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Jan 7, 2011 08:43 AM

Peanut butter taste tests; PB devotees: what's your favourite?

So, I have this problem with peanut butter: I'm addicted to it. Only within the last year or so, though, have I really started to notice the differences between brands; it started when I ate a spoonful of Jif right after eating Kraft and was shocked that these two commercial, mas-produced brands could be so very different. Shouldn't have come as a surprise, really, but I guess I'd never thought about it before.

So for the past few months I've been collecting peanut butters in order to taste several of them side by side and compare directly. I decided to forego store brands as I've generally found them to be mediocre in the past (i.e. I didn't want to buy a whole jar of garbage, knowing full well that it was garbage, and then be stuck with it.)
Ended up with six brands: three the emulsified kind, and three "natural" (the type that tend to separate.)

1. Picard's: This is a local product, Ontario peanuts, produced here. Dry-roasted peanuts, sugar, veg oil, salt.
2. Jif: Had to bring this in from Buffalo, as sadly it's no longer for sale up here. Roasted peanuts, sugar, molasses, rapeseed & soybean oils, mono and diglycerides, salt.
3. Skippy. Roasted peanuts, soybean oil, maltodextrin, icing sugar, salt, veg oil.
All three had similar amounts sugar and sodium as labelled: 65-70mg sodium/tbsp, and about 1.5g sugar/tbsp, except for Skippy at 1g/tbsp.
Protein, similar. Picard and Jif around 3g, Skippy weighing in at a measly 2.
All three were smooth; Jif smoother than Picard, and Skippy smoother and creamier than both.
Picard was "not too sweet" and a little "vegetal." I got a hint of olive-oil taste near the finish. Definite real peanut flavour.
Jif was "really smooth" with "in your face" peanut flavour, saltier and sweeter than Picard. If Picard was more vegetal, Jif was more fruity. Not fruity, really, and I don't want to use the word "candylike" because it's got negative implications... but the Jif was the closest to what I consider to be the ideal for a mass-produced, homogeneous, emulsified peanut butter.
Skippy... we said "Wow, it's definitely something-butter, but where's the peanut." Like the Cool Whip of peanut butter. Almost ethereally creamy compared to the other two, less peanut flavour, compensated for by more sugar and salt. Reminded me, texturally, of being a kid and sticking a finger into a bowl of creamed Crisco and sugar when my mom was making cookies.
Verdict: Jif > Picard, in terms of what a stereotypical peanut butter should be, but Picard tastes more like actual peanuts. Skippy a distant third (distant, like, the horse never left the starting gate.)

1. President's Choice Blue Menu Just Peanuts. Loblaws-chain house brand. Ingredients: Freshly roasted peanuts. Fair degree of separation in jar.
2. Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter. Also came from Buffalo, never seen it up here. Ingredients: Peanuts, salt.
3. Nuts To You Nut Butter: Valencia Peanut Butter. Local Ontario company making all kinds of expensive organic nut butters (peanut, cashew, macadamia, sunflower seed, et cetera...) Ingredients: Dry roasted Valencia peanuts.
Smucker's had 0.5g sugar/tbsp; the other two, 1g. PC and Nuts To You were free of sodium; Smucker's weighed in at about 50mg/tbsp. Protein-wise, PC rang in at 3g, Smucker's 3.5 and Nuts To You 4.
All three had some degree of separation, Nuts To You least of all (was just "runnier" on the top than the bottom, no layer of oil.) Smucker's was really difficult to stir together -- really didn't want to emulsify. I ended up taking some oily part and some solid part and mashing them together in a bowl. And this was at warm room temp.
PC was the most granular and the most discernibly oily, though not in a bad way. It tasted just exactly like a bag of real peanuts put in a food processor. Nothing more to it. Real good, real peanut taste. Not overly roasty, compared to the other two. Very fresh-tasting.
Smucker's was a little granular in texture as well, and tasted "more roasted" and with "a little salt."
Nuts To You was the smoothest of the three and tasted "very roasted", "less salty" and "peanuttier" than Smucker's.
Verdict: Tough. We decided it was hard to compare PC to the other two, certainly, because it tasted exactly like lightly roasted peanuts straight out of the shell, and the other two not so much. If true peanut flavour is the goal -- in a peanut sauce, or African peanut soup, etc -- PC is the clear winner.
Got a little tough between the other two. Smucker's tasted closer to the Jif-type butters, while Nuts To You was deep and roasty and more peanutty. The lack of salt in Nuts To You was noticeable, and it was much improved, in my opinion, with a few grains of salt sprinkled over. Both would be good situationally, though just for eating off a spoon, we preferred the Smucker's -- that 50 mg of salt makes a hell of a difference!
I wouldn't bake with the PC, at least not in recipes tested with conventional PB. I did try baking with it over the holidays, and the results were fine, and certainly peanutty, but they just didn't taste the same as they would have if I'd used a standard PB, nor was the texture the same.

Long story short, it was a really neat exercise, and not a bad way to spend an evening!
Incidentally, I'd also bought a little jar of Nuts To You's pumpkin-seed butter. Interesting. Really did taste like pumpkin-seeds, but... that said, I have no idea what I'll do with it. Maybe, like its peanut cousin, it'll be improved enough by a little salt to be good as a spread.

Anyone else have as unhealthy a passion for peanut butter as I do? What are your favourite brands? Why?

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  1. The best is made right in my kitchen.... along with almond butter, pecan butter, hazlenut butter, etc.

