The Best Peanut Butters, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
We tasted more than 20 peanut butters to find the best ones for your lunch box.
Our Top Peanut Butter Picks
- The Most Nostalgic: Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
- The Best Natural Variety: Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
- Another Natural Variety: Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator Peanut Butter Spread
- The Best “Crunchy” Option: Teddie All Natural Super Chunky Peanut Butter
- Another “Crunchy” Option: Peanut Butter & Co. Simply Crunchy Peanut Butter Spread
- The Best for Snacking Off A Spoon: Skippy Natural Creamy
- The Best “New Classic”: Santa Cruz Organic No Stir Dark Roasted Peanut Butter Spread
Tested by Melissa Gaman for Food Network Kitchen
Peanut butter is so versatile, it can find its way into practically any meal or snack. You can use it to make a spicy sauce for noodles, drop a spoonful of it into your favorite smoothie, or slather it on some crackers. And don’t forget about the peanut butter and jelly sandwich! The sweet-and-salty creation is a kid-favorite for a reason. If you go through jar after jar once the school year starts, you already know that peanut butter brands and varieties have exploded over the years to meet the varying needs of consumers. Some people want to stay away from added sugar, while others carefully navigate the type of oil used. One peanut butter variety might be better for baking, while another makes a great savory peanut sauce. That’s why we decided to taste 21 store-bought peanut butters to see which ones you should get your hands on before classes resume. Keep reading to see how things "shelled" out.
A Note About Jif Peanut Butter: At the time of writing this article, Jif was just beginning to roll out their products after a large recall. Only one variety was available at the time of this taste test.
How We Tested
The 21 varieties we bought for this taste test were a limited sampling of what’s available online and in our local grocery stores. We gathered creamy and chunky varieties from major national brands and tasted them on a spoon as well as spread on a cracker. We evaluated the aroma, flavor, texture and consistency. If the peanut butter had to be stirred, we turned the jars upside down for at least a day before opening them to make blending together easier and to give the peanut butter a little grace due to the hot summer weather at the time of testing and publication.
There is such a strong taste memory associated with a childhood peanut butter sandwich. From its sticky mouthfeel to its salty taste, Jif’s Creamy Peanut Butter was just how we remembered it from our grade school days. Though it’s a little sweet due to both the sugar and molasses that make it up, we found this peanut butter to have a lovely roasted peanut smell. It's super smooth in texture too — we were able to cut through it easily with both a spoon and a knife. The overall flavor is nicely nutty, but not super intense or lingering, so you can go back quickly for the next bite, if you have it sandwiched between two slices of bread.
Many varieties of natural peanut butter have a separation of oil and the peanut base under their lids, which requires a good mix before eating. While this seems like it should be no big deal (it’s just stirring, right?) it can be both messy and imperfect if there is too much oil or if the peanut base is too dense. In fact, having the right balance of both is super important so that the overall flavor isn’t dominated by oil and the texture isn't too thick to spread or soupy. We found both Peanut Butter & Co.'s Smooth Operator Peanut Butter Spread (see below) and Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter to have solid offerings for this category. Though Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter isn’t new to the peanut butter aisle, it’s still a great choice. Just two ingredients make it up: peanuts and a dash of salt. It does take a few extra minutes to work the oil and base together, but then the peanut butter holds together well. It has a very deep peanut flavor and a good amount of salt. There is a little grit to this spread as it lacks the extra oils to smooth it out, but for many people having a little texture in their natural peanut butter is welcome and expected. This spread is about as close as you get to grinding your own, and that purity and simplicity is a winning combination!
Peanut Butter & Co.'s Smooth Operator Peanut Butter Spread blended together nicely and the base is silky smooth. While looser than the other no-stir peanut butters we tried, the similar flavor and texture notes would be very appealing to a no-stir peanut butter fan. There is no heavy oil flavor either, and you can taste a hit of both sugar and salt for a rich and well balanced spread.
Whether you call it crunchy, chunky or super-chunk, chunky peanut butter lovers are adamant in their love for the nubbly spread. But for the best version, you can’t just take a creamy peanut butter, add some peanut bits and call it a day. Chunky peanut butter is the blissful union of the right peanut butter base texture and flavor, along with the ideal size and volume of nut chunks. Like the category above, we had a tie with this one. Both Peanut Butter & Co.'s Simply Crunchy Peanut Butter Spread (see below) and Teddie All Natural Super Chunky Peanut Butter nailed it. Both jars require stirring, but the process was easy and quick and highlighted the abundance of peanuts. Teddie All Natural Super Chunky Peanut Butter was a hit. It only features two ingredients: dry roasted peanuts and salt. The two ingredients combine to create a spread that has a very deep and pure peanut flavor and aroma. The base was a little gritty in texture, but when combined with the big pieces of peanuts, the spread had a super chunky effect. This spread also had the biggest and best crunch of all the varieties we tested.
Peanut Butter & Co.'s Simply Crunchy Peanut Butter Spread doesn’t have any added sugar, but it is well-seasoned with salt. The chunks were big, crunchy and very fresh and the peanut butter base — while a little runny — was very rich and silky. Tasting this one felt like we were enjoying a bowl of well-salted cocktail peanuts.
Let’s face it, a spoon and a jar of peanut butter is one of the easiest and most comforting snacks, breakfasts or desserts. The best snacking peanut butter has nowhere to hide, however. The flavor and texture aren’t offset by bread or jelly, so you need a spread that’s not too sticky, oily or runny. A little sweet, a little salty and very smooth, Skippy Natural Creamy hit all the right notes. It has a buttery texture and the right balance of both salt and sugar. It’s also richly peanutty and had just a little welcome stickiness that forces you to pause and enjoy each bite. It’s so craveable and the fact that it stays well blended makes it a mess-free peanut delight!
What does a "new classic" really mean? Well, sometimes the things we remember from our youth no longer hit the same way. Our taste buds change and the scrutiny of ingredients increases. Santa Cruz Organic No Stir Creamy Dark Roasted Peanut Butter Spread had a great thick, no-stir texture with a very rich peanut aroma. We found it to be very smooth and buttery with a good pop of salt and no added sugar. It tasted like a more mature, robust version of what you craved as a child, but taken a step further.