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Almond Butter

From The Ultimate Sticky Buns

How we tested

In recent years, almond butter has emerged as a popular alternative to peanut butter. But which supermarket product is best? To find out, we rounded up the four top-selling national products (as reported by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm) and had 21 test cooks and editors taste them plain and in cherry-almond smoothies.

You can buy almond butters that are made solely from almonds that have been roasted and ground, but no products in that unadulterated style sell well enough to have made our lineup. The four top-selling products we tasted all add a solid fat (palm oil or hydrogenated vegetable oil) to help create the homogeneous, spreadable consistency that many consumers like. As for flavor, we greatly preferred almond butters that added sugar and especially salt—and the more, the better. The lone almond butter with no added salt or sugar was deemed bland, whereas the almond butter with the most salt (which was also tied for having the most sugar) came out on top.

Textural differences proved equally important. Three of the four almond butters were labeled “creamy,” but in reality, only the two winners were totally smooth. Although manufacturers wouldn’t reveal their processing methods, the coarser consistency of the less-preferred products was likely the result of grinding the almonds with their skins on. Because almond skins are high in fiber, they’re harder to process into complete smoothness. By contrast, the two winning products were made with blanched and skinned almonds and were truly smooth.

Our favorite, Jif Creamy Almond Butter, had a “mild,” “clean” almond flavor that was punched up with plenty of salt and sugar. Made from blanched roasted almonds, it had a perfectly even, creamy consistency and was the cheapest product we tasted.

Methodology

We tasted four nationally available supermarket almond butters in two blind tastings, plain and in cherry-almond smoothies. Scores were averaged, and products appear in order of preference. Nutritional information was taken from product packaging. Products appear in order of preference. (All nutritional information is per 2-tablespoon serving.)

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*