Find us a more iconic lunch box staple than the PB&J. We dare you.
Of course, one-half of that magical sweet and salty equation is a thick layer of sticky, nutty peanut butter. While you’d be hard-pressed to show us a jar we don’t like, we fully admit that some of these spreads rise way above the rest. Whether you’re looking for creamy or crunchy, natural or classic, the options are endless, but they’re not all created equal.
Channeling our elementary school selves, we dove into six popular jars of peanut buttery goodness in search of our favorite, ranking them based on texture, flavor and nostalgia factor. A few jars definitely captured our hearts.
Full disclosure: These are all of the creamy variety. We felt that the smooth vs. crunchy debate was an argument for another time (but, let’s be honest—it’s smooth all the way), and we wanted to create an even playing field for the purposes of this very scientific evaluation. Crunch addicts, please forgive us.
Our Top Picks
Old habits die hard. It turns out our editors can’t resist Jif’s familiar sweet, fluffy, smooth perfection. Testers loved its airy texture, honey-roasted flavor and salty finish, commenting that "this tastes like childhood." We know, we know—it’s not the most natural option, but all those crustless sandwiches our moms used to make us have resulted in an unfair bias. Jif is still the best.
② Smart Balance Natural Creamy, $5.50
This dark horse was the biggest surprise for our testers, many of whom had never before tried the brand. Some described it as their favorite of the bunch, saying it struck an ideal balance between kid-friendly, creamy sweetness and natural peanut taste. It was also one of the saltiest and had a pronounced toasted nut flavor. Still, it’s the most expensive option we tried and, depending on your palate, might not necessarily be worth the splurge.
Like JIF, Skippy immediately brought back memories of licking plastic spoons clean at snack time. All in all, it’s a great go-to option, if a bit too processed taste-wise. But with its buttery texture and pleasantly savory finish, Skippy has long defined our PB&J standard.
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While our particular testers were suckers for a more processed mouthfeel, Smucker’s natural line quickly became a serious contender. This brand strikes a tasty balance between creamy and crunchy varieties with its thicker, grainier texture and heartier flavor. It does take a bit of stirring at first, but it isn’t as loose or thin as many other natural nut butters. If you’re craving authentic peanut flavor and "dig the bitterness" (as one editor put it), this is a solid choice.
Peter Pan Creamy, $3
Some editors described this as perfect for sandwiches but too sweet to stand on its own. With a slightly more artificial taste than the others, it’s likely to be a hit among kids and sugar-loving adults. You know the deliciously candied peanut butter you find inside a Reese’s Cup? This spread is not too far off (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
For us, this brand tasted the least like the peanut butter we grew up eating. It had a loose, wet texture right out of the jar and a very dry nuttiness on the palate. It’s by far the most natural-tasting option, too, with one editor describing it as "ball park peanuts in butter form." Though we wouldn’t love it on a sandwich, it’s a stellar choice for cooking with or drizzling over ice cream.