Americans are passionate about peanut butter—more than a million pounds are consumed every day! This quick guide to peanut butter is for fans of this favorite pantry staple. Make sure to see more in our companion Guide to Peanuts.
This ubiquitous favorite first appeared in the United States in the 1890s, and large-scale commercial production began in 1907. In other countries, such as Indonesia and certain African nations, peanut paste is used in many traditional dishes, so where it actually originated is a matter for debate.
Celebrate! January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day in the U.S. See some fun facts and historic lore here.
What kind is best? Some commercial brands of peanut butter contain sugar and salt. Others contain highly saturated hydrogenated oils added as stabilizers. You want to completely avoid the latter. Left at room temperature, natural peanut butter forms a layer of oil on top as a result of the settling of the solids. This oil may either be stirred back in or poured off. Though natural peanut butter is a staple in natural food stores, you’ll find it in many supermarkets as well.
Natural peanut butter tastes very intense and peanut-y, and after you get accustomed to using it, you’ll wonder why anyone thought additional oils need to be added to this excellent food. If you won’t be using it up quickly, refrigerate. For easier spreading, remove the peanut butter from the refrigerator about an hour before using it.
Then, of course, there’s the age-old dilemma of creamy vs. crunchy. Solve it by keeping a jar of each in the pantry!
Homemade peanut butter
Making nut butter at home is surprisingly easy, and a fun project for kids (who aren’t allergic to peanuts, of course). Start with 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts in a food processor. Process until they’re finely ground and begin to hold together as a mass. Add a tablespoon of agave or maple syrup and continue to process, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides from time to time, until smooth. Add a pinch of salt, if you’d like.
Transfer to a tightly lidded jar. Keep at room temperature for about a month; if the homemade peanut butter is to be stored for a longer time, refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
Here’s more detailed how-to for making homemade peanut butter from Broke Bank Vegan.
Peanut butter nutrition
Nutritionally, peanut butter has all the goodness of peanuts in concentrated form. It is high in fat and calories, so use in moderation. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter provides 9 grams of protein, 190 calories, and 16 grams of fat. It provides the same nutrients as peanuts — peanut butter is a good source of B vitamins and many minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. Here’s the complete nutritional profile of peanut butter.
Some general uses for peanut butter
Don’t limit your use of peanut butter to sandwiches alone. Use peanut butter in breads, cookies, cakes, and fudge — and the classic PB & J sandwich, of course.
Baking: Peanut butter is an all-time favorite ingredient in cakes, bars, and cookies. It’s a classic match made in heaven with chocolate.
In piecrust: Most standard crusts call for 6 tablespoons butter (or in our case, vegan butter). Swap in 3 tablespoons of peanut butter for a rich, and tasty crust.
African peanut stew: A meal in a bowl — okra, yams (or sweet potato), and other veggies are enveloped in a rich peanut butter base. Here’s our luscious recipe for this global classic.
Peanut sauce: Make a simple peanut sauce to use as a delicious sauce for steamed green vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and noodle dishes. See our recipe for Coconut-Peanut Sauce or Salad Dressing.
In smoothies: Add a tablespoon of peanut butter to banana or apple-based smoothies for a luscious flavor.
Homemade vegan truffles and fudge: Peanut butter is a key ingredient! Try these Easy Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles.
Up your PB & J game: Add slices of banana or fresh strawberries to the classic sandwich. For a vegan “Elvis” sandwich: Add sliced banana and crisp-cooked vegan bacon to your PB & J sandwich for a strangely good combo.
Homemade ice cream: Include a bit of peanut butter in homemade ice creams, including frozen banana soft serve.
Ants on a log: The classic snack calls for stuffing peanut butter into the cavity of celery sections, then arranging raisins in a row. Weird, but good.
A dip for fruit: Serve apple slices with a dollop of peanut butter for a quick snack.
Make sure to see our full range of Sweet and Savory Vegan Peanut Butter Recipes.
See more of this site’s Good Food Guides.
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