My editor, Steve, has a lot of hare-brained ideas — from having me taste every Cheesecake Factory cheesecake to ranking all the grocery store alfredo sauces. Thus it’s with good reason that I approach most ideas he pitches me with a certain amount of trepidation. What new gut trauma will this week bring?
But when he laid out his latest pitch — blind tasting and ranking every supermarket peanut butter I could find — I was cautiously optimistic. Unlike jarred alfredo sauce (which, I will reiterate once again, is both a revolting and altogether unnecessary product that I would never purchase nor consume of my own accord), peanut butter is an American pantry staple that I both consume and enjoy. Not just the fancy stuff either. To me, peanut butter is kind of like ketchup — I don’t need or want it to taste more like the main ingredient. There’s an ideal balance to the processed stuff that I’ve come to know and love that’s hard beat.
In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by the assignment. And then I actually went to the grocery store. Mother of God, do you know how many different brands of peanut butter there are? Creamy, crunchy, all-natural, unsalted, unsugared, dark roasted, unblanched… who knew such a simple product could spawn such endless variation? Is there some health benefit to an unblanched peanut I was not aware of? I didn’t even know peanuts in peanut butter were blanched. (And for that matter, who is Blanche!?)
There are dozens of types of peanut butter. Maybe hundreds. Not even including all the almond, cashew, sunflower seed, and other nut butters. Just keeping track of which ones I’d already bought or still needed to buy turned into a game of “Guess Who?”
Almost immediately, I decided to limit this tasting to creamy rather than crunchy. This would lower my PB load from something like 60+ peanut butters to more like 30. My reasoning here, beyond basic laziness, was that most people either like creamy or crunchy — pitting them against each other wouldn’t tell us much beyond the personal preference of the taster. I generally like creamy, so I chose creamy. Even so, one or two crunchy style jars snuck in here, for the simple reason that trying to read this many peanut butter labels and their seemingly infinite modifiers tends to make one go a little crazy.
A Note On My Method:
For this tasting, I simply put each peanut butter (or more accurately, had my wife, generously volunteering her time to assist me with this, put them all) on a small spoon and tasted each. I had milk and water to try to refresh my palate between tastes, but peanut butter is so sticky that a true cleanse wasn’t really possible. Still, I made my best effort.
There are a handful of different considerations for peanut butter, all depending how you like to eat it. Do you normally spread it on toast? Eat it in a classic (untoasted) peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or something else, like scooped onto some slices of apple (the most common peanut butter use in my house) or celery, ants-on-a-log style? There are so many peanut butter uses (smoothies, on a finger Ted Lasso-style, etc.) that we just figured straight peanut butter on a spoon was the fairest way to judge.
Notwithstanding the fact that I genuinely like peanut butter, I felt worse after this taste testing than I have after any other. I needed a nice long nap and my stomach didn’t feel quite right for the next couple days. I would… not recommend tasting 31 peanut butters. As a coda to the experience, one of the peanut butters I sampled got recalled for a salmonella outbreak. I don’t think I got salmonella but it wasn’t great.
31. Natural Way Peanut Butter With Olive Oil
Price: $4.99 from Sprouts
Original Notes (tasted blind):
Looks: This one slid off the spoon though it didn’t settle much. It looks more like chunk-style even though it isn’t.
Smells: Decent peanutty smell on the nose.
Tastes: Like unsweetened vegetable oil? What the hell. I actually went “blegh” and wanted to spit it out. What the f*ck even is this? I hope it doesn’t get worse than this.
I assume there are some health/environmental benefits to eating this disgustingly oily, near-flavorless “peanut butter” that has no sugar and loudly proclaims that it’s made from olive oil on the jar. Because there sure aren’t any taste benefits. True, this one doesn’t have palm oil, so the orangutans are safe, but… at what cost??
This was more like bad, partially congealed oil than peanut butter.
This one makes me feel like Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about dry cleaning. “Hey, you know that non-hydrogenated oil you used? What if we, I dunno, hydrogenated it a little, just to see how it feels.”
30. Trader Joe’s Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter Made From Unblanched Peanuts (Sample 31)
Price: $2.29 at Trader Joe’s
Looks: Soupy, light-colored, loose, and dripping. Sort of a brindle pattern.
