Who wins the better (natural) peanut butter battle?

Which one turns PB from a food of desperation to one of pure nutty joy?

One of my favorite foods (next to frosting) is natural peanut butter. I’ll eat it on stuff, in stuff, but mostly on its own, and destroy a jar of it a week. People who don’t care for natural peanut butter say it’s too goopy and not sweet. True, but only if you’re used to eating super sweet stir-free commercial swill found bodega-wide (even Serious Eats didn’t care for the purist variety). I say ground peanuts don’t need all that unhealthy stuff to make them shine. My panel of butter judgers set out to find which common natural brands are the best for the price. I even tried my hand at a homemade version to see if it’s worth the cost.

THE PROCESS
Two broken blenders later and multiple jars of store-brand natural peanut butter chilling in my fridge, I called some friends in to do a Peanut Butter Challenge. I set up five different samples consisting of three natural peanut butter varieties, one jar of Skippy as the “control” and my own homemade spread. I chose natural peanut butters that were readily available and cost less than $5. Could the taste testers tell the difference? And which peanut butter was the biggest crowd pleaser?

In our taste test, we had five identical sample bowls, then tasted everything and took our own notes and compared the results. Lastly, we ranked our peanut butter samples from most to least favorite.

THE BEST
Key Foods Natural Creamy Peanut Butter,
$2.69
The panel agreed that the store-brand peanut butter was neither too sweet nor too salty. The Key Foods brand also scored high marks for its strong nutty flavor, minimal aftertaste and that it didn’t coat your mouth. Universally, everyone agreed that this peanut butter would probably be good in just about anything.

RUNNER UP
Brad’s Organic Peanut Butter, Smooth, $3.99
(Available at grocery stores, health food stores or at www.bradsorganic.com)
Brad’s peanut butter overall was highly rated as being very smooth, had a slightly smoky taste and naturally sweet but was second choice because stuck to your mouth more than the store brand peanut butter. Overall the crowd liked this peanut butter better though as it wasn’t as salty either. A good choice for pairing with sweet foods or on a sandwich.

A DISTANT THIRD
Maple Grove Farms Smooth Peanut Butter, $3.19
(Available at grocery stores, health food stores or online)
Most of the reviewers thought that this peanut butter had a strange odor with a slightly burnt (or fermented) taste, and one reviewer found it to be the greasiest peanut butter in the group. However, one lone reviewer ranked this peanut butter as a top choice due to the strong nutty flavor and that it was very well balanced in regards to the sweet to salty ratio.

Senor Jesus, patron saint of tasty peanut butter

DON’T EVEN BOTHER
Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter, $2.69
The resounding reviews were that Skippy was too creamy, too sweet and had a “processed” or “plastic” taste. I, however, gave this peanut butter a pretty high rating partially out of childhood nostalgia but mostly because I liked the undertones of toasted nuts and molasses. The group agreed that if left with a choice of buying this peanut butter or going without, they’d rather eat something else.

A FOR EFFORT, D FOR PRICE
Homemade peanut butter, $3-4
(depending on where you buy).
Granted, this peanut butter wasn’t finished properly because I burned out the motor on my blender mid-blending (twice), but the resounding reviews were gave high marks to the density of the homemade, which was much higher than any of the other samples. The panel also agreed that the nutty flavor was more intense on the than the store-bought varieties, which was another key selling point. The only downside is that this variety of peanut butter used an entire 16 oz jar or dry roasted peanuts to yield 8 ounces of finished product, which made it a lesser value than store-bought peanut butter, which comes in standard 16 oz jars.

IF YOU WANT TO TRY
Broken blenders aside, making your own peanut butter definitely has a “wow” factor while being fun and simple to do (just make sure to use a food processor instead). Here’s a crash course on how to make your own peanut butter and a simple recipe.

Basic Peanut Butter recipe

16 oz. roasted peanuts, unsalted

A mild flavored oil of your choosing (I like Sunflower Seed oil), just a little.

1. Chop the peanuts finely. Really. Even though you’re going to puree them, this is what burned out my blender. Learn from my experience or use a food processor.

2. Put all the nuts into your blender/food processor and chop until VERY fine, about a minute or so. Scrape down the sides of the bowl every so often.

3. Turn on the blender/food processor again and slowly drizzle in the oil to achieve the consistency you like for about 2 minutes. You don’t want to use too much oil or the peanut butter will break, resulting in a greasy, soup-like spread. When in doubt, keep it out.

4. Transfer the finished peanut butter to an airtight container and refrigerate it if you’re not going to use it immediately or if you like a firm peanut butter. Its good to go for a couple of months!

And that’s it. No chicanery and you could stir in any fancy components that you want to dress it up. In fact, you could do this with just about ANY nut you wanted to, or even soybeans (for those who are allergic).

8 Comment

  • Incisive, hard hitting information on this little known topic! (I’m not just saying that because I wrote the article. Okay, maybe I am.)

    Unprofessional Cookery

  • Great story! I am a devotee of natural PB (generally go with Trader Joe’s chunky), but it was cool to read about the taste test, and interesting that the generic brand came out on top! (Also: Mad props to Senor Jesus.)

  • Wow, I can’t believe PB tanked your blender.

    I’ve made PB in my Cuis food processor and it’s been easy-going. I used sesame oil and bought my peanuts in bulk from the food co-op so I think it was slightly cheaper!

  • Very interesting comparison test, just before going out to restock. I love crunchy natural peanut butter and generally eat it alone…YES! I like the natural kind which contains peanuts alone, nothing added: Ingredients: 100% peanuts.

  • I love Fresh Direct’s house-brand PB.

  • The best natural pb is when you freshly grind the honey roasted at whole foods. You’ll never look back.

  • Pingback: Is it time to stockpile peanut butter? | Brokelyn

  • Smucker’s organic lightly salted creamy (available at Target, Met Food, Stop & Shop & probably Key Foods. C-towns & Shoprites.