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What’s the best peanut butter to buy?

What’s the best peanut butter to buy?
Image source: Getty Images

Is smooth best, or does crunchy peanut butter add another level to the spread? It’s a debate as old as time (or at least since the 1880s, when it was invented). But there’s much more to consider when picking up your PB these days. Protein, palm oil, price, percentage of nuts… the Ps are endless!

But the P-words I’m most mindful of – pennies and pounds – most certainly aren’t endless. And while our number one goal is helping people find the best offers to improve their finances, ‘cheapest’ doesn’t always mean best. Especially when considering the impact our spending can have on the wider world…

Let’s run through what’s on offer.

Protein potential

Peanut butter is often hailed for its high protein content, making it a favourite food amongst fitness enthusiasts and influencers. 

In fact, sports nutrition brand Myprotein has its own range of peanut butter, highlighting the spread as “a great tasting and natural source of healthy protein, carbohydrates and fats”.

Around 30% of each spoonful of the nutty stuff consists of protein, but there are other nutrients involved, such as magnesium and zinc. However, before you start replacing your apple a day with half a jar of peanut butter, be mindful that it’s also high in calories, saturated fat and sodium.

Palm oil

The oil palm tree, native to West & Central Africa but taken to South-East Asia a little over a century ago, yields fruit that produces edible vegetable oil. This palm oil is so versatile that it’s found in almost 50% of packaged goods on our supermarket shelves. It’s healthy, can keep crisps crunchy (due to being stable at high temperatures, i.e. frying), it even helps improve cleaning products thanks to its foaming agent properties.

But this versatility comes at a princely cost: deforestation. With so much demand for this ‘wonder oil’, entire forests were burned to make room for more oil palm trees. And this led to greenhouse gases, destruction of wildlife habitats, and more.

That’s why you’ll see many brands of peanut butter, like Meridian, with “No Palm Oil” prominently placed on its packaging.

Price point

It wouldn’t be a MyWalletHero article if we didn’t cover the price involved in some of these ‘upper tier’ brands, which often cost considerably more than their supermarket own-brand counterparts. 

Another reason that palm oil is so highly sought-after is due to the low production costs involved in sourcing and refining it. Additionally, it acts as a natural preservative in processed foods. When used in peanut butter, this allows for longer shelf lives and mass production. Which in turn can lead to production savings funnelled through to the RRP.

So yes, cheaper peanut butter can be bought in supermarkets. But I’ve made a personal decision to avoid buying peanut butter with palm oil in from now on.

As with many products, it can work out cheaper to buy in bulk. As a result, it’s best for me to buy my peanut butter in BUCKETS. Okay, maybe that’s overdoing it, but I do purchase in kilograms! Why? Well, to give an example, two 1kg Pip & Nut tubs of smooth peanut butter are on offer for £13.98 at the time of writing. That’s £0.70 per 100g, right? Well, its 400g younger sibling retails at £3.50… 87.5p per 100g.

Pick up a peanut

When we say “working for peanuts”, we insinuate that not much money is being earned. So is it true that peanuts are cheap? And does that mean it’s more cost-effective to make our own peanut butter?

Using a BBC Good Food recipe as the basis of my research, one jar would need 400g of blanched peanuts, 2 teaspoons of sea salt flakes, and 2-3 teaspoons of peanut oil.

500g of blanched peanuts might set you back just under £3.80 at the time of writing. Assuming one has sea salt flakes and peanut oil already – and it’s a big assumption, I realise – then in theory you can make your own 500g jar of peanut butter for 75.8p per 100g.

The question is, will it taste as nice as your favourite brand? That’s a question only you can answer… but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest not!

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