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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
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. 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!

  2. 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!

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

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