Ever wonder how many peanut pieces are actually in a jar of crunchy peanut butter? Don't worry, we counted for you.
Published Nov. 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 19: Brunch Favorites
Creamy peanut butters may corner the market, but the crunchy variety has inspired its own loyal following among those who crave a bit of texture. We keep the crunchy variety on hand when we want peanut pieces, such as in our recipes for Peanut Sauce and Big, Super-Nutty Peanut Butter Cookies.
Every major peanut butter brand that makes a creamy peanut butter also manufactures a crunchy counterpart. But are these just the same peanut butters with a handful of peanut chunks thrown in, or are they a different breed entirely? To find out, we tried nine crunchy peanut butters, priced from $2.69 to $6.91 per jar ($0.17 to $0.27 per ounce), in three blind tastings: plain, in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and in peanut butter cookies.
As we learned in our creamy peanut butter tasting, supermarket varieties fall into three categories. First are those made with hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar. This group includes the classic versions from familiar brands such as Skippy, Jif, and Peter Pan. Next are peanut butters that swap hydrogenated oils for palm oil and are often labeled “natural.” (Hydrogenated oils are chemically treated to be solid at room temperature, while palm oil is naturally solid at room temperature, hence the term “natural.”) This category includes Skippy Natural, Jif Natural, and Peter Pan Natural. The final category is peanut butters made with just peanuts and salt, with no added oils or sugar, such as Adams, Teddie, and Smuckers. These products are also labeled “natural.”
Regardless of category, all peanut butter starts the same way: peanuts are shelled, roasted, salted, and then ground until they become a paste. Products made from just peanuts and salt stop at this step (and consequently need to be stirred to incorporate the natural peanut oils with the solids that have separated). Other brands add sugar for sweetness and oil—either hydrogenated oil or palm oil—to keep the peanut butter homogeneous, so no stirring is required. These hydrogenated oil and palm oil products have a characteristic fluffy, almost whipped texture.
Once all the results were tallied, it was clear that what mattered to our tasters in creamy peanut butter also determined their preferences for the crunchy variety. Tasters again preferred the hydrogenated oil peanut butters, followed by the palm oil products, and lastly those made from just peanuts and salt. We looked at nutritional labels and found that all the crunchy peanut butters sported almost the same fat and sugar levels as their creamy versions. In fact, they appeared to be the same products with jus...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.