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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

What’s the best peanut butter in the UK? We tested 6 in 5 ways to find out

We took the best peanut butters in the UK market and tested them in various recipes to see which would win the ultimate peanut butter showdown.

While new and innovative nut butters are cropping up everywhere, peanut butter will always be the original. Creamy, spreadable, packed with flavour, and highly versatile, it is a global favourite and a mainstay in vegan cupboards.

The Vegan Review tested six of the best peanut butters in the UK, in five different recipes, to find out which nut butter takes the throne. Our peanut butter review was a weeks-long process, with sweet and savoury, raw and cooked recipes. We only tested crunchy peanut butters, as the texture added more depth to the whole spread. Here’s our Ultimate Best Peanut Butter Showdown.

What’s it like to eat peanut butter plain?

You can’t test peanut butter without licking a spoonful of just plain nutty goodness. Joey Tribbiani did it with his (in)famous peanut butter fingers and now, it was our turn. We reviewed the colour for depth of roast, texture and flavour in this test to find out which peanut butter in the UK works best by itself.

Biona

biona peanut butterOlivia Rafferty: This one’s the lightest in colour. It’s not too oily, but easily the least-roasted. It’s not sweet, but not peanutty enough either. But it’s low in salt and leaves you feeling healthy. 3/5

Anay Mridul: Biona’s nut butter is easily the palest in the lineup. It’s barely roasted, and there aren’t a lot of peanut pieces to aid the crunchiness (the ones that are there are way too small). For me, the taste is dampening and not very pleasant, and it sticks to your mouth. 2/5

ManiLife

manilife peanut butterOR: A little oily and runny, the ManiLife crunchy peanut butter has very nutty taste, with some great natural sweetness to it. 4/5

AM: This is very runny, so much so that it’s dripping off the spoon. It looks and tastes slightly caramelly, and has the right amount of sweetness to it. There are loads of chopped peanuts in this, making it extra-crunchy. 4.5/5

Meridian

meridian peanut butterOR: The least oily, Meridian’s ratio of nuts to creaminess is well-balanced. It’s the second-darkest in colour, and leaves the mouth a bit too pasty. 4/5

AM: I like the consistency, and it has the perfect amount and size of nuts. The colour is deep and inviting. While it sticks to the mouth, the Meridian peanut butter has a wonderful flavour. But it is surprisingly dry, considering how runny it was on the spoon. 4/5

Pic’s

pics peanut butterOR: This probably has the largest-sized peanuts. The salt level is perfectly balanced with the peanut flavour, but this is a little pasty, and the colour is the second-palest out of all. 3.5/5

AM: There are loads of massive pieces, and this is very, very crunchy. But it’s a little salty for me, and leaves a dry mouth. And yes, it’s the second lightest in colour, after Biona, 3.5/5

Pip & Nut

pip and nut peanut butterOR: This is very oily, and equally pasty. It’s also too sweet. 3.5/5

AM: It’s the oiliest peanut butter we’re testing; it took a lot of time to stir and even out the consistency. Weirdly, it’s also the pastiest out of them all, and the most peanutty: it’s truly a wildcard. But it’s ironic how oily this is for the dry mouthfeel it provides. 3/5

Whole Earth

whole earth peanut butterOR: Whole Earth’s is the saltiest by a good distance. There’s no oil separation, and it’s a little too thick for tasting a plain spoonful. There are also reddish dots around. 2/5

AM: The only one where the oil doesn’t separate (which is due to the presence of palm oil), this peanut butter likely has the skins of the nuts too, owing to the red dots that occur throughout. It’s very, very salty. 2/5

Test winner: ManiLife

PB&J sandwiches

The iconic peanut butter and jam sandwich is arguably the most crucial part of the whole test. Is it really even good peanut butter if it doesn’t hold its own in a PB&J? We got some classic white bread (a vegan loaf, obviously) and strawberry jam, and assessed the spreadability and taste of the nut butters.

Biona

pbj sandwichOR: It isn’t roasted enough, which makes the flavour insignificant. It’s just not a suitable spread for jam sandwiches. 2.5/5

AM: While this is probably the easiest peanut butter to spread, its light roast leads to a very bland, cement-like taste. There’s also barely any crunch, which doesn’t help its cause. 2/5

ManiLife

peanut butter and jam sandwichOR: Its oily, separated texture makes it difficult to spread on cheap, super-soft bread (maybe get a better loaf for this). However, it mixes really well with the jam and achieves a perfect balance between salty and sweet. Undoubtedly my favourite peanut butter and jam sandwich 5/5

AM: I found it quite easy to spread. It has just the right amount of nut pieces, and blends in really well with the jam. The flavours intermix incredibly, the roast profile of the peanuts elevating the taste of the strawberry jam. It just has the slightest bit of dryness in the mouthfeel. 4.5/5

Meridian

peanut butter and jelly sandwichOR: The flavour is exceptional, but there’s a little too much salt in this. It has a nice, dark colour, and combines well with the jam, but it’s just not as good as ManiLife. 4.5/5

