Raw Peanut Butter and Jelly Balls

Raw Peanut Butter and Jelly Balls

A few days ago, a friend at school asked me if I could help him grocery shop, and perhaps “eat less frozen pizza” this semester. I thought to myself, “oh boy. You have no idea what you’re in for.” Had I just a little more nerve, I could have treated him to a full-on kitchen makeover and fridge purging, coupled with a vegetable invasion. Instead, I accompanied him to Whole Foods, where we picked out some organic produce and some healthier frozen options (Amy’s instead of California Kitchen). I didn’t whip out any of the nutritionist’s zeal for greens (though I did insist upon some spinach and broccoli), but I did make a few suggestions, including a plug for almond milk next time.

As we were shopping, of course, budgetary concerns were on both our minds. I went way above my typical grocery budget at the end of last semester, which was understandable, given that I did a lot of edible giving, but certainly not ideal. As a student, one is constantly scouring grocery stores for deals, trying to make things stretch, and balancing ideals (shopping all organic) against realities (not always having the budget for all organic).

One of my biggest expenses tends to be nuts and dried fruit. As a mostly raw eater, I eat a lot of them, but as a student, I fret over the cost. One of my favorite ways of slashing costs lately is to use sunflower and pumpkin seeds in place of cashews and almonds, and raisins in place of dates. Obviously, there are certain recipes in which cashews and almonds are truly irreplaceable, and that’s even truer of dates, with their distinctive, caramel-like flavor. But there are also a lot of recipes in which one can easily swap a seed for a nut, or a raisin for a date.

The snack ball recipe below is a perfect example. Not only is it more budget conscious than a typical cashew or walnut and date based recipe, but it is also incredibly tasty. To be honest, I think it’s a dead ringer for the flavors of peanut butter and jelly, and I like it every bit as much as my other favorite snack bite (my hemp cacao energy bites). A recipe win!


Budget-Savvy Seed and Raisin Snack Balls (raw, vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Makes about 20 balls

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/3 cups raisins
1/4 tsp sea salt

1) Mix all ingredients together in a food processor fitted with the S blade until mixture is getting uniform, and sticks together easily.

2) Shape mixture into 1 inch balls by rolling with palms of hand. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, then snack away!

I’m telling you. PB&J is reborn!



As always, shop organic everything if you can. And if you can’t, take heart in the fact that you’re doing your best, and you’re still managing to fill your body with healthy, plant-based food.

Have you been trying to be a little more raw, and stumbling along the way? This post is for you! Tonight, head on over to One Green Planet for my 5 Tips to Go Raw-er in 2012: practical, sensible, and fun. I hope you enjoy, and that it gives you a helpful dose of raw-ish inspiration!!!


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Categories: Snacks
Dietary Preferences: Raw

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  1. I am curious what kind of raisins you are buying/what you are mainly using in your recipes that call for raisins. I made this recipe with Thompson and the balls frankly kind of tasted like raisin (really delicious raisins). I’m wondering if a lighter raisin might be better — my local store has four kinds of organic raisins.. so hard to decide!

  2. Oh man, these are delicious! I made them last night and definitely had to taste-test quite a few 🙂 I’ve been looking for a healthier alternative to granola bars to take with me on-the-go. and these are the absolute perfect solution – thanks for such a great recipe. And they really do taste like pb&j!

  3. i used to LIVE on these energy balls! i call them power balls and came up with lots of different flavours, starting from tropical sun blast to green goddess. raw bars are just sooooo pricey and homemade ones just taste nicer anyways, plus you can shape them in cute little balls!

  4. Love nut balls!! Yes, they can be pricey. I just recently cut way down on nuts and decided to eat a lot of fruit and cut the fat. So I hope to save a little on the nut bill! Pumpkin seeds are crazy now, six bucks a pound in bulk at whole foods! I remember when I bought them because they were so much cheaper than the other nuts!

  5. Huzzah! I’ve always been a bit squeamish around raisins (nasty squoodgy things), but blended up and mimicking the flavours of PB&J? I shall happily try this.

