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Taste Test: Peanut Butter

Taste Test: Peanut Butter


From creamy to crunchy to natural options, here are our spread-worthy picks.

Besides crunchy and creamy versions, you can find peanut butters labeled “low-sugar,” “low-sodium,” “no trans fats,” even “made with Valencia peanuts.” Regardless of the touts, most are made the same way: Peanuts are roasted, ground with salt and sugar, then mixed with an added fat component to prevent separation. During testing, we found some spreads so pasty we got an upper-body workout stirring them; other “spreads” ripped bread. A few had the aroma and flavor of just-ground glory―abundantly peanutty and perfect for spooning right out of the container. In the end, several staffers decided to ditch their household brand for these winners.

BEST CRUNCHY―TIE!: Jif Extra Crunchy
Price: $2.59 (18 ounces)
Testers said: Raters loved this not-too-sweet, not-too-salty crunchy spread. If you like a lot of peanuts, this is the one for you. Cookies made with this butter were chewy, but crisp on bottom with good peanutty flavor. Ideal for sandwiches, on crackers, in a nutty sauce for cold soba noodles, or as a base for a curry paste.

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BEST CRUNCHY―TIE!: Skippy Super Chunk
Price: $2.75 (16.3 ounces)
Testers said: Raters loved the ultra-smooth butter portion and the pleasantly salty flavor. Besides the abundance of nuts, the peanut aroma and appealing caramel color won us over. All these components combined to yield a stand-out peanut butter cookie with good saltiness and crisp, appealingly crumbly cookie. Good for baking, ice cream, dessert sauces, satay sauce, or to thicken a winter vegetable stew.

BEST CREAMY: Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter
Price: $2.75 (16.3 ounces)
Testers said: The roasted peanuts on the ingredient list are evident in the heady aroma and balanced flavor. Testers thought this sample was a touch oily, but spread the best. The spread produced a tasty cookie with a short texture. Makes the perfect peanut butter sandwich, but can turn into a savory dressing when mixed with soy, vinegar, and crushed red pepper to serve over sugar snap peas, broccoli, or a stir-fry. For a sweet version, mix with honey and mayonnaise and use as a fruit salad dressing. Mix with chile paste with garlic (sambal oelek) or sriracha for an easy sauce for roast meats.

BEST NATURAL CRUNCHY: Krema Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter
Price: $3.29 (16 ounces)
Testers said: The label claims no added salt, sugar, or hydrogenated oils, and we didn’t miss the sweetness or saltiness in this sample. Raters liked the hunks of peanuts, the crunch, and the real peanut flavor. The cookie sample was chewy and sweet. Serve atop toast, waffles, or pancakes drizzled with honey. Stir into ground chicken as a binder for meatballs or burgers. Use to make fudge or blond brownies.

BEST NATURAL CREAMY: Adams 100% Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
Price: About $4 (16 ounces)
Testers said: Even though you expect a little graininess from natural butters, with a good stir, this sample’s consistency smoothed out nicely. Surprisingly, this butter produced an incredibly short-textured cookie with a mild peanut flavor. (The Test Kitchen chef reported that the cookies spread slightly and baked a bit longer than regular peanut butter cookies.) Substitute for tahini to make baba ghanoush, tarator, or hummus. Stir into hot oatmeal to boost flavor and texture.

From the Test Kitchen: Tips for working with peanut butter

  1. Keep it real. Full-fat peanut butters trump reduced-fat flavor, and they supply heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and 7 grams of protein per serving. (Choose butters without trans fats.) Reduced-fat spreads ­offer little calorie savings, and you’re ditching good-for-you fats.
  2. Stir it up. The fat in natural peanut butters will likely separate. If you’re a natural peanut butter junkie, you may want to shell out $10
    for Grandpa Witmer’s Old Fashioned Natural Peanut Butter Mixer (witmerproducts.com).
  3. Check the date. Fats are susceptible to spoiling, which leaves an off flavor. Check the “use by” date and store as directed by the label.
  4. Bake with care. Generally, the oilier the butter, the more baked goods spread. Add a little extra baking time when using natural butters.

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HOW WE TEST

Method: We held four blind tastings of creamy, crunchy, natural creamy, and natural crunchy peanut butters (16 in all) on 4 separate days. To see how the samples fared in baking applications, we tested them in a standard cookie recipe.