Smells: Roasty/pasty on the nose, something vaguely artificial in there.
Tastes: Woof, another glue trap, as bad the last one but with even worse flavor. God this one sucks so bad. It tastes like they ground up a bunch of those papery sacks around the peanut rather than the peanut itself. This is like the “oops, all shells!” of peanut butters.
Again, I suppose there’s some health benefit to eating unsalted, oily, goopy, flavorless peanut butter. But it’s not enough to justify eating this. Maybe in stew? A smoothie? Whatever you add this to is going to have to provide the sugar and salt. I dunno.
It’s a mess, has no body to it, and tastes bad.
29. Once Again Unsweetened Creamy Peanut Butter (Sample 30)
Price: $9.49 at Whole Foods
Looks: Soupy, light-colored, loose, and dripping. A little darker, like coppery brown, and uniform in color.
Smells: A little more roasty than the last, but pretty mild on the nose.
Tastes: Super roasty taste, but sticks to my mouth to an almost insane degree. This is like the ultimate glue trap. I don’t understand how the soupiest, loosest ones also stick to your mouth the most (…in bed).
True, I’m biased by the fact that my conception of “peanut butter” was formed by eating the sweetened, salted, homogenized version of it, but I also don’t know what the upside of this version is. It has the taste and texture of partially digested peanuts, which doesn’t really equal “peanut butter” in my mind.
28. Sprouts Organic Unsweetened And Unsalted (Sample 17)
Price: $2.69 at Sprouts
Looks: Texturally this one is a disaster. It’s like pure oil, almost like peanut-infused olive oil. Very light in color too.
Smells: Doesn’t smell that strong either.
Tastes: It’s weirdly super sweet, and as thin as it is it kind of just sticks to my mouth. It’s like eating sweet tahini.
This one definitely won the award for worst texture, it wouldn’t even stay on a spoon. Its ingredients list consists of just one ingredient: organic peanuts. Which is… good, I guess? Points for simplicity, certainly, but I feel like maybe I could just chew up some peanuts for a better effect.
27. Trader Joe’s Organic Peanut Butter No Salt (Sample 29)
Looks: Soupy, light-colored, loose, and dripping. Some darker colored flecks in there. No body.
Smells: Doesn’t really smell like much.
Tastes: There’s a little sweetness in there, but mostly bland with mild roastiness. Sticks to my mouth, Texture is a disaster.
Again, I know I’m biased by having grown up on the processed form of peanut butter, but I don’t know what the purpose of this product is. It’s an oily disaster that coats your entire mouth.
From my notes: “I would rather use this as a household lubricant than eat it.”
26. Peanut Butter & Co, No Sugar Added Peanut Butter (Sample 4)
Price: $3.99 from Sprouts
Looks: Appears to be non-homogenized, but still has some body to it, which is nice. Otherwise, shiny, medium brown.
Smells: Maybe my senses are blown out, but I can hardly smell this one.
Tastes: Woof, this must be one of the no sugar added ones? Awful. It’s just texture in my mouth and nothing else. Maybe in hummus? No thanks.
If you’re on some kind of no-sodium diet, how long does it take before things like this taste like anything? That’s a no from me, dog. For the record, this one and the next two entries had the same score so they’re all technically tied.
25. Full Circle Market Organic No Stir Peanut Butter (Sample 10)
Price: $4.99 at SaveMart
Looks: Kind of a… cow pie texture? Like it’s homogenized, but also slightly aerated.
Smells: Like peanuts, not strong in any direction.
Tastes: There’s a grittiness to this that cuts the creaminess of the homogenization somewhat. It’s like there are whole crystals in there (salt? sugar?). It’s more of a cookie dough texture. Yet It’s not sweet enough, or creamy enough, or roasty enough. And there’s an artificial aftertaste, like fake sugar or something. More “off” than bland.
No, thank you.
At least you don’t have to stir this one (I refuse to stir my peanut butter, that’s just where I draw the line) but that’s about all I can say for it.
24. Trader Joe’s Creamy Salted Peanut Butter from Unblanched Peanuts (Sample 24)
Price: $2.29 at Trader Joe’s
Looks: Darker, but also loose to the point that it’s coming off the spoon and pooling on the plate.
