EatingWell Taste Test: Natural Peanut Butters
Which is the peanuttiest? A panel of seven tasters reveal their answers.
EatingWell's peanut butter prerequisites:
Natural, with Taste in Mind
The most natural of natural peanut butters would be peanuts only, of course, but we opted for brands with a modicum of salt (125 milligrams or less per serving) for a simple reason: taste. Other additions, like sugar, palm oil or partially or fully hydrogenated oil are dubious at best, harmful at worst.
When it comes to peanut butter, many of us have been eating the same brand since childhood-slathered in sandwiches, spread on apples or spooned straight from the jar. Despite the nutritional drawbacks of some brands, we will go to the mat for our favorite. Don't mess with our peanut butter.
EatingWell invited a panel of six tasters, including one connoisseur of high-end organic brands, one daily consumer of Fluffernutter sandwiches and one sixth-grader-our de facto expert-to taste and comment on a selection of smooth natural peanut butters. The brave volunteers went to work sampling spoonfuls and making a variety of tongue-stuck-to-the-roof-of-their-mouths faces.
Nut ‘N Better Organic: Creamy
Our winner in all three categories of taste, appearance and texture, this Canadian-made peanut butter can be found on the shelves of Costco or under the O Organics label at Safeway. Three tasters declared it their favorite overall. Doug Davis said it was "the most familiar" and had "the best peanut flavor." Peter Doremus noted its "great texture and appearance." Gillian Markowski mentioned it was "really smooth without being fake-looking." Though Jessica Anderson thought it was "too salty and too runny," she still liked the flavor.
Smucker's Natural: Creamy
The omnipresent Smucker's brand garnered second place in all categories. Tasters called its grainier texture "the crunchy-lover's smooth." Anderson thought it was a great choice for natural peanut butter (it was her top pick). Nancy Bloch said it had "more peanut butter taste."
Woodstock Farms Organic: Smooth/Salted
This selection was a bit too grainy and sticky for some, but Markowski said, "It's perfect! It has a nice, sweet taste the others don't really have." Anderson liked its looks and "great flavor." But Davis found it grainy, bitter and too thick; Doremus said it tasted really good but "looked like Dijon mustard." Bloch wasn't a big fan: "Grainy and very blah."
Other natural peanut butters we liked:
MaraNatha Organic: Creamy & Roasted
Peanut Butter & Co.: Smooth Operator
Teddie Old Fashioned: Smooth
Natural Peanut Butter Tip
If the oil separation that occurs in natural peanut butters frustrates you, try leaving the peanut butter upside down for about an hour. The oil will migrate up to the jar bottom, making it easier to stir without making a mess. After stirring, store in the refrigerator.
The Tasting Panel
Nancy Bloch, entrepreneur, Peter Doremus, attorney, Gillian Markowski, mother and Ruby Markowski, toddler, Jessica Anderson, marketing coordinator, Tinesha Davis, 6th-grader, Doug Davis, school food-service director.
December 2005/January 2006