    Right after I click through to the hemp bites recipe, of course, because calloo callay!! I found illegal hemp seeds in Melbourne last week! I’m such a bad-ass.

  6. These look absolutely DELICIOUS! I’ve been looking for good “snack balls” to have ever since my roommate introduced me to Southern bisquick, cheddar & sausage balls (definitely won’t be having any of those). These look simple and delicious! Thanks, Gena.

  7. This post made me curious — I know you have mentioned in passing some of the issues with eating your high-raw type of diet and the idea of locally, since stuff like avocados and bananas are not exactly native to the northeast U.S….wondering if sunflower and pumpkin seeds are a greener/more local choice than almonds and cashews since they are a more native crop, or if they tend to be shipped in from elsewhere anyway. Have been idly contemplating an effort on my own part to eat more locally, but it’s hard when my grocery store a block away is carrying 3 for $5 avocados on a regular basis…

    interested if anyone reading knows more about this topic. either way, as a student am happy to read a budget-friendly recipe any time, thanks!

  8. I loved your five tips to go raw-er in 2012. Though I’m not sure about your advice re: desserts. You are admittedly not a dessert person, you’ve said so several times. Whereas I, for example, am such a dessert person that I’ll often eat dessert instead of dinner (much, much less often than in years past, but I’ll still do it from time to time). So someone like me, who’s going to be having strawberry shortcake for dinner anyway, I’m better off eating the raw version. And raw desserts are the one category of raw food where the raw version, almost always, tastes better than the cooked version. Not talking about salads and smoothies and guacamole and all the “already raw” food that everyone eats.

    In response to this post: I think it’s worth noting that your friend did not ask for help with reducing his grocery budget, rather with getting off the frozen pizza, and maybe adding more (healthy) variety to his diet. So it’s perfectly fine that you took him to Whole Foods so he at least gets a sense of all the amazing options out there. Especially in the produce section and no one does a produce section like Whole Foods.

    • E,

      In fairness, though, I didn’t say that raw desserts are bad (I enjoy making and eating them in moderation, too), nor that it’s wrong to occasionally have (raw) dessert for dinner. I’m just saying that it may be a shame to have one’s exposure to/interest in raw foods be nearly limited to the desserts, which, based on my experience, is not unheard of in the raw community. To me, that seems like a missed opportunity to sample the variety and beauty of raw cuisine, plus I think that, over time, it may exclude some important dietary variety.

      I wrote a Taza review today and thought of you. I too found the texture strange at first, but came to love the stuff. I also imagine you would admire their conscious ethos as producers!


      • I do admire Taza! I know them all in real life and I love them. I just wish I loved their chocolate half as much.

  9. I love that you talking about giving our bodies our best…even if that means we can’t eat organic all the time. I always appreciate a blog post that makes me feel like I have permission to not eat organic sometimes if I can’t afford it.

  10. What a great recipe! I hope you keep including budget-conscious recipes from time to time. As a poor grad student, I know budget vs. food ideals is a constant struggle.

    As a side note, I’ve noticed that many stores other than WF offer nuts and raisins, even organic ones, for much less. I get most of mine bulk from Trader Joe’s, my regular grocer, or the local Co-op. Not that that’s an option for everyone, but it always pays to shop around.

  11. I love the budget friendliness of this recipe and it’s definitely on my “make this” list for as soon as I get back to the US (and my food processor)! As a budget friendly suggestion on nuts though, I always buy them at Trader Joe’s due to cost. The almonds and walnuts are organic, even if the others are not.

  12. Love the simplicity of this recipe. The last time I was a student my go to meal was PB&J. Hoping I can make some better choices this time around but still be mindful of cost. I’m thinking this should be a regular series – Budget Friendly Raw or Budget Friendly Vegan!

  13. agree with you on nuts and dates.I tend to buy dried dates (with no added anything) now to save (I miss you Medjool!) I am going to try this, as I have everything in my cupboard, hurrah!

  14. I love this student savvy idea! I’m a poor grad student and don’t have anywhere near as much money as I’d like to spend on food. More budget friendly recipes/budgeting ideas would be great!

