Peanut butter and jelly is one of the quintessential basic foods that everyone learns how to make when they’re five years old (provided they don’t have an allergy): Grab whatever bread you’ve got in the cabinet. Slap on peanut butter on one side, then spread grape jelly on the other and you’re done. The mix of sweet and savory, fruity and nutty, rich and light, is so good that we don’t give much thought to altering the formula. And yet we still look at PB&J as “the quintessential basic food that everyone learns to make when they’re five years old.”
Prepare to add some variety to the mix. We’re going to show you how to make the ultimate peanut butter and jelly sandwich that’s going to rock your kitchen!
How to take peanut butter and jelly to the next level
PB&J by default is three ingredients: Peanut butter, jelly, and bread. You might not generally give your bread much thought, but you’re ignoring a third of the flavor! Try wheat for a hearty, earthy flavor, rye or sourdough for a contrasting tang, or a rich pumpernickel. For some textural difference, we recommend toasting one side of the bread. Didn’t know PB&J could be so fancy, right? We’re just getting started!
2. Peanut butter
Peanut butter is the crux of this sandwich, as it adds that rich, nutty flavor; a smooth, sticky consistency; and the protein that adds nutritional value and makes you feel full after. Peanut butter is also, unfortunately, the biggest factor preventing people from enjoying PB&J due to common nut allergies. Fear not, for there’s a solution – a good many, in fact: Honey and flax almond butter; tahini, sunflower butter, or even coconut. For pros, cons, benefits, and brands check here, here, and here.
The above alternatives are of course more than just for people with allergies – they’re completely new flavors. Tahini, for example, adds a distinctive Middle Eastern twist to your sandwich, and is much less sweet than your default peanut butter, meaning it pairs better with sweeter jams.
If you want to stick with peanut butter that’s fine, too! If you’re looking for variety in a different way, you might try mixing up the texture by trying crunchy peanut butter instead!
This is where things really hit the next level. Grape jelly is the most popular jam and jelly flavor in the United States, and it does pair excellently with peanut butter, given its sweet, fruity taste. If you don’t try other jams or jellies in your next PB&J, though, you’re shortchanging yourself.
The go-to for an improved PB&J has got to be strawberry jam. It’s got more of a tang to it, has a sweeter bite, and contrasts the rich nuttiness of peanut butter in a really unique way. If you’re open to experimenting, though, try blackberry, raspberry (our favorite!), blueberry, or even peach or orange marmalade. Switch up jams, jellies, and preserves. Each one brings a distinctly different flavor to the table, and you’d be surprised how so small a change can radically change the flavor of the whole sandwich.
Don’t like jelly? Fluffer Nutters are the often-overlooked contender if you want a sweet sandwich with a less gloppy and more sticky, sweet change of pace. Honey or Nutella are also great substitutes, honey being especially good if you go with tahini. And if you want a more healthy choice, try slicing up a banana and adding that!
Now for the grand finale: We’re going to make a PB&J that showcases nine different flavor combinations in one sandwich. You read that right.
First off, toast your bread if you like that crunchy, smoky texture. On one piece of bread spread three thick vertical stripes of chunky peanut butter, Nutella, and smooth peanut butter. Then on the other piece of bread spread three horizontal stripes of your choice of jam, honey, and marshmallow fluff. Put the pieces together and you’ve got nine different flavors and textures. Now that’s an awesome sandwich! It should look something like this:
Try mixing in some of the substitutes we brought up earlier, too! You can’t really go wrong as long as you keep the thicker, richer ingredients on one side, and your lighter, sweeter ones on the other. The only limit is your imagination! Let us know in the comments below what new flavor combinations you come up with!