Sunflower butter-packed "sunshine sauce" is the creamy, earthy condiment of your dreams

The richness of coconut cream mixes with roasted sunflower seed butter for a filling summer sauce

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published August 22, 2021 5:30PM (EDT)

Sunshine Sauce (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Sunshine Sauce (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

I'm skeptical about a lot of stuff associated with restrictive diets, but one good thing that came out of the Whole-30 craze of the 2010s was my introduction to sunshine sauce. 

Within the confines of some trendy elimination diets that eschew legumes, sunflower seed butter is a symbol for deprivation, a poor substitute for full-fat peanut butter. But in sunshine sauce, it's the basis for a creamy, complex condiment. At its most basic, sunshine sauce is a whipped blend of sunflower seed butter, lime juice, coconut milk, ginger and a hit of garlic. Sometimes, recipes call for the addition of some kind of spice — minced jalapeño, cayenne peppers, bird eye chilis — and perhaps other ingredients like lemongrass or even a tiny drizzle of tamarind paste. 

It's a play on sambal kacang and bumbu kacang, Indonesian sauces made from ground, fried and roasted peanuts (and sometimes chilis), often known simply as "peanut sauce" in the States and served alongside satay, a dish composed of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat. It's really a perfect sauce —  salty, a little sweet, acidic and packs some heat. 

But the substitution of sunflower seed butter gives the sauce a really distinct roasted, earthy and occasionally slightly bitter flavor that pairs great with grilled meats, as well as lettuce wraps, rice bowls, salads and as a complement for roasted vegetables. 

Obviously, it's perfect for diners with peanut allergies, but it's also flavorful and versatile enough that it can be enjoyed simply as a nuanced, spicy-sweet dip. This version is a little richer than the typical Keto versions — thanks largely to the addition of coconut cream and a sprinkle of brown sugar. 


Recipe: Sunshine Sauce 
Makes ⅔ cup


1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon white miso paste
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 jalapeño, de-seeded
1 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
¼  cup coconut cream 
2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar
Salt to taste 


1. Combine the ingredients in a blender and pulse until completely smooth (if needed, add a tablespoon of water at a time until blended). Add salt to taste.

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By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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Condiment Satay Saucy Sunflower Butter Sunflower Seed Sunshine Sauce Vegan Vegetarian