AM: This is hard to spread because it’s oily, but it mixes with the jam beautifully. The peanut butter complements the jam’s flavour so well. It has the perfect amount of salt and crunch. This is designed for a PB&J. 5/5

Pic’s

peanut butter and jellyOR: The jam and peanut butter are two separate entities; and the former overpowers the latter way too much. 3.5/5

AM: This is basically like placing nuts on a jam sandwich; you don’t taste the spread very much. 2.5/5

Pip & Nut

peanut butter ukOR: While it’s not too difficult to spread, this peanut butter is oozing out of the sandwich. But the butter itself isn’t crunchy enough, and allows the jam to overpower it, 3/5

AM: This is dripping out of the bread (which makes for a great photograph), but it isn’t crunchy and tastes a little bland. The jam strong-arms the nut butter’s flavour. 3.5/5

Whole Earth

bets peanut butterOR: The flavour of peanuts here is a lot more prominent in this one, but again, the two entities are separate. The jam doesn’t mix well with the peanut butter. 3/5

AM: While Whole Earth says its addition of palm oil is what keeps the peanut oil from separating and helps make the nut butter spreadable, this is the hardest to spread. The salt actually helps here, but the butter is too thick and doesn’t complement the texture of the jam. You might as well be eating two different sandwiches.

Test winners: ManiLife and Meridian

Peanut-crusted tofu

A little inspiration from Avant Garde Vegan’s Gaz Oakley here. We covered some extra-firm tofu with a mixture of soy sauce, lime juice and peanut butter. We wanted to see how the peanut butter reacted and cooked in the oven, how its texture and flavour profile changed, and whether it makes a good combination with the tofu, soy sauce and lime juice.

Biona

peanut-crusted tofuOR: This is ideal for crusted tofu. While it has a pasty texture, the Biona peanut butter coats the tofu well. And once it has been in the oven, it’s roasted perfectly. The oven’s heat brings out its flavour and combines well with the tofu filling. 4.5/5

AM: It’s not as nutty, owing to the smaller peanut pieces. But it works so much better when it’s cooked, lending itself very well to the flavour of the tofu. The roast level after baking it in the oven is just right. 4/5

ManiLife

peanut tofu

OR: This peanut butter feels designed for this dish, but it doesn’t coat the tofu too well and isn’t quite crunchy enough. That means it doesn’t provide the contrast you crave when eating something as soft as tofu. 4/5

AM: The tofu seems isolated from the coating, and it doesn’t bake very well. The flavour, interestingly, is a little fruity. 3/5

Meridian

peanut butter tofuOR: This works fantastically: it’s creamy, crunchy and the flavour works well. But it falls off the tofu and leaves a bit of a pasty feeling once I’m finished chewing. 4/5

AM: This has the darkest colour out of all, which makes it look almost like a brownie. Maybe the layer is too thick, but the tofu doesn’t cook as quickly. But the flavour is really bright. 4/5

Pic’s

peanut butter taste testOR: It coats the tofu well. The crunch is perfect, and so are the salt levels. While this gave me a pasty feeling in the mouth when eating it straight up, baking it gets rid of that dry mouthfeel. 4.5/5

AM: This forms a good layer and gives the tofu structure. The lime juice works really well, and the peanut butter complements the tofu flavour. 4.5/5

Pip & Nut

what are hi oleic peanutsOR: This peanut butter is slightly sweeter than the rest, and that doesn’t work with this dish. While the crunchiness is perfect, it doesn’t coat the tofu well and just isn’t designed for a lunchtime meal. 2.5/5

AM: It has a weird, almost algae-like colour (that’s not a bad thing though). It’s a little salty, and tastes pungent, a bit off. But the tofu’s cooked better than with any other peanut butter. 3/5

Whole Earth

peanut butter reviewOR: The peanuts burn in the oven — maybe they’ve already been roasted too much prior to making the nut butter. Perhaps the palm oil aids the cooking more. It’s very crunchy, and really good in contrast with the tofu, but doesn’t coat it well. The peanut butter mixture serves more as a separate thing to the tofu inside. 3.5/5

AM: There are more nuts than spread here, but the tofu overpowers it. This only slightly cooks the tofu, and the roast gets close to burning. 3/5

Test winner: Pic’s

Energy balls

Something sweeter. We love a good energy ball, and peanut butter generally works so well as a binder, as well as flavour enhancer. These energy balls consisted of peanut butter, dates, oats, cocoa powder, and a little salt, topped with some desiccated coconut. This test was designed to see how the nut butter binds the other ingredients and complements their flavours.