Smells: I get a bit more roast from this one than standard.
Tastes: Maximum roast, maximum salt, no sweetness, and the texture sucks. This one is a salt bomb.
The most shocking thing about this one is that the addition of salt only scored it half a point higher. But just because something has salt doesn’t mean it’s the right amount of salt. For the record, it has the same amount of sodium as standard Jif and a little less than standard Skippy, but it definitely tasted saltier.
23. Sprouts Creamy Unsweetened Peanut Butter (Sample 27)
Price: $2.69 at Sprouts
Looks: Super, super loose and light, barely any stayed on the spoon.
Smells: Doesn’t smell like much.
Tastes: This one doesn’t stay on the spoon and it’s kind of a huge mess, but at least it’s seasoned okay and tastes like roasty peanuts. Maybe a bit much on the salt. What a mess.
Is there a person out there who enjoys peanut butter with this texture? Who hurt you?
22. Jif No Added Sugar Creamy (Sample 9)
Price: $3.99 at SaveMart
Looks: Very smooth, tight homogenized look, almost plasticky.
Smells: Barely anything to smell.
Tastes: Nice mouthfeel but missing… everything? This is more like the idea of peanut butter.
Texturally, this one is pretty close to ideal for me, but the lack of sugar kills it. Taking sugar away from Jif is sort of like that scene in Superman where he gives up his powers to marry Lois Lane and gets his ass kicked by some trucker in a diner. Oops, he’s just some nerd now.
21. Santa Cruz Organic No Stir Crunchy Dark Roasted Peanut Butter (Sample 5)
Price: $7.49 at Sprouts
Looks: Shiny, homogenized texture. It looks plasticky, somehow. Pretty tight consistency.
Smells: Heavily roasty smell on this one.
Tastes: Accidentally bought a crunchy one, I guess? This tastes like peanuts, which is nice, but I sorta wish it was sweeter.
This was one of the crunchy ones that accidentally snuck in there. I doubt the smooth variety would’ve fared any better in the taste test though — the issue was seasoning. Texturally it was fine.
20. Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned Peanut Butter (Sample 20)
Price: $5.69 at Von’s.
Looks: Super oily and spilling off the spoon. Loose. Rarely a positive adjective.
Smells: Nice roasty peanut smell.
Taste: I sort of only taste the roast and it sticks to my mouth without dissolving. Tastes like health food.
“Laura Scudder” sounds like the name of a lady who would make a tasty, homecooked meal, and maybe have a pie gently cooling on her windowsill. And then you look at the actual product and it looks less like actual peanut butter than what happens when a mama bird eats some peanut butter and tries to feed it to her chicks.
19. 365 Organic Creamy Peanut Butter No Sugar Added (Sample 21)
Price: $6.89 at Whole Foods
Looks: Light-colored, very homogeneous. Stays on the spoon even if I turn it upside down — passes the anti-gravity test!
Smells: Sweet, somehow? Not a strong peanut smell.
Tastes: Very melt in your mouth, and tastes much more roasty than it looks or smells. But it has something artificial tasting about it, like fake sugar or something. This one somehow tastes both too natural and too processed. Weird in a way I haven’t experienced yet.
This one lists only peanuts, palm oil, and sea salt as its ingredients, so I’m not sure why I thought it tasted artificial. Texturally it was pretty ideal. My suggestion? Add some sugar next time.
18. Peanut Butter & Co, Smooth Operator (Sample 26)
Price: $3.99 at Sprouts
Looks: Tight texture, passes the zero G test, but looks wetter than normal homogenized peanut butter, somehow. A little plasticky. Blonder color.
Smells: Like unroasted peanuts.
Tastes: Sweet, very buttery texture, but there is something weird and artificial in there. Is that fake sugar? Something weird about it, but I can’t put my finger on it.
The ingredients list doesn’t reveal anything weird, but sometimes the salt/sugar/fat balance is just off.
17. Santa Cruz Organic Creamy Peanut Butter (Sample 25)
Price: $7.49 at Whole Foods
Looks: Light and loose, no body at all, flat on the spoon and sliding off.
Smells: Very roasty on the nose, maybe too roasty.
