Peanut butter has certainly been through a few changes over the years, and the most recent may be the best iteration yet.
Simply put; I love peanuts and peanut butter and have since I was old enough to say, "PB&J, please ..." I've never stopped loving the flavor a good peanut butter.
When I paid attention to peanut butter's Food Facts label is when I spied trouble on the peanut butter loving horizon. On average, two level tablespoons, a little more than an ounce, delivers 188 calories and 16 fat grams.
Several years ago reduced-fat peanut butter appeared at my supermarket, and I was one excited guy, until I looked at the Food Fact label and found that it delivered 190 calories and 12 fat grams. Sure, reduced-fat peanut butter had less fat, but they added carbohydrates, which kept the calories the same. Those carbs seemed to make reduced-fat peanut taste sweeter to me, too. Not much of an advantage.
So for quite a while I stayed away from peanut butter. But recently I found some reasons to return to this childhood favorite.
I spied Better'n Peanut Butter ($4.29/16 ounces) and for a while resisted the urge to try it because I thought it couldn't possibly be as good as the real deal. Seeing jars of it looking back at me at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Jewel and Super Target and other grocery stores convinced me to give it a try.
The ingredient list includes peanut flour, peanuts, peanut oil, tapioca syrup (a sweetener), grain syrup (another sweetener), dehydrated cane juice (sugar), along with unspecified natural colors and natural flavors and salt. Two tablespoons bring just 100 calories and 2 fat grams. Now that's a worthwhile difference and what fat-reduced peanut butter should have delivered.
Cracking open the jar I found what looks just like smooth peanut butter. Its consistency is slightly softer and more moist than regular peanut butter; that makes it easier to spread on bread, but trickier to confine to a celery stick.
Better'n Peanut Butter tastes like real peanut butter, thanks to its first three ingredients. Due to its next three ingredients, compared to regular peanut butter, it's somewhat sweeter. When I used it to make a PB&J (with no-sugar-added jam), I could hardly taste a difference.
The Internet brought the next version of 85-percent less fat peanut butter to my attention: Just Great Stuff brand Organic Powdered Peanut Butter ($8.54/6.43 ounces). The label doesn't lie; this is great stuff.
There are just three ingredients: organic peanuts, organic coconut sugar (lower glycemic index than cane sugar) and sea salt. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter powder with 1 tablespoon water (I used bottled spring water) and stir. Voila! Thick, sticky, tasty peanut butter.
Those two tablespoons deliver just 45 calories and a mere 1.5 fat grams of organic goodness. The flavor and texture came so close to the real thing.
So what's the secret? Both products use defatted peanut flour; that's dark roasted peanuts that have been ground up and have had most of the fat (oil) removed, leaving just enough fat to transport the peanut flavor, but not the calories.
It's a new day for peanut butter and this lean guy couldn't be happier.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.