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Tasting Panel: Creamy Peanut Butter

Fine Cooking Issue 68
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Considering how much peanut butter we use in recipes and spread on toast around here, we decided to find out which brands we like best. We held a blind tasting of eight widely available creamy peanut butters: four natural peanut butters (which are simply ground peanuts and salt) and four emulsified peanut butters (which contain sweeteners, oils, and ingredients that keep the peanut oil and nut mass from separating). The two types differ enormously in texture and flavor, so we considered them as two separate categories. We evaluated each sample straight from the jar and in a flourless peanut butter cookie. In each category, there was a clear winner that stood out as a  cut above the rest.

Natural creamy peanut butter

Numbered in order of preference; prices may vary.

1.  Smucker’s Natural
$2.97 for 16 oz.

Smucker’s was super-thick, riddled with crunchy peanut bits, and tasted just like roasted, salted peanuts. This “very peanutty” peanut butter made a flavorful but dense, dry, and crisp cookie.

2. Teddie Old Fashioned
$2.49 for 16 oz.

Available at supermarkets in the Northeast, Teddie had a pleasing thick, sticky texture, interspersed with lots of peanut bits and a full flavor, reminiscent of “salted peanuts in the shell.” It made a crisp, tender cookie with good peanut flavor.

3. Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator
$3.29 for 16 oz.

3. The palest of the bunch, Smooth Operator had a loose, silky connsistency and a sandy texture. Overall, tasters found the flavor a  bit  flat (“more salt, please”) and not particularly peanutty. But it did make a nice, crisp cookie.

4. Arrowhead Mills Valencia
$3.99 for 18 oz.

The gummy texture of this organic peanut butter didn’t appeal to us straight off the spoon, nor did the raw (as opposed to roasted) peanut flavor, but the cookie made with this brand had such a fine tender crumb that all was almost forgiven.

Emulsified creamy peanut butter

Numbered in order of preference; prices may vary.

1.  Jif
$2.69 for 18 oz.

Jif ranked first with all but two of our tasters. Tasters liked the creamy, pleasantly sticky mouth feel—“the way peanut butter should be”—and praised the balance of saltiness to brown-sugary sweetness. Too bad the roasty peanut flavor was muted in the cookie.

2. Skippy
$2.19 for 18 oz.

The salty-sweet flavor of this super thick, slightly oily peanut butter struck a chord with tasters who grew up eating this brand. In its raw state, the peanut flavor was decent, but it kept a very low profile in the cookie.

3. Reese’s
$2.15 for 18 oz.

This silky, sweet peanut butter wasn’t especially nutty, but its molassesy undertones and salty finish reminded some tasters of peanut-flavored candy. In the cookie, that molasses flavor came through, but not much peanuttiness did.

4. Peter Pan
$2.18 for 18 oz.

This peanut butter had a fun, sticky mouth feel, but it left behind a shortening-like greasiness, and salt was the lingering flavor impression. It made a bland-tasting, tender, and crumbly cookie.

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