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 brands that make it.
So how do you choose which one to buy? We bought 60 peanut butter products from supermarkets and compared their ingredients, nutrients and label claims in order to develop this guide.
We put nine popular brands to the public vote for best tasting peanut butter. 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 were the favourites of our taste testers, achieving overall scores of more than 80%.
Bramwells Peanut Butter Smooth (Aldi)
- Taste score: 84%
- Price: $2.39 for 500g ($0.48/100g)
- Good to know: Bramwells Smooth Peanut Butter from Aldi is 90% peanuts and produced in Argentina. With 13.6g sugar per 100g, it's the sweetest product in our taste test. It's also the cheapest.
Kraft Peanut Butter Smooth
- Taste score: 81%
- Price: $5.98 for 500g ($1.20/100g)
- Good to know: Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter is 86% peanuts and is made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients. With 635mg sodium per 100g, it's the saltiest product in our taste test.
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.
Choosing products that are 100% peanuts will obviously help you avoid added nutritional nasties, and get you more nutty nutrients.
Which peanut butters contain the most peanuts?
Most of the peanut butter products on the 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 100% peanut products from our sample of 60 in the table below. When it comes to 100% peanuts, Aldi's Oh So Natural Wholefoods Peanut Butter gives you the most bang for your buck at 80c per 100g.
But 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.
Almost half of the products we bought contain added sugar, so if you're keen to avoid this 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 60 products we bought.
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. Thirteen of the products we looked at fell into this category.
Peanuts and salt go hand in hand so it's not surprising that almost three quarters of peanut butters have salt added. But eating too much salt can result in high blood pressure, so it's best to limit the amount we eat.
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. Sixteen of the products we looked at were low in salt.
If you want to buy Australian peanut butter, be prepared to pay a bit extra. The cheapest peanut butters we bought at around 50 cents per 100g were Coles' own brand in a 375g jar (made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients); Woolworths Essentials 500g (China); and Bramwells 500g from Aldi (Argentina).
And many of the products that are made in Australia use only a small proportion of Australian-grown peanuts, if any.
The only peanut butters we bought that contain 100% Australian ingredients are:
- Dick Smith's ($1.20 per 100g, although soon it will no longer be on the shelf)
- Pic's ($1.97 per 100g, although it's made in New Zealand)
- Purely Nutz ($1.73 per 100g)
- Ridiculously Delicious ($2.00 per 100g, available in selected IGA stores).
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 of which is that Bega is now exclusively entitled to use the yellow lid, and red (for crunchy) and blue (for smooth) peanut label.
Meanwhile their products have been vying for attention in supermarkets, a tricky proposition when they look near identical – although Bega currently has the edge, being stocked in both Coles and Woolworths while Kraft is only available at selected IGAs.
Needless to say, we were keen to see which brand would come out top in our blind tasting.
We chose nine peanut butters available nationally in at least one of the major supermarket chains. Where a brand has multiple products we chose their standard or 'flagship' or bestseller over their more niche products such as 'dark roast', 'American style', 'light' or 'organic'. For comparison purposes we selected 'smooth' style over 'crunchy' style as smooth has a larger share of the peanut butter market.
We set up a blind tasting in a shopping centre in Campbelltown, NSW, and invited members of the public to participate. Each product was assigned a number and its brand concealed. For each sample tasted, people decided if they disliked, liked or loved it. A total of 365 samples were tasted and voted on across the nine peanut butter products. A minimum of 33 taste tests were completed per product. Compare all nine peanut butter products side by side in our peanut butter taste test.
The 'Taste score' is calculated as an average of all responses, where 'dislike' is scaled at 25, 'like' at 70 and 'love' at 100.