Tastes: Loose but doesn’t really dissolve in my mouth, kinda just coats. Very roasty. Tastes like peanuts, but otherwise pretty plain.
I hate peanut butter you have to stir, but somehow I rated this one higher than the no-stir version. Go figure. Anyway, it’s still bad.
16. 365 Creamy Peanut Butter (Sample 13)
Price: $2.29 at Whole Foods (on sale)
Looks: Super oily and sliding off the spoon. Lighter colored, medium body, very shiny.
Smells: Very strong peanutty smell, with medium roast.
Tastes: Too salty and very roasty, it tastes like ballpark peanuts after you chew them up a bit, not to mention it really sticks to your mouth.
This one had the rare distinction of managing to be both clumpy and sliding off the spoon. And you’re not seeing things, the label really was that oily after a single use and about three days in the pantry. Even if this peanut butter was delicious that much mess alone would prevent me from buying it. Luckily it’s not very good either.
Oddly, it rated a half-point higher than the organic version, but I think a simple thumb’s down for both is probably the more accurate grade.
15. Natural Jif Low Sodium Creamy Peanut Butter (Sample 3)
Price: $3.99 at SaveMart
Looks: Much tighter paste on this one, lighter color, clearly homogenized.
Smells: Not a strong smell, but peanutty.
Tastes: Taste… fine? Kinda plain. Not too sweet, not very roasty… more pasty than anything. It’s not terrible, just lacking.
From here on out I’d say the peanut butters are “mostly okay” — though still far from “the best.”
14. Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Salted Peanut Butter (Sample 7)
Price: $3.99 at Trader Joe’s
Looks: Lighter and looser with dark specks in it. One of the looser, oilier samples so far, not a great texture.
Smells: Very strong peanutty smell, one of the stronger ones.
Tastes: Very “natural,” aka like peanuts, but the mouthfeel is kind of gritty and it could use some more sugar. Feels like “good for natural style,” which I would probably never buy.
This one was, not surprisingly, much better than its unsalted cousin. It tasted a lot better than I expected, but that half-inch of oil on the top of the jar is probably going to keep me from buying one of these.
13. Adams 100% Natural (Sample 8)
Price: $4.89 at Save Mart
Looks: Non-homogenized, and kind of slides off the spoon. Let’s call it a “rustic” texture. The paste is thicker/tighter than most of the stir kind. Constipated, say.
Smells: Very strong good roasty aroma.
Tastes: The taste itself is nicely roasted, giving it layers of flavor, but it’s also kind of gritty. Again, I would call this “good for natural.”
This one advertises an extra gram of protein than most of the others that advertise their protein content on the jar. I’m assuming they squeeze that extra gram in there by making it extra dense. Not a great trade off, in my opinion.
12. Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter (sample 15)
Price: $5.49 at Whole Foods
Looks: So loose that it’s no longer in the spoon. My wife assures me that this jar didn’t say chunky, but it looks almost chunky. Light colored, a few dark flecks here and there.
Smells: Very strong roasted peanut aroma, nice.
Tastes: After the last sugar bomb, this one is distinctly unsweet. It’s very peanutty, but not very buttery. A few crunches here and there. But not too artificial tasting or overly salty. Very roasty.
Again, a pretty good-tasting “natural” option, if you’re dead set on avoiding hydrogenated oils. Which, personally, I am not (the partially hydrogenated oils, which contained trans fats, have mostly been done away with, in peanut butters and elsewhere).
11. Fix and Fogg Super Crunchy (Sample 11)
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods
Looks: Oops, another crunchy one must’ve snuck in there. This one is light in color, non-homogenized, very loose.
Smells: Very roasty on the nose.
Tastes: Very sweet for a non-homogenized style, which I don’t mind. It tastes very peanutty. Not bad.
Six out of 10 starts to get into what I would call the “above-average” range of peanut butters. This one tasted pretty good and wasn’t too oily/goopy as compared to a lot of the non-homogenized/non-hydrogenated styles.
10. Skippy Natural 1/3 Less Sodium and Sugar (Sample 16)
Price: $2.99 at Save Mart (on sale)
Looks: Sort of a loose, yet plasticky paste. It looks wet, can’t tell if this one is homogenized or not.
