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.
We conducted a CHOICE Community poll to see who was team smooth and who was team crunchy and found that out of 88 people, 71% prefer the crunchy stuff. For those who want the best of both worlds, Mayver's even offers a smooth and crunchy peanut butter mix called 'smunchy'.
But with so many options, how do you choose which peanut butter to buy? We compared the ingredients, nutrients and label claims of 47 peanut butter products sold in supermarkets in order to develop this guide.
Peanuts have numerous nutritional benefits: they're 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. However, peanut butter isn't always just peanuts – many peanut butters contain added sugar, salt and other additives.
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. The recommended serving size for nuts is 30g per day, which can include nut butters or pastes (preferably with no added salt or sugar). That's about one-and-a-half tablespoons of peanut butter.
CHOICE tip: Choosing products that are 100% peanuts will help you avoid added nutritional nasties, and get you more nutty nutrients.
We put 14 popular brands and 47 peanut butter products to the test to see which ones not only taste the best but are also better for you. As per our CHOICE Community poll, crunchy scored better than smooth in most aspects!
Best crunchy peanut butter
Bega Simply Nuts Crunchy Natural Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 87%
Taste test score: 84%
Price: $9.00 for 650g ($1.38 per 100g)
Good to know: Our highest performing peanut butter in this test. 99.5% peanuts and made in Australia with 100% Australian ingredients. It spreads well on soft white bread for crunchy peanut butter.
Tasting notes: "Smells like roasted nuts". "Beautiful texture and colour, just needs a bit more salt". "Chunks of roasted nuts".
Best crunchy, natural peanut butter (no added sugar or salt)
Sanitarium Crunchy Natural Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 85%
Taste test score: 82%
Price: $3.50 for 325g ($1.08 per 100g)
Good to know: 100% peanuts, 0% Australian ingredients.
Tasting notes: "Nice roasted salty, crunchy sweet". "This would be amazing with some salt".
Best smooth peanut butter
Coles Smooth Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 83%
Taste test score: 83%
Price: $3.50 for 500g ($0.70 per 100g)
Good to know: 85% peanuts, less than 10% Australian ingredients and has 7.6g sugar per 100g. It's difficult to spread on soft white bread as it's quite thick.
Tasting notes: "Smooth, not too much oil". "Smells wonderful".
Best smooth, natural peanut butter (no added sugar or salt)
Sanitarium Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 79%
Taste test score: 73%
Price: $3.50 for 375g ($0.93 per 100g)
Good to know: 100% peanuts, 0% Australian ingredients. Spreads well on soft white bread.
Tasting notes: "Sticky with a sweet nuttiness". "Smells great, like roasted nuts, very glossy but not oily". "Runny".
Which peanut butters contain the most peanuts?
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.
Nine of the peanut butters we tested contain 100% peanuts:
- Sanitarium Natural Peanut Butter Smooth
- Mayver's Smunchy Peanut Butter Unsalted
- Sanitarium Natural Peanut Butter Crunchy
- Bega Peanut Butter Simply Nuts No Added Salt
- Aldi Oh So Natural Wholefoods Crunchy Peanut Butter
- Aldi Oh So Natural Wholefoods Smooth Peanut Butter
- Coles Organic Peanut Butter Crunchy
- Byron Bay SmoothNo Added Salt
- Byron Bay Crunchy No Added Salt
- Woolworths Macro Organic Smooth Peanut Butter.
Most of the peanut butter products on supermarket shelves contain at least 85% peanuts, but Bega Light products contain only 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 a starch called maltodextrin, which is generally used as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of a processed food.
We asked Dr Alan Barclay, scientific advisor to the Glycemic Index Foundation, what his thoughts were on swapping the natural fats in peanuts with starches like maltodextrin.
"[Maltodextrin] is refined, it has no nutrients – what nutrients are being replaced?"
Dr Barclay says there is a lack of clear labelling when it comes to what's been added to our food, and he stresses the need for starches and added sugars to be separate on the nutrition information panel so we know exactly what we're getting.
Some peanut butters claim to be made from 'hi-oleic' peanuts, which have been grown to have different types of fats than normal peanuts. These nuts have more oleic fatty acid or the same fat found in olive oil. This oil has a longer shelf life and is said to have a better flavour.
Hi-oleic peanuts have around 80% of their fats made up of oleic fatty acid, whereas normal peanuts have about 50%. This is good because oleic fat is a monounsaturated fat which is good for your heart. Another benefit is that hi-oleic peanuts have less saturated fat, and replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat can decrease bad cholesterol in the body.
