe in my parenting magazines call for one or the other. In fact, my son is actually more severely allergic to egg (closer to the reaction people think of when they hear ‘nut allergy’) than peanuts. Why are so many parents of nut allergy kids so demanding? My son recently outgrew a dairy allergy that was so severe he couldn’t touch a drop of milk. It was certainly a pain, but I didn’t go ripping bottles out of babies hands and berating the parents for allowing their child to drink a dangerous substance in my child’s presence.

  51. I have a child with peanut/tree nut allergies, and 2 children who do not have allergies and LOVE peanut butter…so I understand how parents on both sides feel! Luckily, my son does not have issues with being around nuts, he just can’t eat them. Thanks for offering a variety of recipes so that everyone can find what works for them. As for the mom who sent the email, she should know that there are numerous substitutions she can use in recipes to make them allergy safe for her child. (Such as Sunbutter, Wowbutter,etc.) My son loves Biscoff! Unfortunately, it lacks the protein of the other subs. My son is also allergic to eggs, but I would not complain to someone for putting eggs in their recipes. I just make the substitutions as needed.

  52. Catherine, I’ve always felt you go out of your way to provide recipes that are kid-friendly and easily adaptable to all kinds of substitutions to accomodate the many, many, many food allergies out there. I feel bad that a mom took you to task for what is possibly the easiest ingredient substitution there is. I truly feel for the parents of kids with allergies, and for the kids too, but you do a fantastic job and I hope you don’t change a thing!

  53. The recipe calls for “chopped fried fruit, optional”. Can I assume this was meant to be chopped “dried” fruit? If not, can you give some more direction on this? Thanks!

  54. I recently found a nut butter substitute that I like a whole lot better than sunflower butter. It’s called Wowbutter and is soy based. It is carried at Walmart and Whole Foods. Love your site!

  55. I live overseas, and I have never seen sunflower butter.
    Is this something I could replace with peanut butter?
    Or is that too strong a flavor and should I use something else?

  56. Jay-Welcome to the blog. In the game at Sunflower we used a black pen, a red pen, a dollar, a stick, and a white stone; in the WAYK logo above you can see slimiar objects. We often use these exact props, whenever we can. Also, of course, keys, if available, work nicely.

  57. Looks like a great recipe. Even those of us whose kids can eat nuts often need to pack nut-free snacks and lunches for childcare/school situations, so its great to have options. I am wondering if that sugar could be cut down (or eliminated entirely) by swapping in 1-2 super-ripe, mashed bananas, which would pair great with that flavor profile! Will give it a try for my toddlers!

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