Smells: Exactly what I imagine peanut butter smells like – is that palm oil? Like not super roasty but light peanutty.
Tastes: Very creamy texture, but not as sweet as some of the sweeter ones, which I miss a little. It’s just okay.
This one scored pretty well for a reduced sugar/salt option. It couldn’t really compete with its own sweeter and saltier incarnation, but this one is good enough that you could probably sub it in and not feel like you were missing much. Reveal: The ingredient I smelled was indeed palm oil.
9. Earth Balance Creamy Peanut and Flaxseed Spread (Sample 19)
Price: $5.79 at Sprouts
Looks: Very loose, but kind of plasticky on the surface. Somehow more homogenized than not.
Smells: Smells very roasty.
Tastes: Very sweet, very roasty. There’s an aftertaste that comes on salty — probably too salty for my tastes. It’s also a little thinner than I like, but not bad overall.
This actually has less sodium than standard Jif and a little less sugar too, despite what I thought was a salty taste. Anyway, I probably still wouldn’t buy this, but it tasted a lot better than what I imagined a “peanut and flaxseed spread” would taste like.
8. Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter (Sample 22)
Looks: Light, loose, shiny, kinda plasticky looking on the surface.
Smells: It smells, well… very peanutty. Which is good, if not surprising.
Tastes: Very creamy texture, homogenized… ish. There’s much less body than I’m used to for peanut butter — clearly, it lies flat on the spoon, rather than making a little hillock, but it also doesn’t ooze off the spoon so it’s not bad. It has some mild sweetness. I’m not used to this because of the texture, but I don’t hate it.
This one has less than half the sodium of Skippy, which I never would’ve guessed based on the taste. It’s a much lighter color and looser texture than what I think of when I think of “peanut butter,” but I think I could get used to it.
7. Earth Balance Creamy PB & Coconut Oil Spread (Sample 12)
Looks: Very toothpaste texture, much more dry on the spoon than most of the others, and super thick. Mostly light with darker flecks.
Smells: Like chocolate? What is that smell? This one is different than all the rest I’ve had so far, it smells like dessert.
Tastes: Ohhh, coconut, that’s what I was smelling. It’s not unpleasant, just kind of weird. It’s growing on me. Kinda good if you like coconut. It was weird at first but I ended up eating all of it.
This one might’ve been the biggest surprise of the bunch. Using coconut oil both looks and sounds weird (that coconut oil is solid at room temperature probably accounts for the dry look) but it also kind of melts in your mouth and that coconut flavor — which is admittedly pretty weird at first when you’re expecting standard peanut butter — really grew on me.
All that being said, this has the same amount of sugar as Jif/Skippy, and about a third less sodium, so I don’t know how much it’s accomplishing, health-wise.
6. Sunny Select Creamy Peanut Butter (Sample 1)
Price: $2.99 at SaveMart (on sale)
Looks: Darker brown, a little shiny. Call it medium loose? Looks homogenized.
Smells: Roasty, peanutty. Pretty standard.
Tastes: Has a nice, creamy mouthfeel, where it has some body to it but melts in your mouth without coating everything. This one is on the sweeter side. Good? Feels like a good, standard PB.
Sunny Select is Save Mart’s in-store brand, and the nutritional facts are identical to Skippy’s (which has 10 more milligrams of sodium than Jif and the same amount of sugar). It also has rapeseed, cottonseed, and soybean oil, same as Skippy (Jif doesn’t have the cottonseed, but is otherwise identical). For whatever that’s worth.
5. Jif Creamy (Sample 6)
Price: $4.29 at Save Mart.
Looks: A very tight but smooth paste, clearly one of the homogenized options. Lighter brown in color.
Smells: Not much smell on the nose, oddly.
Tastes: This is definitely one of the sweeter ones, but it’s tasty, and the texture is melt-in-your mouth creamy. It’s not super peanutty and doesn’t have much roast, but I like it. Like comfort peanut butter.
I remember doing a blind peanut butter tasting when I was a little kid, which was basically Jif vs. Skippy, because we didn’t have all those health food brands back then, and at the time I chose Jif. I’ve been predisposed to favor Jif packaging ever since. So it’s a little surprising to rank Jif (ever so slightly) behind Skippy in these rankings. Though I would call a half point within the margin of error when you’re tasting 31 types of peanut butter in a row.