Of the 47 peanut butters we looked at, four contain hi-oleic peanuts:
- Byron Bay Peanut Butter Crunchy
- Byron Bay Peanut Butter Smooth
- Pic's Peanut Butter Crunchy
- Pic's Peanut Butter Smooth.
There was only a little difference in the saturated fat content of these hi-oleic peanut butters compared to the other peanut butters. In addition to this, Pic's website claims that their peanut butter is high in fibre and protein, but we found there was no real difference here either compared to the other peanut butters we tested.
So what about the taste? Pic's claim that "the slight flavour nuances really give our peanut butter an edge", but with an average taste test score of 59%, this doesn't appear to be the case.
A third 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').
Aldi Bramwells Smooth Peanut Butter contains 13.6g of sugar per 100g, which is the most of the 47 products we reviewed. That's 2.7g per serve, or more than half a teaspoon of sugar per serve (if you're sticking to one tablespoon of peanut butter in a sitting).
CHOICE tip: Look for products with no added sugar or molasses. Of the products we looked at, 13 fell into this category.
Peanuts and salt go hand in hand so it's not surprising that almost three quarters of the peanut butters we looked at have salt added to them. But consuming too much salt can result in high blood pressure, so it's best to limit the amount we eat. It's no surprise that the Bega Light peanut butters have more salt in them, possibly to add more flavour.
Bega Light peanut butter has over 600mg of sodium per 100g and 138mg per serve. This may not mean much alone, but if you were eating a peanut butter sandwich made with white bread, this adds up to about 443mg of sodium.
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 are low in salt.
Powdered peanut butter is made by pressing the natural oils out of peanuts then grinding them to make a powder. This produces a peanut flour lower in fat and kilojoules with only 43% of the kilojoules per serve compared to regular peanut butter, which is helpful for those watching their weight who still want to enjoy peanut butter. To make it up as a peanut butter equivalent spread, just add water and stir. Or alternatively, add it to smoothies or your morning oats.
Is powdered peanut butter the same as peanut flour?
Peanut flour and powdered peanut butter are essentially the same thing. However, powdered peanut butter has added salt, sugar and other additives to make it taste similar to regular peanut butter.
We taste tested three powdered peanut butters, with two made in Australia (albeit from less than 10% Australian ingredients).
Macro Mikes Powdered Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 43%
Taste test score: 29%
Good to know: Made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients.
Tasting notes: "Very sweet, stevia bitter, peanut butter fluff". "Wood putty". "Chemical and artificial sweetness".
PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 42%
Taste test score: 28%
Good to know: Made in the USA.
Tasting notes: "All wrong!" "Seaweed notes, salty sweet". "Is there peanut butter in this?"
Marmadukes Powdered Peanut Butter
CHOICE Expert Rating: 42%
Taste test score: 27%
Good to know: Made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients.
Tasting notes: "Smells like chemical coffee, bubblegum, chemicals. Weird". "Very smooth and creamy". "Terrible – like wet playdough".
Many of the peanut butter products 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:
- Ridiculously Delicious Peanut Butter Chunky Crunch
- Ridiculously Delicious Peanut Butter Crazy Crunch
- Ridiculously Delicious Peanut Butter Super Smooth
- Bega Simply Nuts The Crunchiest Natural Peanut Butter
- Bega Simply Nuts Crunchy Natural Peanut Butter
- Bega Simply Nuts Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
- Byron Bay Smooth Peanut Butter No Added Salt
- Byron Bay Crunchy Peanut Butter No Added Salt.
Beware of confusing origin claims
Watch out for misleading claims that appear to indicate the product is more local than what it actually is. For example, Bega Light Peanut Butter states: "Proudly made in Port Melbourne with imported and local ingredients. The local ingredients are sourced Australia wide." Yet this product contains less than 10% Australian ingredients.
Similarly, Sanitarium Peanut Butter mentions it's "proudly made on the Central Coast, NSW using imported peanuts". But it contains less than 10% Australian ingredients.
Of the peanut butters we tested, 15 were made from less than 15% Australian ingredients, two were made from less than 25%, eight were made from 100% Australian ingredients, and the rest did not disclose the percentage.
If we have peanut crops in Australia, why are most peanut butters made from imported peanuts?