  15. I’m years away from being a grad student, but I too appreciate a simple budget concious recipe from you, using foods already in my pantry – though admittedly using dates and walnuts would be my first (less practical) instinct. These look like a fabulous snack, and will likely survive a few weeks of freezing as well. Thanks Gena, and happy weekend!

  16. How would you suggest I incorporate these into a meal? Add a salad?

    Is unsweetened coconut very expensive? I think it makes everything (like this) better,
    There are poor gals’ Laraballs!


    • I do kind of think of them as snacks! But you could serve them on top of fruit or banana soft serve at breakfast, or with fruit and almond milk, or with a smoothie. And yes, you could serve them with a big salad, though I’d tell you to add some protein in the form of legumes, perhaps.

    • Agree. But the organic and vegan-friendly food options at Safeway isn’t ideal, and I wanted to show my friend some of those. As I said above, I don’t claim to make budget friendly choices when it comes to WHERE I shop; I just try to do my best, even at Whole Foods, to cut costs how I can.

  17. I must start off by stating that I love your blog. Much of it resonates with me, as both my younger brother and I recovered from anorexia/bulimia, and a key part of my recovery journey involved a transition to veganism. However, I was somewhat disheartened by your post today.

    I live near Ashland, Oregon, a vibrant small town whose population is much aligned with some of your blog’s core themes: veganism/vegetarianism, animal rights activism, and natural, local foods. And while I love that about this area, I also struggle with the socioeconomic and class privilege that so often accompanies those ideas. I work for a local community college, where I help low-income, first-generation college students, specifically high school students. My target high school, which is 30 minutes from Ashland, is roughly 65% Latino, most of whom are 1st or 2nd generation transplants from Mexico or South America (there are many migratory jobs available, due to the forestry, wine, and fruit industries in the region). A large number of these students and their parents work for Amy’s, the manufacturer that you praised in today’s post: “Instead, I accompanied him to Whole Foods, where we picked out some organic produce and some healthier frozen options (Amy’s instead of California Kitchen)”. Amy’s Kitchen sells their foods for an incredibly high price, yet they pay their employees meager wages and demand long and arduous hours of physical labor. A mother of one of my favorite students works on the pizza assembly line, where she spends her entire shift standing and shaping dough. She vies for the night shifts, even at 54, because she might make a little extra money. She and her coworkers are not allowed to speak to each other to help pass the long hours, as management claims that it slows productivity. It has become increasingly difficult for to hear stories like this–which are plentiful–then drive home to Ashland, where I see a frozen Amy’s pizza in the freezer for over $9.00.

    I must reiterate that I love your blog, and that it was comforting to find writing that deals so openly with green recovery. However, I implore you to remind your readers that “organic” and “vegan” doesn’t always mean that we are making the right choice.

    • Anonymous,

      Thank you so much for this comment. I was aware, as I wrote, of the irony of a budget-friendly post that involved a trip to Whole Foods! But my point was not to say that I always shop at the cheapest places, but rather that I try to shop at places that offer me vegan and organic foods, but also give me small chances to cut costs.

      I have rarely ever purchased Amy’s foods before–that’s why you don’t see them on CR. But I had heard raves about the company, which is why I offered them as an alternative to my friend. I am very dismayed to hear what you have to say, and now that I know, I can certainly avoid their products in the future! Ignorance isn’t bliss, and I’m glad to have been informed. Thank you for that.

      One important point: to me, making a vegan purchase is always at least some of the right choice. That is to say, purchasing a non-vegan item from an admirable company would never be preferable (to me) to purchasing a vegan one from a less admirable company, because animal death and/or literal captivity would still be involved, and I value animal lives as much as I value human ones. The answer, then, is to simply do my best to keep finding companies that are both vegan AND have good labor practices. This is very hard, but I can at least try.

      Thanks again.


      • Interesting! I can’t recall the last time I bought an Amy’s Organic product, because I cook from scratch so often, but I have always thought of the company more favorably than most of their competitors. Thanks for this sharing this insider perspective.

    • Thanks for pointing this out, Anonymous! My husband loves Amy’s vegan pizza and eats them on a regular basis. This information will definitely give us some food for thought the next time we grocery shop.
      In Gena’s defense, I think she makes a great point that sometimes we are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. I love how she points out, however, that when we know better, we do better! Thanks again for the info.

