The Sunflower Lover’s Guide to Growing, Cooking, and Eating Summer’s Favorite Flower

The Sunflower Lover’s Guide to Growing, Cooking, and Eating Summer’s Favorite Flower

It’s nearly summer, which means it’s nearly sunflower season. And while there is arguably nothing more wholesome than driving out to a sunflower field to take in the beauty of these vibrant flowers, it’s also incredibly rewarding to grow them at home, too. And if you can’t do that, you can also celebrate the humble sunflower by snacking on sunflower butters or seeds, and cooking them into delicious vegan recipes, too. If you’re a sunflower lover, this guide is for you. 

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How to grow the perfect sunflower: 5 top tips

Before we get started, some good news: sunflowers are an easy flower to grow, if you know what you’re doing. Find some of our top tips for growing the perfect sunflower below.


1 Pick the right sunflower for you

If you want an impressive flower with varied colors that could grow up to 7 feet, an Autumn Beauty sunflower is a great choice. But if you don’t want a giant sunflower and you want something a little more compact, you’re likely better off choosing a dwarf variety. Sunspot, for example, reaches a maximum height of around 24 inches, and Elf reaches around 18 inches.

2 Find a sunny spot

The clue is in the name, but sunflowers thrive in the sun. If you want a show-stopping sunflower, you’ll need to choose the spot in your yard or garden that gets the sun for most of the day.

3 Plant at the right time, in the right soil

Sunflowers are a little bit fussy. Not only do they need all the sun they can get, but they also prefer to have well-draining soil, too. One way to ensure this is to loosen the soil where you’re going to plant your sunflower to a depth of about 2 feet, and then add compost to improve drainage and fertility. This pretty flower is best planted after the last frost of spring in your area.

4 Give plenty of water, but not too often

Sunflowers are thirsty plants, but only at first. The key is to water them deeply (keep the soil moist) but infrequently, and they should be happy. Once they are established in your garden, they’ll become more hardy and drought-tolerant.

5 Harvest mindfully

One of the best parts of growing sunflowers is sitting in the backyard and gazing at them, but a close second to that is getting to harvest their seeds (which you can use in some of the recipes below!). The best time to harvest sunflowers is when the back of the flower head is yellow and the seeds are plump and loose.

RELATED: Edible Flowers: Everything You Need to Know (Plus, 11 Vegan Recipe Ideas)

7 vegan recipes for sunflower lovers 

Once you’ve harvested your seeds (top tip: hang the flower heads upside down in a warm, dry place to dry completely before removing the seeds), it’s time to get cooking. Below are just a few of our favorite sunflower recipe ideas, but you can find plenty more recipe inspiration in our extensive recipe database.


1 Nutty Vegan Cinnamon Walnut-Pecan Granola

Mix your sunflower seeds with buttery walnuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds to make a delicious, hearty granola recipe. This recipe from the Plants First cookbook is arguably best served with a generous helping of coconut yogurt, a heaped tablespoon of cinnamon, and your favorite berries.
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2 Vegan Superseed Chocolate-Coated Rice Crispy Treats

These crispy treats from the Mostly Plant-Based cookbook come together with pumpkin, chia, and sunflower seeds, creamy cashew butter, and dark chocolate chips. They’re protein-packed, delicious, and set to be your new go-to sweet treat.
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VegNews.SunflowerTahiniAlfredo.CarynCarruthersCaryn Jeanne Carruthers

3 Vegan Tahini Alfredo Sauce

Craving an ultra-creamy pasta sauce? Look no further than this deliciously indulgent, nutritious, vegan tahini alfredo sauce from the Smorgasbowl cookbook, which is made with simple plant-based ingredients like sunflower seeds, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice.
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VegNews.PrimaveraRobin Robertson

4 Vegan Primavera Mac and Cheese

Sometimes, only a comforting mac and cheese will do. A simple garnish of sunflower seeds and basil takes this vegan version of the creamy pasta classic—from the Vegan Mac and Cheese cookbook—to the next level.
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VegNews.NoBakeCookiesMareya Ibrahim

5 No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe doesn’t call for sunflower seeds, but rather sunflower seed butter (which you can find out where to buy below!). From the Eat Like You Give A Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive cookbook, the no-bake cookies are unbelievably sublime. Honestly, we could eat the whole batch in one sitting.
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VegNews.SesameBroccoliNoodlesAshley McLaughlin

6 Vegan Sesame Ginger Broccoli Noodles

At the end of a long day, this pile of sesame ginger noodles—from the Fiber Fueled Cookbook—is guaranteed to fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied and nourished. It’s a simple dish, which comes together with plant-based ingredients like broccoli, garlic, tahini, apple juice, and chopped sunflower seeds.
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VegNews.SweetPotatoSaladWithTempeh.GenaHamshaw.800Gena Hamshaw

7 Vegan Sweet Potato Salad With Tempeh and Maple-Mustard Dressing

Toasted sesame seeds are the perfect topping for this sweet-and-salty salad, which is packed with protein (thanks to the tempeh) and nutritious vegetables, including sweet potatoes and baby arugula. Taken from the Power Plates cookbook, this is a dish you’re guaranteed to have on repeat.
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The best sunflower products 

While growing sunflowers and cooking with sunflower seeds is undeniably rewarding and satisfying, sometimes, it’s just easier and more convenient to get your sunflower fix from a store-bought product. There are plenty of delicious options to choose from—find a handful of our top picks below. 


1 SunButter Natural Sunflower Butter

Spread this creamy, natural sunflower butter from SunButter on crackers or toast, add it to your favorite smoothie recipe, or just scoop it out of the jar. It’s packed with protein (7 grams per serving) and it’s allergen-free, too.
Find it here

VegNews.sunflowerbutterdarkchocolate.88acres88 Acres

2 88 Acres Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

Calling all Nutella fans: we’ve just found your new favorite spread. This nut-free dark chocolate sunflower seed butter from 88 Acres is made with simple ingredients, including roasted sunflower seeds and organic chocolate, and it’s deliciously rich, smooth, and versatile.
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VegNews.sunflowerbuttercupsFree 2b

3 Chocolate Sunflower Butter Sun Cups

Peanut butter cups are tasty, but they’re not suitable for everyone. However, if you’ve got a nut allergy, Free2b proves you don’t have to miss out on this delicious snack with its creamy, addictive Sunflower Butter Sun Cups. They’re also lower in sugar, too.
Find it here


4 Lakanto Sugar-Free Cookie Butter Sunflower Spread

Cookie butter and sunflower seeds? It’s a match made in heaven. This delicious spread from Lakanto is sweetened with monkfruit instead of sugar, and it’s free of gluten, too. Enjoy it as a snack, in a smoothie, on a pancake, or you could even bake with it—the options are endless.
Find it here


5 Smackin’ Cinnamon Churro Roasted Jumbo Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are tasty on their own, sure, but when they’re flavored like a cinnamon churro, they are truly hard to beat. But if churros aren’t your thing, Smackin’ makes its low-sodium sunflower seed snacks in a range of flavors. Try varieties like Backyard BBQ and Kickin’ Dill (just watch out for the varieties that contain cheese).
Find it here

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