Nutritional guidelines: We evaluated peanut butters that had 190 to 210 calories and 15 to 17 grams of fat per 2-tablespoon serving. None contained more than 3 grams of saturated fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of sugars. We did not rate any spreads made with partially hydrogenated oils or palm oils.


We Tasted The "World's Best Peanut Butter"—Here's the Honest Truth

Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

Here at Eat This, Not That!, we really, really love peanut butter. We love learning about all the different health benefits of peanut butter, diving deep into the daily habits of eating peanut butter, and even tracking down the best tasting one. Yet after so many of our taste tests and our research, we were sleeping on a small peanut butter company located in New Zealand known for having the "world's best peanut butter." After winning many awards and raving reviews, it was time for us to know the truth. Is Fix & Fogg truly the world's best peanut butter?

Before even tasting the product, I reached out to the company to ask a few questions. More importantly, where did the title of "world's best" come from? And what makes your peanut butter different from the rest?

Their answers did not disappoint.


I Ranked 28 Peanut Butters In A Blind Taste Test

What was once a dream turned into a sluggish nightmare.

Some of you may think working in food media is a dream. And some days, you're absolutely right. Many people look at Julia and wish they lived her life, eating all the best lobster rolls and trying the entire Cheesecake Factory menu. But you know, after trying to be Julia for just one day by trying 28 kinds of peanut butter (. if you don't know already, I love peanut butter), I can tell you firsthand that even the dreamiest fantasies will slowly slink into a dull nightmare.

Which isn't to say I didn't love the experience. Through the processed and classic to the natural crunchy and smooth, to the final frontier of fancy embodied, I received each spoonful with the greatest anticipation. I needed to know: Who made the most enjoyable peanut butter? Did I like creamy or crunchy more? How could one jar cost almost five times as much as the other? And does the price tag align with the quality?

I needed a two-day break from my most beloved food product after the epically long taste test, but my love for this nectar of the legume gods will burn forever eternal. After numerous upsettingly wrong guesses and surprise favorites, I present to you my personal winners.

Best "Classic": HomePlate Creamy Peanut Butter Spread

In this category, we tasted the classic peanut butter spreads that most of us grew up on: the Jif, the Skippy, the smooth, smooooooth spoonfuls that tasted like peanut frosting, pure comfort, true nostalgia. Usually, these jars have some sort of added stabilizing fats to prevent the oil separation that occurs in natural peanut butter.

Back in the day, that stabilizing agent used to be mainly hydrogenated vegetable oils, which contain trans fat, which we now know to not be very healthful for us to ingest. For this taste test, I opted for the more contemporary alternative: palm oil. Unfortunately, palm oil's prevalence in many of these packaged foods has led to several environmental concerns. The increased demand for palm oil leads to rising monocultures which then triggers a ripple effect: deforestation leads to loss of natural habitat leads to diminishing biodiversity soil degradation, pollution, and increased greenhouse gas emissions are all side effects of intensifying palm oil production. If you'd like to read more on this matter, Alicia Kennedy has a wonderful newsletter devoted to this topic.

Having said that, based on a poll I put out on Instagram, many of us still cling to the undeniable appeal of these classic spreads. Who doesn't like eating borderline frosting? What surprised me was that my favorite jar was also a jar I'd never tasted before. HomePlate was created by former professional baseball players: "Made by athletes for athletes," the jar states.

Well, I'm no athlete, but I did quite like this "adventure ready" and "tasty by nature" treat that is proudly "made in the USA" and contains "no hydro oils" (all quotes from the jar's very cute label). It uses palm fruit oil and unlike other more stabilized offerings in this first round, was relatively runny. Unctuous, one might say, in the best way possible. It contains sugar and salt but is just short of both to feel like junk food. Somehow, it treads that fine line between "nourishing food" and "guilty pleasure" perfectly.


Trader Joe’s offering fell right in the middle of the pack, with most tasters agreeing that it had a pleasing texture and a classic, well-balanced flavor.

Our panel found Jif to be everything they look for in a classic peanut butter: smooth, creamy, not too thin or too thick, and well-balanced in both saltiness and sweetness. The molasses also added a nice depth of flavor.


I Tried 11 Peanut Butters and Here's the Best One

I am a peanut butter devotee, and have been for basically ever. There is no time of day that peanut butter doesn&apost sound like the right call, or a great foundation for a meal. I will spread it on toast or rice cakes, smear it on apple slices, and mix it into curries and sauces and marinades. At this point, peanut butter is likely coursing through my veins.

