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.