According to Adam McNamara, Executive General Manager of Bega Foods, "Australian peanut growers have faced incredibly tough growing conditions over recent years, including a lengthy and challenging period of drought, which significantly reduced local peanut production. Faced with environmental challenges, local growers weren't able to keep up with the volume of peanuts that Australians like to consume."
Rest assured, Adam mentioned that the Australian peanut industry is picking up and hopefully we'll see more Australian peanuts on supermarket shelves.
Some peanut butters contain added oil to minimise separation of the natural oils at the top of the jar. These added oils are usually thicker at room temperature and keep everything together. In all cases, except for Coles peanut butters, this is listed generically as vegetable oil/fat. For those who like to know whether the product they're buying contains palm oil, this isn't helpful.
Here are the peanut butters we looked at that contain unspecified vegetable oil/fat:
- Aldi Bramwells Smooth American Style Peanut Butter
- Bega Crunchy No Added Sugar or Salt
- Sanitarium Crunchy Peanut Butter
- Bega Light Crunchy Peanut Spread
- Bega Light Smooth Peanut Spread
- Bega Super Crunchy
- Bega Dark Roast Crunchy
- Bega Crunchy Peanut Butter
- Bega Smooth Peanut Butter
- Sanitarium Smooth Peanut Butter.
According to Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia, some peanut butters contain sustainable palm oil. However, it's still palm oil, and as such there are still ethical issues involved.
Looking for palm oil on the label and can't find it? That's because Australian regulations allow the labelling of palm oil in the ingredients list to be 'vegetable oil'. In 2015 CHOICE started a campaign calling for the mandatory labelling of palm oil to help consumers make informed decisions about the products they buy.
The Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Agency (FSANZ) started a labelling review based on our recommendations and the recommendations of others, but the outcome was that enforcing such an act would make it more confusing for consumers to read food labels than it already is.
How we test peanut butter
We chose 47 peanut butters available nationally in at least one of the major supermarket chains. We then grouped the peanut butters into four groups:
- crunchy (including 'smunchy' products that fit this category)
- crunchy (natural, no added salt or sugar, including 'smunchy' products that fit this category)
- smooth (including powdered peanut butters)
- smooth (natural, no added salt or sugar).
We set up a blind taste test where each product was assigned a number and its brand concealed. Our experts then tasted the peanut butter samples in a randomised order, which was different for each expert. For each sample tasted, the experts gave a rating out of 10 based on flavour, texture, appearance, and smell.
Not all characteristics in the taste test were treated equally: flavour, being the most important, had a higher weighting, followed by texture, then aroma and appearance. The CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of the taste test score (80%) and the nutrition score (20%).
Meet our expert tasters
Adam Moore is a prolific culinary judge. His credits include judging for Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Fine Food competitions across a range of categories.
He has formal qualifications in pastry, charcuterie and butchery, sensory evaluation, food styling and food photography. With more than 25 years in the industry, Adam has worked in restaurants, food service, retail, food manufacturing, marketing and sales. He's a certified global executive chef, and culinology director at Culinary Revolutions.
Christine Elbakht has a history working globally with luxury brands including Moet & Hennessy, Parfums Givenchy and L'Oreal in executive roles, and after a lightbulb moment in 2016, she decided to follow her true passion: peanut butter.
Christine is the creator of Peanut Butter Bar in Sydney, the world's first eatery dedicated to peanut butter. It features a range of desserts and savoury meals with a peanut butter twist, as well as the world's first peanut butter tap that dispenses warm, liquid peanut butter.
Amanda Fuller is an internationally recognised chef who gained notable recognition within the industry during a decade of service in London. With Oliver Peyton, OBE (an Irish restaurateur and a judge on the BBC television series Great British Menu) as a mentor, she was fortunate enough to work at some of London's greatest establishments and launch 'No Meat Monday', a nonprofit campaign founded by the McCartney family.
Amanda has gone to great lengths to gain valuable experience since graduating from The Northern Sydney Institute in Ryde, and as the Group Executive Chef at the Sam Prince Hospitality Group, she now works across restaurants Mejico, INDU and Kid Kyoto in the heart of Sydney, mentoring young chefs as they rise up the culinary ranks.
Matthew Steen is CHOICE's in-house peanut butter champion. His day job may be Director of Reviews and Testing, where he's responsible for overseeing all of the product testing at CHOICE, however, he's also a secret gastronomic expert.
When he's not feeding his staffy-cross peanut butter, he enjoys having a "good" peanut butter on rice crackers.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.