View Full Version : Peanut Butter vs. Peanut Spread

07-25-2016, 05:49 AM
By definition, peanut butter has to be 90% peanuts, peanut spread has to be 60% peanuts. But now, peanut spread also contains palm kernel oil, a flavorless oil better suited as an industrial lubricant than as a food. Also, beware when you see the words "natural" or "no stir" or "organic" because it may be a spread, even though it may cost more than peanut butter. Labels that say natural, no stir, and organic might compel you to think it's one of those "all peanut" products, where you have to stir in the oil that separates. But many are "spreads" loaded with palm kernel oil, which incidentally makes a fine substitute for cosmoline.

The best peanut butter is fresh ground, some grocers have a machine filled with peanuts, you put the container under the spout, press a button, real fresh ground peanut butter comes out. It's worth the extra cost, it can be sweetened as you wish, the flavor is unequaled. The next best is the real peanut butters, usually in smaller size jars, with the oil floating on the top that you have to stir in, Smucker's make this kind. Many of them have salt but no sugar. The stirring is worth the effort in terms of flavor and wholesomeness.

However, there's now a trend of peanut "spreads" which is just a glib way of saying "cheap flavorless dreck". I've been fooled by the words "organic" and "natural" a couple times, only realizing later they contained palm kernel oil, they tasted awful. All the major brands and even gourmet brands like Justin's have spreads. But they have palm kernel oil added, which is a cheap oil from the Third World that ruins the flavor of peanuts. Also, palm kernel oil is used as biodiesel. In fact, palm kernel farming is the leading cause of rainforest deforestation. So don't buy peanut spread, save the planet and put Al Gore out of work via peanut butter.

So why are companies using a cheap ersatz oil to ruin peanut butter? Price. Peanut oil is very valuable as a stand alone product, so they add cheap palm kernel oil. You see, modern peanut butter is made by defatting the peanuts, the oil is removed. The result is oil and desiccated peanut flour, which is then reconstituted along with salt, sugar, and hydrogenated oil to keep it from separating. Or in the case of peanut butter spread, less peanut flour with more palm kernel oil, and usually more sugar. A "chunky" product is made by adding chopped peanuts, so chunky types would seem to contain more actual peanuts over a "smooth" product.

Aside from fresh ground peanut butter or the "real" type of 100% peanut butters where the oil separates, the best national brand I recommend is "Simply Jif" with the white label, it's like regular Jif Peanut Butter in the green label, but with less sugar and sodium.

So be careful out there and don't get ripped off, read the labels and enjoy.