    • I just want to chime in here to point out that, while I have no personal knowledge of Amy’s manufacturing practices , we should remember that it is incredibly expensive to run a small company, especially one that strives to produce an organic product in a market saturated by cheap, poor-quality food. After the cost of materials and worker’s wages, there is money put in to maintaining the manufacturing plants, packaging and shipping the product, paying people in the corporate office to care for marketing, for payroll, for customer service…I’m sure there is more that I’m overlooking. After all that, it’s hardly a surprise that a frozen pizza costs $9.00, and while it would be great if things were different, I can’t imagine a company paying much more than minimum wage for a worker to make assembly-line pizza dough if they hope to make a profit without charging even more for their product. In case anyone suspects that I am some sort of corporate mole infiltrating this blog, I also worked with low-income urban students in an educational setting for several years, now work in an urban hospital in a immigrant-saturated neighborhood, and am hardly naive about the struggles of making ends meet at this sort of job. There are a lot of inequality issues at work in America, but I hesitate to make the leap that a company with low-paid workers and relatively high-priced pizza is automatically doing something morally objectionable.

      Anyway I don’t know what the solution is, certainly the only thing I know to propose at the moment is to make your own food from scratch which I imagine many readers of this blog are doing anyway…and you are certainly right that we should be mindful of all the choices we make. I just wanted to point out that there is another side (perhaps many other sides) to this issue. Thanks.

  18. Thank you, Gena! I’ve been trying to stick to a grocery budget and I appreciate any help I can get. I love keeping a stash of snacks in my office and these look perfect!

    Now that you’re back for the semester, I’d love to meet up with you sometime!

  19. Gena, these look delish! I buy raisins and sunflower seeds all the time, they are so cheap at TJ’s. My other cheap staples are carrots, bananas, frozen berries and red leaf lettuce…yum! The farm market usually has pretty good prices on greens. Back in my more cooked days, lentils and brown rice were great.

  20. I’m excited to try this recipe! Loving the budget-conscious ideas. In regards to going raw-er, I have been intrigued but I actually went to an acupuncturist yesterday because I’m at a loss for what else to do for my IBS. She said since I always have cold hands and feet, I should be eating as little raw food as possible. I’m not sure how I feel about that advice. I mean, right now it’s 12 degrees outside and soup sounds better than salad, but salad is a guaranteed, quick way to get my greens in (I’m a student too and making soup takes a lot more time than throwing together a salad). Any thoughts?

  21. Love the idea of a new “budget friendly” series on CR! These balls look like they’d be way more delicious and fun to eat than just handfuls of the ingredients that go into them.

  22. Yum! I love the budget aspect of these. And budgets aside, they sound delicious.

  23. Love low budget stuff! If only sunflower seed milk tasted as good as almond or hazelnut milk. Nope, it doesn’t. To me at least.

    I am still wondering if most raisins are really raw, I know you’d probably say who cares, but it matters to me because I am more willing to spend a little extra on something that is raw versus not. I’ve always kind of given raisins a pass but I’ve been questioning it lately just for curiousity sake, and it’s worth a question because I was eating a fair amount of raisins. Of course the raw doctors say no to all dried fruits for the most part.

    I am curious given your other post on One Green Planet if you would consider this “dessert”, because I would, and eat happily. I am pro raw dessert in modest amounts especially with natural fruit sweetener not agave.

    • I am certain pro-moderate raw dessert, too! And this is a dessert-ish recipe, yes. I just think there’s a big leap from enjoying and liking raw desserts, to making them the foundation of your whole diet 🙂

      Sunflower seed milk: TOTALLY agree. I wish. I do like pumpkin seed milk though.

  24. Sunflower seeds and raisins save my butt when the budget’s tight, for sure. Sunflower seed butter is a super delicious spread that I just discovered recently. Makes fantastic nut butter & fruit sandwiches.

