Peanut butter: why Britain's going gooey over the sticky spread

Peanut Butter

It has been rebranded as a health food and sales are up 13%. Where do you stand on the crunchy or smooth divide and have you tried it satay-style on toast?

Peanut butter love is spreading, and I’m not surprised. News from the Grocer shows Britain has gone nuts for this unctuous stuff, which has now pushed past marmalade and into third spot, behind honey and jam, in the list of best-selling spreads.

It has always had a place in my heart, but rebranding peanut butter as a health food has helped increase sales by 13.3% in the past year, leaving erstwhile favourites consigned to the sticky naughty step. Peanut butter is even being pushed as a sports aid, with manufacturers such as Whole Earth offering it up in sachet form so we can squeeze it down our necks after exercise.

Although the idea of a claggy, post-run mouthful is enough to spark arachibutyrophobia in even diehard peanut butter fans, there is no denying that this glorious paste is good for you. It was invented in the US in the late 19th century as a meat protein substitute, and peanuts are bursting with good fats and other nutrients.

And you don’t have to buy into the marketing shtick to enjoy it – peanut butter is incredibly easy to make, so you can avoid the sugar added by many manufacturers and the overpriced “health food” versions. Just lightly toast some peanuts in a dry pan, bung them in a food processor with a little bit of salt, and blitz – you don’t even need to add oil if you’re patient enough to stick with it until the mixture turns into a lovely, shiny, spreadable thing. I’ve not got much time for the crunchy versus smooth debate – I’ll devour peanut butter any way it comes (OK, I’d go for smooth if pushed) – but add some extra nuts halfway through blitzing if you like yours with bits.

For me, the health stuff is just a bonus. Most things taste better with a slick of peanut butter, and I’m happy to try it with pretty much anything. I became hooked as a child, when my mother made me peanut butter and celery sandwiches for my lunch box, or peanut butter and honey if she was in a very sweet mood. Now I use it in everything, from toast to soup. A new peanut butter boutique in LA is on the right track in my view, offering a nut butter-centric menu that includes the classic ants on a log, right through to peanut butter and bacon sarnies.
An unscientific Twitter poll found lots of love for adding a dollop of peanut butter to curries and chilli to add depth of flavour, and hardcore aficionados recommend the peanut butter and pickle marriage. I often whisk together peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce to make an instant satay-style goo for noodles and stir-fries. I will soon be attempting the union of sriracha and peanut butter – a kind of satay toast.

Sweet pairings are always good. Although I’ve never quite understood the US obsession with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – just too cloying – give me nut paste with banana and chocolate on toast for my death-row snack. Fellow fans also rate peanut butter with apples and maple syrup. The options are endless.
Although I was sad to see that marmalade had slid to fifth place in the Grocer survey, fans of the bittersweet preserve can take heart. I devoured peanut and marmalade on toast for breakfast this morning, and I can confirm that it is a very good thing.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Sue Quinn, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd January 2015 15.16 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010