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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

We Taste-Tested 8 Supermarket Crunchy Peanut Butters—Here Are Our Favorites



The Serious Eats reader, in my experience, is a lot of things. She’s passionate! She’s nuanced! She’s intense about the fact that peanut butter should always be crunchy! (I learned this about her after publishing a creamy peanut butter taste test recently.) I respect that, but I’m also a little scared of her. I’m also a little scared of all the Serious Eats readers who passionately disagree with her and, with the publication of this chunky peanut butter taste test, now have a whole new reason to send angry emails.

In all seriousness, crunchy peanut butter is divisive, as are most staples that people voluntarily carry from childhood pantries into adult ones. Feelings run strong, but we’re professionals here at Serious Eats and are able to check our own in the name of taste-test objectivity.

So, the SE team has pulled together eight brands of crunchy peanut butters you’re likely to find in your local supermarket, and methodically, empirically, scientifically! tasted its way through them all in a quest to identify the very best. And we loved every minute of it!

Serious Eats / Jordan Provost


The Contenders

  • JIF Peanut Butter, Extra Crunchy
  • Nature’s Promise Peanut Butter Crunchy Organic
  • Once Again Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter 
  • Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter
  • Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter, Super Chunky
  • Urban Meadow Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • WOODSTOCK Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter

The Criteria

A good crunchy peanut butter boasts minimal oiliness (after mixing in any oil that separated during storage) and significant savoriness. Our top contenders skewed much saltier than they did sweet; they also had chunks that, despite varying sizes, were often described as “crispy.” Contrastingly, our less-loved jars had mushier or even “raw”-tasting nuts.

The jars we procured were all over the map texture-wise. About half could be described as thin and slippery, almost like eating a broken vinaigrette. The other half was like studded nut-butter velvet (thick! consistent!), not a hint of oil slick to be found. The Serious Eats team was less bothered by the distinct presence of artificiality in this test than they were in the creamy peanut butter version. In fact, a little stabilization and emulsification went a long, pleasant way—a sign that when PB goes crunchy, our tastes go junky?

Relatedly, those same winning jars hit our testers with a nice lil’ dose of nostalgia. If a chunky peanut butter is doing its job, per our findings, you should be able to open it and know you’re in for a good time just by smelling the stuff. Like, just the action of smelling it should hit like listening to Coolio (or TLC, or Gloria Estefan, or…whatever was playing in your house after school). 

As with the creamy PB taste test, we avoided “spreads” (it’s a different product with fewer nuts and more stabilizers, so please, please stop emailing me to ask why Justin’s has not made an appearance in these tests—we will do another test specifically for spreads!) Either way, I stirred each peanut butter for 20 seconds a pop before plopping each sample into a bowl and serving it to the team with no accompaniments.

Serious Eats / Jordan Provost


The Rankings

Urban Meadow Crunchy Peanut Butter, 3.8/5

You (famously, I think) shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s nothing wrong with judging a peanut butter by what you’re greeted with when you pull off the lid. Per my pre-testing notes, this Key Foods brand (!) was “gorgeous! There’s no separation and there are even chunks riddled throughout.” From there, the comments were fascinating, ranging from: “This reminds me of soy sauce? Like a charred barbecue flavor? Would this be good for peanut sauce?” to “Very tasty! I would definitely eat this again happily.” The chunks were small, but they were consistently small, and they ate crisp-ily in each bite. Everyone was happy with this PB’s versatility, or, at the very least, not mad about having to eat a lot of this stuff. And in this house, we stan a begrudging near-consensus.

JIF Peanut Butter, Extra Crunchy, 3.7/5

HEheheheheheeeee! Megan: “This has got to be Skippy or Jif or some such.” Kelli: “Creamy and nostalgic, this has to be a common brand like Jif. This is clearly a super contrived texture, meant to make me happy, and it does.” Then, ok, fine, Daniel: “This is not my preferred style of PB, but as far as processed ones go, this one is pleasant.” Genevieve: “This is very thick with visible chunks of peanut. Slightly sticky/gummy. Good crunch when eating.” Me, in those same keeper-of-the-key pre-test notes: “Completely unnatural matte asteroid of joy.”

Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter, Super Chunky, 3.7/5

I was eager to see where this guy would land, given Teddie’s middling ranking  in the creamy peanut butter taste test (despite being loved by the team in their personal lives). It fared much better here. Firstly, this stuff was pretty. It’s the color of Three Musketeers filling—a viscerally good and important color. Secondly, it was correctly salty and savory with very consistent chunking. “Totally enjoyable. Very nicely chunked,” Daniel wrote. Genevieve pointed to hints of wasabi (!?) while Kelli noted how “real” it tasted. A happy—but not nostalgic!—confluence of peanut butter things.

Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter, 3/5

You’ll notice the drop of .7 points here. That may seem surprising given that this option checked the oh-god-I-miss-the-’90s box and was also pleasantly roasty and chunky, but, my friends, these things matter less if it feels like you’re masticating through sweet glue. This is a perfect option for a snacky, dehydrated human: One bite and you’re guaranteed a touch of sweet and a pop of salt followed by half your daily recommended H2O intake just to try to wash it down!

Serious Eats / Jordan Provost


WOODSTOCK Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter, 2.85/5

In happy news, this oily offering stirred back together very easily. No part of it tasted artificial; in fact, it toed the line between naturally smooth and artificially smooth very nicely. Megan described the experience of eating this peanut butter as “surprising,” as she didn’t love the appearance, but was taken aback by the level of “nice toasted-ness.” Daniel appreciated the sweetness, noting it wasn’t overly so. The less-happy news was that that initial oiliness made an appearance in just about every subsequent bite, and that the sample re-puddled quite quickly.

Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, 2.49/5

A nice peanut butter that tasted as though it’d been sitting on a shelf for more than a minute. Though we’ll never know if it once tasted fresh and became “stale and dusty” or if it simply was that way upon bottling, the stale peanut taste was undeniable for each and every tester. That said, most remarked on the overall flavor being a good combination of salt vs. sweet.

Once Again Crunchy Peanut Butter, 2.15/5

The award for Singular Comment That Made Me LOL This Time goes to: “This needs salt and something else–maybe peanuts??” by Megan O. Steintrager. (Daniel echoed this sentiment, writing “I think the peanut flavor might be fine, if only salt was there to lift it up.”) I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a few people felt the wistfulness that comes along with a good crunchy peanut butter, but I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention they mentioned it in a “Play-Doh” and “gummy lipstick” capacity.

Nature’s Promise Peanut Butter Crunchy Organic, 1.8/5

Uh oh!

Our Tasting Methodology

All taste tests are conducted completely hidden and without discussion. Tasters taste samples in random order. For example, taster A may taste sample 1 first, while taster B will taste sample 6 first. This is to prevent palate fatigue from unfairly giving any one sample an advantage. Tasters are asked to fill out tasting sheets ranking the samples for various criteria that vary from sample to sample. All data is tabulated, results are calculated, and rankings are made to reveal the most impartial results possible. Then we write a bunch of silly interpretive nonsense about it that may or may not explain what anyone was thinking.

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