It’s hard to go wrong with a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Many of us grew up with this combo packed into our school lunch boxes and for good reason.
But during a recent conversation with colleagues, I discovered that a good number of us have ad-libbed our own concoctions over the years.
Some have even switched up the presentation, rejecting the simple formula of PB&J spread between two slices of soft bread for a more personalized treatment, a la M.F.K. Fisher. (The author once revealed that the best way to serve a ham-and-cheese sandwich was to sit on it first.)
I can certainly count myself among the innovators. In high school, my friends and I took a week-long trip to a family lake house, which we only stocked with sandwich fixings. Out of that desperation my favorite combo of all time was born: mayo, American cheese, ridged potato chips, honey ham, and creamy peanut butter (in that order) on white bread.
So, I asked my colleagues: How do they transform peanut butter sandwiches into something more interesting or even sophisticated?
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10+ Ways to Switch Up a PB&J
1. Make a regular PB&J, then toast the whole thing
“This was my go-to college breakfast. The peanut butter basically melts and drips as you eat. It’s messy and glorious.” —Managing Editor Liz Bomze
2. Swap the jelly for romaine lettuce and honey
“A friend’s mom packed this in her lunch one day. We were all skeptical at first, but it quickly caught on. I still eat it today!" —Social Media Coordinator Sarah Ahn
3. Make a triple decker: bread, jelly, peanut butter, bread, peanut butter, jelly, bread
The new twist here is that the middle slice is toasted. “I spread peanut butter on both sides, then add it to the stack. That way, the sandwich doesn’t get mushed.” —Art Director Jay Layman
4. Add Nutella OR smoked almonds OR mini chocolate chips OR cereal
“If you go with smoked almonds chop them, and don’t use too many. For a cereal, I highly recommend Cinnamon Toast Crunch.” —Executive Food Editor Keith Dresser
5. Go for an open-faced treatment
“I like a slather of peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.”—Senior Editor Lan Lam
6. Ditch the jelly for sliced baby dills OR tomatoes and mayo
“I love how pickles add salty crunch. But tomatoes and mayo— my mother-in-law’s favorite combo—are even more genius. Tangy and savory-sweet.”—Editorial Director Amanda Agee
7. Add sliced bananas
“I like to add the banana slices to the peanut butter side to keep them from sliding around.”—Senior Editor Steve Dunn
8. Make a fluffernutter—and layer on some potato chips
“Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I grew up eating flutternutters, not PB&J’s. The sandwich is even better if you layer salty, crunchy Lay’s potato chips on top of the marshmallow fluff.”—Senior Editor Annie Petito
9. Swap the jelly for sliced peaches OR pickled Thai chiles and coconut milk
“Super-ripe summer peaches are so sweet and full of pectin that they practically ARE jam, so it wasn’t a big leap. If you love Thai peanut sauce, but wish that it were a sandwich, spread toast thickly with PB, put on a couple pickled chiles, and gently drizzle on a little canned coconut milk. Optionally, layer in a few sprigs of cilantro.”—Senior Science Editor Paul Adams
Go for Broke: Try a Homemade Flavored Peanut Butter
Switching out the jelly or adding on to it isn’t the only way to give a peanut butter sandwich a makeover. Try flavoring the peanut butter itself. It only takes 15 minutes of hands-on work to make homemade chocolate peanut butter, honey peanut butter, or even a fall-inspired maple-pumpkin spice peanut butter.