Peanut butter is a pantry staple that's so versatile it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between – in both savoury and sweet dishes. And whether you're team smooth or team crunchy, you're well catered for by the many companies that make it.
So how do you choose which one to buy? We compared the ingredients, nutrients and label claims of more than 50 peanut butter products sold in supermarkets in order to develop this guide.
Peanuts themselves are packed with protein, contain significant amounts of fibre and monounsaturated fats and are rich in heart-healthy polyphenols and a range of vitamins and minerals. And some peanut butters claim to be made from 'hi-oleic' peanuts which have been bred for their higher monounsaturated fat content.
Due to their high fat content (albeit predominantly 'good' fats), nuts are also high in kilojoules, so it's probably best not to devour half a jar of peanut butter in one sitting.
A 30g serving of nuts a day, which can include nut butters or pastes (preferably with no added salt or sugar), is what's recommended. That's about one-and-a-half tablespoons of peanut butter (and about 760kJ – 182 calories – on average).
Many peanut butters sold in supermarkets contain ingredients other than peanuts, including added sugar and salt, so they vary when it comes to nutritional value.
CHOICE tip: Choosing products that are 100% peanuts will help you avoid added nutritional nasties, and get you more nutty nutrients.
Which peanut butters contain the most peanuts?
Of the 50+ products we looked at, 11 (20%) are 100% peanuts, and we've listed them in the table below.
Most of the peanut butter products on shelves contain at least 85% peanuts, but Bega Light products check in at just 62%.
The 'light' refers to the product being 25% less fat, but the trade-off is you get a product that's about 25% less peanuts and padded out with maltodextrin, which is generally used as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of a processed food. If you're keen to limit your fat (and kilojoule) intake, but want better value for money, you could simply eat a smaller serve of Bega's regular product, which costs the same but is 85% peanuts.
We've listed the lowest sugar peanut butter products from our sample of more than 50 in the table below.
More than half of the products we looked at contain added sugar, so if you're keen to avoid it check the ingredients list for sugar (or molasses, in products labelled 'American style').
Bega Light, at 15.4g per 100g, had the most sugar of the 50+ products we reviewed.
CHOICE tip: Look for products with 5g or less sugar per 100g, which is considered to be 'low in sugar' according to the food standards code. Of the products we looked at, 20 (36%) fell into this category.
We've listed the lowest sodium peanut butter products from our sample of more than 50 in the table below.
Peanuts and salt go hand in hand so it's not surprising that more than 80% of the products we looked at have salt added. But eating too much salt can result in high blood pressure, so it's best to limit the amount we eat.
CHOICE tip: Look for products that have 120mg or less sodium per 100g, which is considered to be 'low salt' according to the food standards code. Of the products we looked at, 15 (27%) were low in salt.
Only six of the peanut butter products we looked at contain 100% Australian ingredients.
- Bega Simply Nuts No Added Salt
- Bega Simply Nuts Natural Peanut Butter Smooth
- Bega Simply Nuts Natural Peanut Butter Crunchy
- Bega Simply Nuts Natural Peanut Butter The Crunchiest
- Ridiculously Delicious Peanut Butter Chunky Crunch
- Ridiculously Delicious Peanut Butter Super Smooth
If you want to buy peanut butter made from Australian-grown peanuts, be prepared to pay a bit extra. The Bega Simply Nuts and Ridiculously Delicious products were some of the more expensive we looked at, at $1.54 and $2.35 per 100g respectively.
The cheapest peanut butters, at around 50 cents per 100g, were regular (i.e. non-organic) products from Coles (made in India), Aldi and Woolworths (both made in Argentina).
And many of the products that are made in Australia use only a small proportion of Australian-grown peanuts, if any.
Video: Which peanut butter tastes best?
A long-running court battle between Australian company Bega and US company Kraft ended in May 2019 when Bega won the right to use the trademark yellow lids on its peanut butter jars.
In a nutshell (ahem), US company Kraft relinquished control of its peanut butter to food giant Mondolez in 2012, which subsequently sold the Port Melbourne factory and peanut butter recipes to Australian company Bega in 2017. Bega then rebranded the product, keeping the packaging (and purportedly the recipe) the same.
Kraft re-entered the Australian peanut butter market in 2018 and wanted its famous yellow lids and packaging back and the companies took the allegations of trademark infringement to court. The outcome was that Bega was awarded exclusive use of the yellow lid, and red (for crunchy) and blue (for smooth) peanut label.
For a period of time Kraft's reformulated peanut butter and Bega's products were vying for attention in supermarkets – a tricky proposition when they looked near identical – but Bega had the edge, being stocked in both Coles and Woolworths while Kraft was only available at selected IGAs. Kraft peanut butter now seems to have vanished from supermarket shelves.
In 2018 we put nine nationally available peanut butter products to a public vote for best tasting peanut butter.
Where a brand had multiple products we chose its standard or 'flagship' bestseller over its more niche variants such as 'dark roast', 'American style', 'light' or 'organic'. For comparison purposes we selected 'smooth' over 'crunchy' as smooth has a larger share of the peanut butter market.
Bramwells Peanut Butter Smooth (Aldi)
- Taste score: 84%
- Good to know: Bramwells Smooth Peanut Butter from Aldi is 90% peanuts and produced in Argentina. It's one of the sweetest (and cheapest) products in our review.
Perhaps it's no surprise that the public found the best tasting peanut butter products were the ones that are highest in sugar and salt (well, we didn't ask them to find the healthiest!). Bramwells Peanut Butter Smooth and Kraft Peanut Butter Smooth (no longer available) were the favourites of our taste testers, achieving overall scores of more than 80%.