The original Biscoff Spread, used for filling cookie sandwiches at Picky Palate.  The European name for Biscoff Spread is Speculoos (photo courtesy Dutch Shop).  Trader Joe’s three private label versions include original, crunchy and cocoa swirl (photo courtesy Baking Bites).  A favorite flavor, from Tumbador Chocolate.  Even health food stores sell cookie butter—as a protein boost (photo courtesy Nuts & More).
Where did the cookie butter craze originate? In Belgium!
THE HISTORY OF SPECULOOS SPREAD (CALLED BISCOFF SPREAD IN THE U.S.)
Cookie spread or cookie butter began as an entry in a contest sponsored by Belgium-based Lotus Bakeries.
Lotus is the maker of Speculoos (spice) brand cookies, known the world over (and called Biscoff in some countries). Els Scheppers, a contestant on the reality show The Inventors (De Bedenker), pulverized the cookies and mixed them into “the original speculoos pasta*.”
It wasn’t that far-fetched an idea, but it was a great one. Belgian parents (including Scheppers) were already making sandwichs of buttered bread, the butter topped with crushed Biscoff cookies.
She didn’t win the contest, but Lotus Bakeries approached her to obtain the exclusive rights to sell the Biscoff spread.
They are actually called speculoos (spice) cookies in Europe, but the name was deemed too hard for Americans to pronounce. Because the biscuits were so popular with coffee, the cookies were rebranded as Biscoff for the U.S. market. (It may look like peanut butter, but it’s nut-free.)
After its arrival on these shores, companies large and small jumped on the bandwagon. Home cooked created Biscoff cupcakes with Biscoff frosting (here’s the recipe).
Hershey’s and other large companies made cookie spreads. They were made in conventional cookie flavors, plus Chocolate Macaroon and Pumpkin Spice.
Even health-oriented stores sell it, manufactured from Nuts & More, a company that got Shark Tank funding. Their “High Protein + Peanut Spreads” include Toffee Crunch and White Chocolate, among other flavors.
*Pasta is derived from the Latin word for paste. In Europe it is used to describe foods from spaghetti (a paste of flour and water) to meat loaf (a paste of ground meat and fat to the fruit squares (pâte de fruit) that we call fruit gels.
COOKIE SPREAD/BUTTER VERSUS NUT BUTTER
Before we go further, let us emphasize that cookie butter is not a substitute for peanut [or other nut/seed] butter.
They may be touted as alternatives to nut butters, but that’s only in spreadability, not in nutrition. They are better compared to chocolate spreads. To avoid confusing consumers, all of the cookie-based spreads should be called cookie spreads, not cookie butters.
Natural nut butters are simply ground nuts and a bit of salt. Supermarket brands often add caloric sweetener, vegetable oils and stabilizers (mono and diglicerides
Nut butters have protein and fiber. Cookie butters do not—unless they so specify.
Large brands of nut butters have been headed in the direction of cookie butter (actually, it’s vice versa), with chocolate swirl and other flavors.
Nutella, a hazelnut and chocolate spread, is not much more nutritious than cookie butter. It has some protein fiber from the hazelnuts but lots of sugar. On their website, sugar is listed as the first ingredient, followed by palm oil. The two “good” ingredients, hazelnuts and cocoa powder, are third and fourth.
MAKE YOUR OWN COOKIE SPREAD
You can use any cookie that can be ground into a powder. This leaves out oatmeal raisin (but plain oatmeal is OK), chocolate chip, anything with nuts or a filling. Don’t despair if this eliminates your favorite: You can add these “textured” ingredients as mix-ins after the butter/spread is blended.
Biscoff or other spice cookies
Famous Chocolate Wafers or bake your own
Peanut butter cookies
Sugar cookies, snickerdoodles
Swedish thin cookies (Annas Swedish Thins, Cookie Thins, Moravian Cookies, etc.)