There is nothing more nostalgic than a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It brings you right back to your childhood with each sticky and nutty bite.
Peanut butter is beloved by many and has infiltrated all sorts of foods from Pad Thai’s to celery and to even hamburgers! It is unlike anything else out there.
But this brings up an important question: what exactly is peanut butter?
We have been eating it for years, but do we have any idea what category of food peanut butter is actually in? Is it considered a condiment? Dip? Spread?
So, is peanut butter a condiment? While condiments are added to enhance the flavor of food, and peanut butter does just that, its thicker and spreadable texture, as well as its ability to be eaten by itself, actually makes peanut butter a spread.
Keep reading to learn exactly why peanut butter is considered a spread and not a condiment, how it is used, what food group it is in, and its nutritional facts and health benefits.
What Is A Condiment?
Before we look at what peanut butter is (and how it is not a condiment) it is important to understand exactly what a condiment is.
A condiment is considered a substance or sauce that is added to food to enhance its flavor, usually after cooking. However, condiments can be added at any point in the cooking process.
For example, adding a condiment like mayonnaise or mustard to a hamburger or hotdog, or turkey sandwich to enhance the experience.
Popular condiments include ketchup, hot sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard.
What makes condiments unique is that they are never consumed by themselves. You would not take a spoonful of ketchup or hot sauce as a snack.
This is the defining feature for peanut butter: it can, and is often, consumed by itself, unlike other condiments.
Yes, peanut butter enhances food like celery, but it also is considered a staple in other foods.
Is Peanut Butter A Condiment?
Peanut butter is not a condiment, it is more closely considered a spread.
A spread is defined as a thicker substance that can be spread with a knife or a spoon onto another food, like bread, toast or a fruit or vegetable. However, like condiments, they are also added to enhance the food’s flavor.
The main difference between condiments and spreads is their texture. Condiments tend to be on the thinner side, while spreads tend to be quite thick.
Some popular spreads include butter, cheeses like goat cheese, or fruit preservatives. Like condiments, these spreads are added to things like bread or crackers to add flavor.
However, peanut butter is unique in that it does enhance other foods’ flavors as typical spreads do, yet it can also be eaten by itself.
This makes peanut butter an extremely unique food. It truly can be seen to be in its own category somewhere between a condiment and a spread. So, though it is most often classified as a spread, it seems to be in its own category.
How Is It Made?
Because of its thick and spreadable qualities, you may be wondering how crunchy peanuts can be transformed into peanut butter.
Depending on which kind of peanut butter you buy, some have more natural processes than others, yet the main process is the same across the board.
To make peanut butter, peanuts are ground in two steps. First, they are ground into what is considered a medium grind. This is when the peanuts are ground into many tiny pieces.
After this, they start the second grinding process by taking those already ground peanuts and continuing to grind them until they become a smooth paste.
Depending on what brand or type of peanut butter that is being produced, companies may choose to roast the peanuts before grinding or they may choose to use raw peanuts.
For crunchy peanut butter, additional peanut pieces are added to give that crunchy texture.
Additional peanut butter ingredients include sugar or different oils, like palm oil.
Because the process to make peanut butter is simply grinding the peanuts until they become a paste, you can actually make peanut butter at home if you own a food processor.
Now, we recommended having a good quality food processor and a lot of patience as the process will take some time.
However, to make the peanut butter, simply grind the peanuts in a similar two-step process—grind them once into a medium grind, then keep processing until you have smooth peanut butter.
How Is Peanut Butter Used?
Because it is unique, peanut butter is used in a plethora of ways.
Of course, most famously, peanut butter is used in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a childhood staple.
It is used as an addition to vegetables and fruits like celery or apples to give a bit more protein to these snacks.
Same can be said for smoothies—peanut butter not only adds more protein, but it also helps create a creamy and smooth consistency.
It is a popular addition to many, many different sweet treats including popular candy, like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, banana bread, cookies, brownies, and even as ice cream flavoring and topping.
Peanut butter also can be found in savory recipes like a spicy peanut sauce that is used for dipping spring rolls or drizzled on a Thai-inspired salad.
Even more adventurously, restaurants have been adding it to hamburgers or grilled cheese sandwiches to add an extra layer of flavor.
Quite honestly, the options are endless!
What Food Group Is Peanut Butter In?
You may be surprised to find out that peanut butter is considered part of the protein foods category.
As a refresher, there are currently 5 main food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. The USDA recommends eating a healthy mix of all 5 groups.
Now, though peanut has the word “nut” in it, they are actually considered part of the legume family, which beans or peas are also a part of. They are unique in that they have nutritional benefits of both nuts and legumes.
Legumes are known for their protein content. Specifically, for vegetarians and vegans, legumes help up their protein intake.
This is why peanut butter, as it is made with legumes, is considered a protein food. In just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, there are 8 grams of protein.
If you compare the protein content to meat, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter has the same amount of protein as 1 ounce of cooked meat, according to the USDA.
As you can see, for those who need a little extra protein boost or do not eat protein-rich foods like meat, peanut butter is an excellent addition to their diets.
Nutrition Facts And Health Benefits
Though natural peanut butter has many health benefits, it is extremely important to look at ingredient lists before picking up a jar.
Some companies include sugar and unnecessary oils or trans fat that can diminish the health benefits natural peanut butter has to offer.
You want peanut butter that has no additives except salt to ensure the highest quality peanut butter.
However, if you pick natural peanut butter there are some great benefits. In two tablespoons of peanut butter, you get 8 grams of protein, 18 grams of (good) fat, 3 grams of fiber, and just 1 gram of sugar.
Peanut butter is also a great source of vitamins like vitamin E, Niacin (B6), vitamin B6, and magnesium.
These benefits all make adding peanut butter to your diet a great thing! However, there are a couple of things to consider:
Peanut butter is fairly high in calorie content. For two tablespoons of peanut butter there are approximately 190-200 calories.
Like with any food, it is best to eat according to your own personal goals and dietary needs.
What Are The Best Brands Of Peanut Butter To Buy?
To ensure you are getting the most nutrients and health benefits from your peanut butter, you want to look for natural peanut butter. You want to avoid added sugar or vegetable oil (palm oil is okay).
You also have the option of creamy or crunchy peanut butter. Creamy is completely smooth, while crunchy has small bits of peanuts.
Here are our top three options:
- MaraNatha Organic Peanut Butter
- Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned Nutty Peanut Butter
- Santa Cruz Organic Creamy Light Roasted Peanut Butter
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