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.
While we’re big fans of Justin’s peanut butter cups, the brand’s Classic Peanut Butter just wasn’t our thing. It was so thin and runny that it could be poured out of the jar, and even though our panel appreciated the fact that it tasted natural (the only ingredients are roasted peanuts and palm oil) it was also bland and desperately in need of a little saltiness and sweetness. We also weren’t big fans of the grainy texture.
All the way on the other end of the spectrum, Peter Pan’s offering was much too thick and was decidedly lacking in real roasted peanut flavor.
We found Skippy’s peanut butter to be nothing special, but did appreciate its texture and spreadability. Several panelists found it to be a touch too salty, however; with 150 milligrams per serving, it contains more salt than any other brand we tried.
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.
Smart Balance was the taste test’s real dark horse. It tastes strongly of roasted peanuts and had a unique consistency that was slightly looser than the others (besides Justin’s), but in a good way. It also derives some of its sweetness from molasses. A couple other plusses: It contains no hydrogenated oils, and flaxseed oil adds omega-3s. We’d buy this one again in a heartbeat.
The near-universal favorite was Smooth Operator from Peanut Butter & Co. It had a smooth and silky consistency, a natural peanutty flavor, and a good balance of sweetness and salt — and it tasted great right out of the jar. And with its only ingredients being peanuts, dried cane syrup, palm oil, and salt, it contains no trans fats and lets the natural flavor of roasted peanuts really come through.