  25. Firstly, I loved your article for OGP today. Succinct but informative and insightful! Also thanks for these tips. Though I make a decent amount of money as a student (lucky, I know), it’s still not comfortable by any means. And next year I will not be getting a stipend (taking a hit to pursue a dream), so I need to learn my lessons now!

  26. I just posted some peanut butter balls, too that are vegan, nobake, GF. And I can tell you, that each ball probably cost me less than a nickle to make, if that. It doesn’t have to be expensive to eat raw/vegan/GF. It could become expensive, easily, sure…but it doesn’t have to. Not trying to buy a whole bunch of really exotic GF flours when you can use almond flour or not trying to buy premade dehydrated kale chips when you can make them yourself in the oven or just eat a kale salad…simple swaps can keep costs way down. I am the queen of cheap 🙂

    Your balls look great! PB & J is always fab.

  27. I’m glad I’m not the only one who subs raisins for dates! I love dates, but they’re so dear, and that’s not even the organic ones. Organic raisins are much more cheap and I can buy them pretty much anywhere.

    I don’t know if you’ve posted something like this before, but could you consider maybe sharing how you shop? Like how often, and what kind of things you buy? (Then again that’s kind of personal and it would be a lot to type up, so I totally understand that you might not want to!) I am always looking for ideas on how to save money without greatly compromising the quality of the food I eat, or how to increase it without spending more. I’m going to try this half pumpkin half sunflower seed mix in more recipes, it seems like a great way to get a mild nutty taste without nuts 🙂

  28. This is awesome, this is just the recipe I needed. I hate having to choose food that I know isn’t great quality, simply because it is what I can afford. This is so perfect for me, thank you so much!

  29. Nice post. These look tasty so I’m definitely going to make some and try them. I was just wondering what I could roll them in for a little bit of extra crunch. I’m just a couple of months into the raw food lifestyle and am feeling really comfortable with it on the whole. I don’t buy into any of the drama and stories and tune in completely to my intuition for what is right for me. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Fiona Stolze

  30. Oh these look great! Although my boyfriend and I really enjoy making (and eating!) nut and fruit snack balls, the cost of walnuts can often get in the way. I love that I now have a much cheaper alternative! Thank Gena and keep up the budget friendly recipes!

  31. Wonderful! You know what else I would LOVE to see and get some help with? On-the-go foods. As a full time student and full time employee, I find time, rather lack thereof, being the biggest reason I eat junk.

  32. Loved the 5 tips post Gena! I found myself nodding regularly haha. I would love to hear your opinion on the whole low fat raw vegan vs high fat raw vegan diet. After half a year of leading a very high fat raw diet I read 80/10/10 by Douglas Graham and was terrified by the fact that I could be harming my health and that there are such split opinions in the raw food world. I have now struck, what I believe to be, a healthy balance by including cooked carbohydrates and reducing fat a bit. I would say that when new raw food enthusiasts discover the drastic differences of opinion in the raw food world it can be quite disconcerting!

  33. I have a similar recipe- and as a student, I can certainly understand the budge concern! It’s soo hard for me to choose which days or which produce I am going to buy organic and which ones that I simply cannot.
    I usually add dates to mine though, they aren’t too expensive here, and dried cranberries. But I must try raisins! And I find since I use mostly seeds, I can still through in a few almonds and pecans. I also use cinnamon, cocoa, whatever I want for flavour and roll them in shredded coconut!
    These are so great! 😀

  34. I would love to have you tag along with me for a trip to Whole Foods. 🙂

    I also spend quite a bit of my grocery budget on nuts and dried fruits, and I noticed recently that the costs have gone up, even at TJ’s. Buying sunflower seeds and raisins is definitely a good way to save some money, and peanuts are often more affordable (although I sometimes have trouble finding organic). These “snack balls” sound great!

  35. These sound marvelous! I can’t wait to make them! I’m also going to forward your recipe to my mother who has just become a vegan! Squeeee!!!

    I would LOVE it if these types of budget friendly recipes became a theme on your site. Not that anything you ever make is overly expensive. But I think a lot of times people assume that healthy vegan foods, and especially raw foods, are full of expensive ingredients, when they don’t have to be.

    Cheers, Gena!