    5 Replies
    1. re: salvatoregianpaolo

      I like mine best too. But I also like Trader Joes Valencia with flax seeds. i'm sure I could make that at home too but theirs really does it for me and it is cheap. And sunny butter at home too.

      1. re: magiesmom

        Always add some ground flax meal to mine... and some shredded coconut. Just whipped up a batch of pecan-peanut-coconut butter. Very, very nice!

        1. re: magiesmom

          I was also impressed with this one!

          As someone who has eaten peanut butter everyday for almost my entire life (I even had to have my brother ship me jars of my favorite peanut butter when I lived in France), I have definitely tried all the "natural" peanut butters. I like just peanuts and a good amount of salt, no sugar necessary.

          I love the whole foods grind your own, and the honey roasted is a nice switch up as well. As far as jarred I have yet to find a cheaper/more delicious option than "Teddie's." They also just introduced one with flax seeds for you flax lovers.

          I was once given a membership to a peanut butter of the month club and the only flavored peanut butter that ended up being good was a cinnamon/currant one that was delicious. Anyone tried this? I don't remember the name of the brand.

          For those of you who make it at home: I have a cuisinart but is it cheaper to make at home or is peanut butter one of those things that is cheaper to buy made?

          1. re: Klunco

            the cinnamon-currant was probably Sunland Organic - it's actually the same company that makes Kirkland Organic PB.

            re: cost, it may depend somewhat on which brands you're used to buying and what you're paying for peanuts, but making it yourself is generally more cost effective, and more importantly, tastier!

        2. re: salvatoregianpaolo

          salvatoregianpaolo...mind telling us how you make PB at home? i tred a couple of was ok but not very spreadable. what am i doing wrong here? i use roasted peanuts, honey and canola oil with a little sea salt.

        3. wow. I've always bought Skippy. Just 'cause.... I guess 'cause my mom bought that brand. You've made me rethink the habit of 30 years! Guess I'll have to try Jif!

            1. re: Perilagu Khan

              I make my own too. A mixed nut butter using all different kinds of nuts.Sometimes I mix some homemade granola into it. Its amazing. TJ's peanut butter would be my commercial choice.

              1. Teddie's extra-crunchy (preferred) or Smucker's natural crunchy. We foolishly got a jar of Skippy reduced-fat crunchy (misbegotten low-cal impulses, for once) and it was revoltingly sweet.

                6 Replies
                1. re: buttertart

                  The best!! I agree! I had never seen Teddie's until the nearby market stopped carrying Smucker's. I didn't realize its all part of the same company, just depends on where you live in some cases. I love them both- but now actually prefer the Teddie's. I am SUCH a crunchy/extra crunchy girl!!

                  1. re: MRS

                    I hadn't either until we moved to NJ. It is so packed with peanut bits, there's barely enough pb to hold them together. The best one I've ever tried.

                    1. re: MRS

                      I know this is old, but as a Teddie fanatic, I have to chime in. WHERE did you get the idea that Smucker's and Teddie are the same company? I'm pretty much 100% certain that that is not the case, as Smucker's Natural is considered Teddie's biggest competitor. Teddie's is a local New England brand which has been around for ages and the Leavitt Corporation, which owns the Teddie brand, has been in business since the late 1800s and has always made Teddie. They have not been bought out by Smucker's or any parent company of Smucker's (if there is one) and they have not bought out Smucker's. Teddie's is only distributed in the northeast, but it's not like it's rebranded as Smucker's elsewhere or something. They are totally different brands made by different companies.

                      For what it's worth, Smucker's Natural is nowhere near as good as Teddie. The peanuts aren't as fresh and it separates much more. What I like about Teddie, particularly the Super Chunky (unsalted, preferably) is that while it's not homogenized and does separate, it doesn't separate the way some other natural peanut butters do. I never put it in the fridge - I just stir it when I need to, with no problem. Some natural peanut butters separate so much that you end up with a huge amount of oil on top, and peanut butter with the consistency of concrete on the bottom, and it's really hard to stir it back together. This stays soft and there isn't all that much oil which rises to the top.

                      The natural peanut flavor is out of this world. Supposedly Teddie roasts and grinds the peanuts on the same day, and it's on supermarket shelves within a week. I've had homemade peanut butter made with a grinder specifically designed to make peanut butter, and it isn't as good as Teddie.

                      EDIT: I did some research, and Smucker's owns Jif. NOT Teddie.

                      1. re: NEChef

                        Wow...pretty passionate about your Teddie's there, NEChef! I was told that by someone in the supermarket who clearly didn't know the correct connection between the companies. I certainly do prefer Teddie to Smucker's but not as many stores in my area carry it, so unless I remember to order from Amazon or something, I can't always have it. Some of the markets seem to not even carry the Smucker's crunchy...also hard to find.
                        I would agree with you on all points.

                    2. re: buttertart

                      teddy's is available on line i see. $2.99 for a 16oz jar plus shipping.

                    3. For me Most commercial Peanut Butter is Waaaaay too sweet added sugar or worse (HFCS).
                      One commercial brand that is good is COSTCO'S Organic; made with U.S. grown peanuts, dry roasted and only other ingredient is salt.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ospreycove

                        THIIIIIIIIIIS. Very good and just sweet enough.

                        1. re: MandalayVA

                          and that sweetness comes from the flavor of the peanuts, not added sugar! now if they'd just switch to glass jars...