The nutty spread has a rich history, going back to the Ancient Aztecs and Incans, who roasted peanuts and ground them into a paste. But peanut butter as we think of it today made its debut in 1884, when Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut paste. Eleven years later, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yep, him again) patented a peanut butter making process. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, patented a peanut butter making machine. Even when it comes to creating peanut butter, it takes a village.

The same is true of discovering the best peanut butter. I joined forces with Gabbie, our intern extraordinaire, and Alex, our excellent videographer, to try 11 different kinds of peanut butter𠅊ll creamy, not crunchy, to keep it simple—to figure out which one was very best. Here&aposs what we discovered:


In the past we’ve also judged other types of peanut butter, here are the results…

Best crunchy peanut butter: Biona organic crunchy peanut butter, £14.98, 1kg, Amazon

Comments: Perhaps it’s the fact that Biona doesn’t use any additives (such as palm fat and emulsifiers) that makes this peanut butter special. Rich, salty and definitely the crunchiest of the bunch, we’d love it on our toast any day of the week. It’s also got a refreshingly short ingredients list.

Best palm oil-free peanut butter: Meridian natural crunchy peanut butter, £8.29, 1 kg, Amazon

Palm oil is a controversial issue, and as such products that exclude it are on the rise. We tasted five palm oil-free butters, all of which had separated slightly due to the lack of oil. Just give them a stir before eating.

Meridian’s crunchy peanut butter was our favourite – they’re one of the few producers that leave the peanut skins on for roasting. It’s made from peanuts and nothing else (not even salt), which accounts for the clean and wholesome flavour. Honestly, it made us feel good inside.

Best supermarket peanut butter: Lidl’s McEnnedy ‘American Way’ smooth peanut butter

We loved it in the ‘smooth’ category, and we picked it out again in the ‘supermarket’ line-up. A real winner.


White sourdough

Waitrose 1 White Sourdough 400g, £2.49, waitrose.com
Half-hearted slashes. As much hole as it is crumb. Not overly tangy and the texture is a bit dry. It would probably make great toast.
★★★

Taste the Difference San Francisco Style Sourdough 400g, £1.50, sainsburys.co.uk
Misshapen, looks like one of those tear and share breads. Quite fluffy and tight for a sourdough. Very sour… a bit too tangy for me.
★★

Marks & Spencer Oak Smoked Sourdough 400g, £1.90, marksandspencer.com
A tale of two breads - a crunchy, maybe slightly overbaked outside and then a fluffy generic inside. Tastes like smoked ham… bizarre.

Asda Sourdough Batard 450g, £1, asda.com
One side has a great tan but the other is a bit flabby. I don’t get the point of sourdoughs that don’t taste sour.


Taste Test: Peanut Butter - Recipes

We tested seven leading brands.

Ask a dozen Americans to name some foods that they can’t live without, and we bet that at least a few will mention peanut butter. It goes without saying that the smooth and creamy (or chunky, if that’s your thing) spread was one of the best things to ever encounter a slice of bread, but it has so many other culinary applications — from pie to Thai food — that it’s nothing short of a culinary miracle. And it’s also great right out of the jar. But which of the top-selling brands of peanut putter actually tastes the best? We put seven to the test, and the winner might surprise you.

Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t George Washington Carver who invented peanut butter it was actually patented by an inventor named Marcellus Gilmore Edison in 1884. John Harvey Kellogg (of breakfast cereal fame) served the stuff at his sanitarium at around the turn of the twentieth century, and in 1922 a chemist named Joseph Rosefield devised a technique for preventing the oil from separating from the peanut butter: adding partially hydrogenated oil, a process still in use today. In 1928, he licensed his process to the company that used it to create Peter Pan peanut butter, and in 1932, he launched his own peanut butter brand, Skippy. (Rosefield also invented crunchy peanut butter — seriously, why isn’t there a statue of this guy somewhere?) In 1955, Procter and Gamble launched a slightly sweeter competitor, which they named Jif (Jif contains molasses, while Skippy doesn’t).

