Although other nut butters are making inroads, peanut butter still owns the lion’s share of real estate on supermarket shelves. These days there are more options than ever, including organic peanut butters.
We recently surveyed all of the organic peanut butters on the market and were surprised to find a whopping 19 options to choose from. Some were no-stir varieties, meaning they’re mixed with palm oil to keep the mixture emulsified; others were natural. Some had salt and sugar added; others didn’t. And some specified the variety of peanut and even the level of roasting, from dark roast to light.
Could there really be much of a difference between them? We rounded them all up for a taste test to find out.
We limited our taste test to organic peanut butters only. That means not only are the peanuts grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, so are any additions such as palm oil and sugar. It also means the ingredients are GMO-free.
Next we selected only creamy, not crunchy, varieties since they’re the most popular. Plus, if you get the creamy version right the chunky version is probably pretty good too.
We divided the creamy options into two main categories: no-stir and natural. We evaluated these categories separately. For the natural category, we used a hand-held mixer to ensure they were all fully emulsified before testing, washing the beater between each one. And, within those two categories we also evaluated the unsalted options separately so as to give them a fair shake.
We tasted the peanut butters blind on their own, evaluating them for depth and balance of flavor as well as any off-flavors, texture and consistency. Some were super smooth, some had tiny nut bits, some were oily and runny, others as thick as spackle.
After tasting them blind, we pitted the top choices in a second round, spreading each on soft white whole wheat bread and topping with organic strawberry preserves. Did the peanut flavor come through? Was the texture unpleasantly runny or too thick to spread?
Although peanut butter lovers would find no fault with any of the brands we tried, some definitely outshone the rest. Here are the ones that took our top spots.
The Best Organic No-Stir Peanut Butter
We were surprised to find that Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value Organic Creamy No Sugar Added Peanut Butter stood out from those that were twice the price. But there was no denying that this peanut butter offered the most rich, deep, peanut-y flavor with no bitterness. It didn’t even need the addition of sugar like most others in this category. And it had a silk smooth, easy-to-spread texture, and just 100 mg of sodium per 2 tablespoon serving.
Honorable Mention: If you’re looking for something more like an organic analog to Jif or Skippy, Whole Foods also makes a slightly-sweetened version. The 2 grams of added sugar make it a lot more kid friendly.
The Best Organic Natural Peanut Butter
We tasted the salted versions separately from the no-salt, and Adams Organic Creamy, with just 50 mg of sodium per 2 tablespoon serving, beat out other versions that were seasoned with far more salt. It had the most roasty-toasty rich peanutty flavor with no bitter aftertaste and a natural sweetness that was a perfect complement to strawberry jam. I found the consistency —not too thin or thick, with some tiny bits of nuts added a hint of texture — to be perfect.
Buy It: Adams Organic Creamy, $5
Honorable Mentions: If you must have silky-smooth peanut butter, MaraNatha was the smoothest of the bunch and just a smidge less flavorful than Adams. Want no added sodium? CB’s Nuts tasted like peanut butter freshly ground from one of those grinders at the store — rich, fresh and naturally sweet. It’s “creamunchy” which means it’s borderline crunchy with nut bits. So, if you can’t find it or if textures aren’t your thing, try Once Again Creamy Salt-Free. It’s much thinner and more oily in consistency, but is very smooth, naturally sweet, and goes well with jam. As a bonus, the employee-owned company is very transparent about sourcing.