I am a peanut butter devotee, and have been for basically ever. There is no time of day that peanut butter doesn't 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—all creamy, not crunchy, to keep it simple—to figure out which one was very best. Here's what we discovered:
The All-Natural, Separated Peanut Butters
These peanut butters claim "all-natural" or organic bonafides and have that thin (or thick, in some cases) slick of oil on top. They require stirring before spreading.
Justin's Classic Peanut Butter
Justin's started out great: It was super smooth and easy to combine the butter with the oil on top. It was pleasingly gold in color. It had a great, classic label. And all of us had tried Justin's peanut butter cups and were big fans. But licking the peanut butter off the spoon was a disappointment to say the least. It tasted oddly sweet, and extremely oily, leaving a slick coating on our tongues. We could see this one being good for baking, but that was about it.
Brad's Organic Smooth Peanut Butter
Brad's had a ton of oil on the top: So much so that it was hard to stir the butter without having the oil drip down the sides of the jar. Not great. But it really tasted like whole peanuts were used in the process—nut, husk, and shell—in a kind of bitter, kind of dusty sort of way. Alex described it as tasting "like the peanuts on the floor of Five Guys, but not in a bad way." It wasn't our favorite, but we wouldn't necessarily avoid it.
Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
The Smucker's was hard to stir, but once it was combined, this was our favorite in this category. It only has one ingredient—peanuts—and tastes like it. It was rich and pleasingly bitter. If you are a fan of peanut butter for the peanut taste, this is the jar for you. (We all went back for thirds of this one.)
Crazy Richard's 100% Peanuts Creamy Peanut Butter
While it was super easy to stir, Crazy Richard's peanut butter was basically liquid. You were better suited spooning it out that spreading it with a knife. As for the taste? Well, it was deeply unexciting. The peanut taste was lacking, and it had no other strong flavors to speak of. It was inoffensive, but not recommended.
Winner: Smucker's, by a long shot.
The All-Natural, No-Stir Peanut Butter
These jars were both organic, and didn't require any stirring. It was an easier way to enjoy "good-for-you" peanut butter.
MaraNatha Organic No Stir Creamy Peanut Butter
A health store favorite, MaraNatha was immediately intriguing. Clearly made by a company that also makes stir-required peanut butter, this one was definitely on the oily side. While we all agreed, this jar's sweetness would lend itself well to a PB&J, the gritty texture was off-putting. It was solidly okay, but nothing to write home about. Or, if you're more blunt and/or Gabbie, "There's no reason for this."
365 Organic Creamy Peanut Butter
This unassuming jar was our surprise favorite. Who woulda thought Whole Foods' house brand knew peanut butter so well? The perfect, spreadable texture, this peanut butter boasted perfect levels of sweet and salty. It had the rich peanut-y taste that adults will appreciate, but a smooth, easy texture that will appeal to kids. And us 20-somethings, too, frankly.
The winner: 365, hands down.
The Non-Stir Grocery Store Staples
These peanut butters are the ones that are easiest to find at just about every grocery store or bodega. They're the brands we grew up with, and the ones easiest to eat right out of the jar.
Reese's Creamy Peanut Butter
All three of us were ready to dismiss Reese's peanut butter, expecting it to taste more like the candy than anything we want to put on a sandwich. But we were wrong. While it was definitely one of the sweeter peanut butters, it wasn't offensive. The consistency was wonderfully creamy. We could imagine this being a great base for cookies, a peanut butter cheesecake, or even a buttercream. And we wouldn't hate to find it smeared on toast.
Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter
Skippy was super sweet—in a faux-caramely, fake way—but the aftertaste was bitter. It tasted nostalgic—"like the Lunchables version of peanut butter," said Alex. But it seemed liked that if we ate any more of it, we'd get a stomachache. Gabbie grew up on Skippy, and said, mildly shocked, "I can't believe I liked eating that for so many years." We'll pass on this one.
Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
With the disappointment of other childhood favorites fresh, I'll admit I felt nervous to try the peanut butter I grew up with. I didn't need to be. Jif was mildly salty with a well-balanced sweetness. It was "more natural tasting" than a lot of our other grocery store picks—which is to say, it actually tasted like peanuts. My childhood memories could remain intact.
Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator
Cute label aside, this pick had an almost disturbingly thick, heavy consistency. While the initial taste was a-okay—salty and appropriately peanut-y—there was a strange, brown sugar aftertaste that we didn't love. It was fine! But it won't turn into our go-to.
Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter
With a gritty texture, bitter flavor, and aspartame-y aftertaste, people actually said "ew" after tasting this contender. We'll pass. Forever.
Winner: Jif. Choosy moms are right.
But we were unanimous in our decision for overall winner: Whole Foods' 365 Organic Creamy Peanut Butter knows what's up.