Is all peanut butter the same except for the brand on the jar?
Once upon a time, I thought the only difference between peanut butter was crunchy, extra crunchy, or smooth. Then, I started reading labels on familiar products.
Imagine peanut butter that is made out of…just peanuts!
It’s almost impossible to find. At the very least, natural peanut butters contain peanuts & salt. Almost all brands contain vegetable oil and sugar in one form or another. There is also a lot of variation in the flavor and aroma of peanut butter, most noticeably when the jar is initially opened.
Natural peanut butters have a fantastic flavor and texture…IF you don’t mind stirring in the oil that has separated out and storing it in the refrigerator in between uses. For some people, that oil separation is unattractive and the refrigeration is inconvenient. I happen to love Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. It’s one of our favorites for sandwiches, with or without homemade jelly topping it.
But, when we go camping, a peanut butter that requires refrigeration isn’t exactly convenient. So what brand do we turn to as a second favorite?
We’ve discovered Planter’s Peanut butter. It smells just like we opened a big can of fresh Planter’s Peanuts. It’s wonderful…and the ingredients? Well, peanuts is first, of course, but it does include vegetable oil, salt and sugar. Flavor-wise, the sugar and salt isn’t noticeable and probably enhances the flavor of the peanuts and the texture is thick & smooth, the way peanut butter should be.
Many of the name brands contain many more ingredients, as do the “generic” or off-brands. Some contain molasses or corn syrup to produce a smoother texture that spreads easily. The calorie content varies between the brands as well, especially the proportions of sodium, carbohydrates, and fat, and may bear paying attention to.
So what kinds of things are peanut butter used in?
Sandwiches is probably the #1 use for peanut butter in the average household. Some people like peanut butter served with jelly, jam, cheese, or chopped fruit added to the sandwich. (Try bananas or apples in your sandwiches.) I happen to be a fan of grilled peanut butter & bacon sandwiches, and these days…I use Hormel’s Real Bacon bits to help cut down on the fat & cholesterol when I do indulge in this secret guilty pleasure.
Peanut butter cookies are another American standard. I love the sandy texture of fresh peanut butter cookies, but I have found that they are very difficult to make in the humid coastal South. Often, they turn out more “cakey” than “sandy”. They were easy to make in the arid deserts of the Southwest.
Peanut butter silk pie usually features a peanut butter filling and incorporates chocolate somewhere, as the pairing of chocolate & peanut butter is another American favorite. Peanut butter appears in other desserts as well, once again…often accompanied by chocolate. I often fill a dense dark chocolate cake with a filling made with peanut butter and cream cheese–it’s a favorite with any peanut butter cup lover.
Snacks can feature peanut butter too, either as a filling or a dip. Celery, apples, pears, bananas…all of them go well with peanut butter. Crackers, chips and pretzels are also natural pairings with peanut butter.
Peanut butter may no longer be welcomed in most school lunchrooms, but most of us grew up with it being a school lunch staple, whether it was in our lunch buckets or the lunch line. It was a recommended breakfast from my doctor when I was pregnant with my daughter (a very long time ago now!) It’s economical, quick and easy to serve, vegetable based protein. Peanut butter is an important protein source for many people through out the world, and is used in a product called “Plumpy Nut” that is used to feed starving infants in Third World countries also. (See their website here.)
What brand of peanut butter do you prefer and why?