Published March 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Though we don't use it as much as the creamy stuff for cooking purposes, crunchy peanut butter occupies a prime spot in many home kitchen pantries.
We selected 13 brands, eliminating six in an initial pretasting: Arrowhead Mills Crunchy Valencia Peanut Butter; Arrowhead Mills Organic Crunchy Valencia Peanut Butter; MaraNatha Natural with Salt, Crunchy & Roasted Peanut Butter; MaraNatha Natural No Stir Crunchy & Sweet Peanut Butter; Jif Regular Peanut Butter, Extra Crunchy; Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter. We then sampled the remaining seven crunchy spreads to figure out which ones had the best peanut flavor, texture, and balance of sweetness and saltiness.
Not surprisingly, our favorites—and least favorites—tracked almost identically with the results from the creamy tasting. The losers all suffered from texture flaws, with tasters condemning them for “grainy,” “gritty” consistencies and, particularly in the case of one, for being so “soupy” and “viscous” that it was “hard to eat.” In some instances, their flavors were no help either; the hints of “fishiness” that we picked up on in the creamy version of one were just as present in this chunkier batch.
Likewise, tasters gravitated toward the crunchy versions our two favorite palm oil–based peanut butters from the creamy tasting. In fact, both of these spreads beat out their conventional equivalents (eliminated after the pretasting), with tasters praising their sweet-salty balance, “strong roasted flavor,” and “really good crunch.”
(Our peanut butter taste test has received an overwhelming response from passionate peanut butter fans. We’ve also received so many questions that we have decided to share our responses to the most frequently asked questions in the related how-to-cook, FAQ: Peanut Butter Tasting.)