Nutritionally, they’re nearly identical, though Skippy has 10 mg more sodium.
4. Skippy Creamy (Sample 28)
Price: $3.49 at Vons
Looks: Looks like what I imagine hydrogenated old-school peanut butter to look like. A little sweaty on the surface, medium brown in color.
Smells: Smells roasty, but also of maybe something artificial in there?
Tastes: Tastes sweet-to-roasty with a very melts-in-your-mouth texture, and a decent amount of salt on the back end. I would call this above-average old school PB.
Standard label Skippy and standard label Jif (the Coke and Pepsi of peanut butters) are so similar as to be moot, but if forced to identify a difference, Skippy seems to have a slightly darker roast and slightly saltier flavor.
3. Trader Joe’s Creamy No Stir Peanut Butter (Sample 23)
Price: $1.99 at Trader Joe’s
First note from my wife: “This one is a lie, it said ‘no stir’ but I still had to stir.”
Looks: Loose textured, light in color, and shiny on the surface.
Smells: This one has a nice, peanutty nose, that smells strongly of peanuts but not too dark a roast.
Tastes: Comes on very sweet, building into a nice roasty flavor. Maybe a touch salty. It’s thinner than I like but good flavor.
I was surprised how well this one did, given how badly most of the Trader Joe’s brands did, and have done in my other rankings. I don’t generally have a super high opinion of Trader Joe’s brand products, considering how many tasty looking cookies of theirs I’ve ended up throwing away because they didn’t taste near as good as they looked (virtually every bag — I don’t know that I’ve ever finished one). Their beers are surprisingly good though.
Aaaanyway, this one turned out to be a legitimate challenger to Skippy and Jif, which is downright shocking. Nutritionally speaking, it has the same amount of sugar and slightly less sodium. It does have palm oil, though the label specifies that it is sustainable palm oil. Which is a good, I ain’t tryna kill orangutans just for a snack.
2. Reduced Fat Jif (Sample 14)
Looks: Super smooth, almost catalogue texture. It’s no as shiny or plasticky on the surface as some of the other hydrogenated options.
Smells: Mild peanutty smell, not too roasty.
Tastes: Aw yeah, this is the good old processed sweet shit. It’s not super peanutty and it’s definitely packed with sugar but I love it. it’s not super creamy creamy, more dissolves in your mouth with some crystallization. I licked the spoon.
I’m as shocked as you are that I chose a reduced-fat option as one of my top choices. But less so when I read the label and discovered that it’s actually 60% peanuts with some other random shit thrown in there like pea protein and corn syrup solids. It also has significantly more sodium (190 milligrams) and a bit more sugar (4g) than standard Jif and Skippy. This is to say that I would actually consider this the least healthy option. Now me choosing it makes sense. Read those labels, folks.
I should also note that I actually had to throw this jar out after I sampled it when I discovered that it was part of a salmonella recall. Everyone on Twitter claiming that Steve is secretly trying to kill me now has a new data point.
1. Pacific Coast Selections Creamy Peanut Butter (Sample 2)
Price: $3.09 at SaveMart
Looks: Clearly non-homogenized, a little lighter than previous, pools kinda flat. It’s oilier than the major brands, but not sliding off the spoon or dripping on the cutting board.
Smells: Very strong peanut smell, nothing too artificial about it, not a ton of roast either.
Tastes: Really roasty, deep peanutty flavor. I didn’t think I was going to like this one but it’s pretty dang good.
I did not expect to like a non-hydrogenated version as much as I did, but the taste on this one was really good. Despite that, I’d probably still avoid this one just on account of how messy it ended up being. A half-point step down in taste is worth it not to have to wash my hands every time I pick up a peanut butter jar, in my opinion.
This one has a third less sodium than Skippy and the same amount of sugar as the majors, though it also contains palm oil with no asterisk for sustainability. Which is to say… this probably wouldn’t be the one I’d buy, even if I do give it the slight edge in taste. All things considered, I think I’d probably go with Trader Joe’s no-stir as my “buy it” choice, or standard Skippy or Jif if you hate orangutans.