Peanut butter is beloved by people of all ages. Whether you’re spreading it with some jelly on bread for lunch or dipping celery in it, peanut butter is an excellent source of protein. It also tastes great in plenty of baked treats and smoothies. This versatile staple is a must-have for any pantry.

As you can imagine, there is a plethora of peanut butter on the market. Before you decide which one to get, there are a few things to consider. Are you searching for an all-natural organic peanut butter? Do you have a preference for crunchy or smooth? You may also be searching for peanut butter with low salt and sugar.

Regardless of your criteria, it won’t take long to find a peanut butter that satisfies your cravings. At BestReviews, we’re pleased to offer a shopping guide that can help inform your decision. Keep reading before you add a peanut butter tub to your cart.

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It’s easy to overindulge with peanut butter. Remember that one serving is only two tablespoons, which is more than enough to pack a nutrient-dense punch.
A brief history of peanuts
The popularity of peanuts can be traced back to 1500 BC in South America where the Incas used peanuts as social offerings and ground the nuts with corn maize as a beverage. Peanuts weren’t commercially grown in North America until the 1800s. The nut’s popularity grew with the Civil War and the emergence of PT Barnum & Bailey Circus, where dry roasted peanuts were sold. John Harvey Kellogg may have created the first known peanut paste in the US during the late 1800s, initially meant for his older patients who had trouble swallowing solid foods. The inventor George Washington Carver helped increase the peanut’s popularity by finding over 300 uses for them, including peanut butter. Today, peanuts are one of the United States’ most popular cash crops, thanks in part to peanut butter and its presence in snacks, in baked goods, and on grocery store shelves.

Peanuts are grown in Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, and South America. The United States, incidentally, grows about 10% of the world’s peanuts. Peanut butter is relatively easy to manufacture. A large volume of peanuts are ground to a medium fineness in an industrial grinder, then into smaller pieces in a second industrial grinder. For chunky peanut butter, manufacturers may modify the grinding intensity or add some larger peanut pieces. While the peanuts are grinding, ingredients such as salt, sugar, and oil are added to the mix.

If you mix peanut butter with a bit of peanut oil to thin it out, it’s amazing swirled into the top of brownie batter in the pan. Bake it off, and you have a chocolate-peanut-butter dream brownie.
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Nutritional value
Peanut butter isn’t just tasty in treats, it can also be part of a healthy diet. Two tablespoons of it contain a whopping eight grams of protein. The nut butter also contains zinc, folate, magnesium, and other vitamins.

Chunky vs. smooth
Ah, the old debate between chunky and smooth peanut butter. It comes down to preference, though each has its pros and cons. For what it’s worth, a survey from The National Peanut Butter Board says that 60% of Americans prefer smooth peanut butter over chunky. Smooth peanut butter is commonly used in recipes for meals and snacks. The texture makes smooth peanut butter much easier to spread on bread. Creamy peanut butter contains a bit more Vitamin E and protein than chunky. Chunky peanut butter, on the other hand, contains slightly more fiber, more saturated fat, and a little bit more folate than smooth.

Adding peanut sauce to noodles or adding some peanut butter to a banana or apple can make these foods even more satisfying and delicious. Throw some peanut butter into a smoothie to increase protein and fat, which helps make the smoothie have more staying power.
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Added oils
A tub of peanut butter may have palm oil, partially hydrogenated oil, or palm fruit oil listed in the ingredients. Oils are integrated into peanut butter to maintain freshness and preserve its shelf life. In recent years, concern has risen over the effects of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol. Partially hydrogenated oils do contain trans fat. As the food industry has become more aware of trans fats drawbacks, partially hydrogenated oils have become less popular in peanut butter. Fully hydrogenated oil doesn’t include trans fats, and neither does palm oil or palm fruit oil.

Natural vs. conventional
Natural peanut butter only contains two ingredients: peanuts and salt. It also requires stirring, as oil settles on the top. Natural peanut butter is a decent option for those who are averse to additives and want to try clean eating. Conventional peanut butter includes sugar and added oils. You may notice that natural peanut butter is grainier in nature. If you like to carry peanut butter on the go, or simply prefer the taste of the old-fashioned stuff, feel free to stick with conventional.

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When I buy a jar of natural peanut butter, I take a butter knife and give the jar a big stir. Then I put it in the fridge upside down. After doing that once, I do not have to stir my peanut butter each time.
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Extra ingredients
If you’re seeking some novelty, you can find peanut butters that combine other ingredients, like jelly, chocolate, or even honey. This can be appealing if you don’t want the effort of opening a second jar for a sandwich. However, the majority of these peanut butters have extra sugar and shorter shelf lives.

One of the many pleasures of peanut butter is its price point. Peanut butter is a fairly inexpensive indulgence, ranging from $3 to $10 for a single jar.

The $3 to $5 price point is common. Several longtime favorite brands fall into this range, though it’s less likely you have an organic product. You may also find more creamy than chunky peanut butters in this price range.

Premium peanut butters fall in the $5 to $10 price range. This includes peanut butters that are all organic and ones with additional ingredients, like honey. Some manufacturers sell peanut butter in individual packets to be consumed on the go. A packet of ten or so falls in this price range.

Any peanut butter that’s over $10 is likely sold in bulk. Even then, for some brands you can find up to three jars for $10.

Mix peanut butter and yogurt (or ice cream) for a quick dessert treat.
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Peanut allergies are quite common, especially in children. Some promising alternatives to peanut butter include almond butter, sunflower butter, and granola butter.

An unopened jar of peanut butter lasts six to nine months in a pantry and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. An opened jar of peanut butter can last in a pantry for two to three months and six to nine months refrigerated. Natural peanut butter is a bit different — it only lasts a few weeks in the pantry if opened, but six to nine months in the refrigerator.

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You can introduce peanut butter to infants once they’ve been comfortably eating solid foods — this is usually somewhere between five and eight months. Of course, double-check with a pediatrician to be sure.