Today, a handful of peanut butter brands are nationally available, and they’re divided into two camps: traditional brands like Jif and Skippy (which contain trans fat-laden hydrogenated oils), and more expensive “natural” varieties, which don’t contain hydrogenated oils and usually require some stirring due to oil separation. We tried both varieties, seven in total, and judged them blind on creaminess, texture and consistency, sweetness, saltiness, roasted peanut flavor, and overall enjoyment factor. Our panel of tasters was given the option of sampling the peanut butter on its own or on a Ritz cracker most did both.


Ongoing research needed

The investigators, who published their study in 2013, said follow up research would be needed.

However, a follow-up study in 2014 at the University of Pennsylvania could not replicate their results. The second research team found no difference in the ability of 15 patients with Alzheimer’s to smell peanut butter in their left versus their right nostrils.

“This highlights the scientific importance of studies being repeated and refined by other researchers in different patient populations,” says Dr. Wint. “Intriguing results don’t always hold true across all study populations.”

Research continues on Alzheimer’s disease as well as on mild cognitive impairment.


The Results

8. Smucker’s Natural – $3.99

Half of the peanut butters we tested claimed to be “natural” (made without hydrogenated oils), but this one was visibly different. Even after several stirs, the oils remained separated, and the texture was too grainy. It takes an acquired taste to appreciate this peanut butter.

Taster Quotes:
“Really oily and salty. Too runny and not good for dipping.”
“After getting over the whole separated oil factor, I know it’s less sweet than the others. It’s less homogeneous in texture.”
“It’s my favorite one because I like natural peanut butter.”

7. Valu Time – $1.67

As the cheapest peanut butter Harris Teeter had to offer, Valu Time deserved a chance in the lineup. The participants were not impressed, and we decided it’s worth the extra dollar for a better brand of peanut butter. Lesson learned: leave this one on the rack.

Taster Quotes:
“Very sticky, wow.”
“Kind of bland. It also looks too orange.”
“Dry and flavorless.”

6. Peter Pan Natural – $2.99

I’d never heard of Peter Pan before this taste test, but it’s the third largest peanut butter competitor after Skippy and Jif. The flavoring was a little off, and some participants were dissatisfied.

Taster Quotes:
“Not as flavorful as the others, but not bad.”
“Really peanutty. Tastes like I’m eating peanuts.”
“No. Just no.”

5. Harris Teeter Generic Brand – $2.49

For a generic grocery store brand, this peanut butter fared well. It had great consistency and creaminess, according to taste testers. Could store brand possibly outshine our name brand favorites? Almost, but not quite.

Taster Quotes:
“Not impressed. This one for sure isn’t my favorite.”
“Ridiculously smooth. I like it.”
“Not that salty, tastes like what I eat normally.”

4. Skippy – $3.29

Growing up, I thought Skippy was the peanut butter for cool kids—you know, the ones who rode bikes without helmets. When Duke Spoon members tried it, the flavor was reminiscent of childhood but surprisingly unsatisfying. Many noted it tasted too sugary and a bit artificial.

Taster Quotes:
“This is definitely Skippy or Jif.”
“It tastes fatty, but it’s definitely growing on me as I eat more of it.”
“Smooth but a little dry. Very obviously Skippy.”

3. Jif – $2.99

I grew up eating Jif, so naturally, I was disappointed when it didn’t win first place. Tasters said it was notably sweeter than all the others. The impeccable creaminess was a plus, but the flavor was a bit overbearing.

Taster Quotes:
“Nice and creamy.”
“Very salty and sweet. The flavors are a little overwhelming.”
“It’s okay. Really nutty.”

2. Jif Natural – $2.99

Jif Natural had a pleasant flavor combination without the intense sweetness of the other peanut butters. Its unusual stickiness was appreciated, and it paired well with the pretzels and bananas.

Taster Quotes:
“Wow, it’s 100% my favorite. I really like the after-stick effect.”
“I could eat this all day.”
“Not as sweet as the others, but that’s the best part about it.”

1. Skippy Natural – $3.29

Skippy Natural had a harmonious blend of sweetness and creaminess. This one was by far the winner, with multiple tasters declaring it as the favorite. I’d never tried Skippy Natural before the taste test, but I’m never turning back.

Taster Quotes:
“I’m really passionate about this one”
“Great consistency, not too sticky. Kind of melts in your mouth.”
“The perfect amount of sweetness.”

So there you have it—Skippy Natural takes first place. The real question now remains, will choosy moms still choose Jif?

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