Biona

vegan energy ballsOR: I think the ‘healthy’ factor of Biona doesn’t work for any recipe, but here, it keeps the energy ball light. It should be crunchier though, as it leaves a ‘poofy’ feeling in the mouth. 3/5

AM: Easily the pastiest, the liquidy texture of this peanut butter doesn’t help. It sticks to the mouth, and the lighter roast blunts the whole dish. 2.5/5

ManiLife

peanut butter reviewOR: This is frickin’ gorgeous. It’s crunchy, with a good flavour. It’s not too sweet, and the peanut butter doesn’t dominate the ball; it complements everything else beautifully. 5/5

AM: This is super crunchy, and it works so well with the dates and cocoa powder. The little amount of added salt in this helps balance out the sweetness. It’s easily the best peanut butter for energy balls. 5/5

Meridian

peanut energy ballsOR: The flavour of the peanut butter works better with the other ingredients than the rest in the lineup. It has the right amount of crunch, but it’s a bit pasty in the mouth, and a little sweeter than ManiLife. 4.5/5

AM: There are little bits of peanuts everywhere, and this ball’s a lot more peanutty. It’s pasty and dominates the flavour, and the salt doesn’t balance the sweetness. 3/5

Pic’s

energy ballsOR: This is really crunchy and has a fulfilling texture. It isn’t pasty at all, but there isn’t enough nuttiness either. It’s salty rather than sweet. 3.5/5

AM: The peanut flavour is muted, and the butter sticks to the mouth (not as much as Meridian, though), It’s also slightly too salty. 3.5/5

Pip & Nut

peanut butter ballsOR: It’s still slightly pasty. But it’s darker in colour and the sweetness is just right. The Pip & Nut peanut butter is ideal for desserts, in my opinion. 4/5

AM: This is much sweeter than most of the nut butters, and I’m surprisingly getting some lychee-like notes. It works well with the dates but is a little pasty. This also needs some salt, but has a great flavour overall. 4/5

Whole Earth

best peanut butter ukOR: This is too crunchy, but also too pasty. The flavour’s off, this is very dark and a little too salty. Where is the sweetness? 2/5

AM: The flavour is peanut-forward, but not as much crunch as I’d personally like. It dominates the flavour (not like Meridian did, however). 3.5/5

Test winner: ManiLife

Satay sauce

Dips made out of peanut butter are delightful. The satay sauce is a classic, and vegans have made it their own by pouring it over skewered tofu and dipping some spicy cauliflower wings in. For this one, we used some peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, coconut milk, and a little bit of curry powder. Flavour and texture were the main components we were looking for in this test.

Biona

is biona peanut butter healthyOR: This has a good consistency and is easy to mix. But it combines badly with the rest of the flavours; the peanut butter is hardly detectable, the colour is very light, and you taste the curry powder too much. 3/5

AM: It doesn’t lend the peanut butter flavour too much, and the light roast doesn’t help. The salt levels, though, are just right. 2.5/5

ManiLife

is manilife peanut butter veganOR: Delicious. It’s perfect in all areas: taste, texture and mouthfeel. I do wish the colour were darker. 4.5/5

AM: This is sweeter and crunchier than the other peanut butters. It has the perfect amount of salt and acidity. 4.5/5

Meridian

is meridian peanut butter healthyOR: The flavour of the Meridian peanut butter is just not strong enough in this satay sauce. 3.5/5

AM: This one is the most acidic nut butter we’re testing. This also has smaller bits of peanuts, but I love the flavour it lends to the curry powder and coconut milk. 4/5

Pic’s

is pics peanut butter healthyOR: This is a bit too lumpy, and not adaptable for a sauce. But it’s very flavourful, and has a good balance of salt. 3.5/5

AM: This is saltier but has more flavour coming through than most of the other peanut butters. It’s lumpier and harder to mix, however. 3/5

Pip & Nut

is pip and nut peanut butter healthyOR: Sweet and slightly acidic, the nuts separate from sauce here. This has a nice, dark colour; it looks attractive. 3/5

AM: This is slightly sweet and has a dark colour. It’s a little more acidic as well, but nothing too exciting. 3.5/5

Whole Earth

is whole earth peanut butter healthyOR: This is harder to mix and is lighter in colour. But the flavour is really good, with a perfect balance between the crunchiness of the Whole Earth peanut butter and the smooth texture of the satay sauce. 4/5

AM: This is crunchy, with a lighter colour. It’s not easy to mix, but blends well with the rest of the flavours. 4/5

Test winner: ManiLife 

Price, availability and ingredients

While taste-testing was obviously our main focus, we had to look at the price and availability of the peanut butters, and how long or short their ingredients lists were.

We should note that we didn’t use peanut butters with additives and weird ingredients; these ones either have just roasted peanuts, or a little bit of salt. One of them — Whole Earth — has sustainable palm oil. Any other ingredients, like added sugar, maple syrup or other sweeteners, adulterate the nut butter, and we wanted to review these peanut butters in their purest and best form.

We haven’t rated the nut butters based on these factors, because we believe it’s more important for the information to simply be out there. All the prices listed below are from the brands’ websites.

Biona

Biona is known for its use of organic ingredients and its health-focused brand image. So it’s refreshing to see that a standard-sized 250g jar only costs £2.69 (that’s around £1.07 per 100g), as organic products tend to be more expensive.

There’s only one ingredient: peanuts. They’re freshly roasted (not enough, at least for us) in small batches before being milled. But it’s only available in specialty health retailers like Holland & Barrett, or online health stores.

ManiLife

You’ll be able to find ManiLife in regular supermarkets, but not so much in local stores. The ingredient’s list has two things: 99.1% hi-oleic peanuts, and 0.9% sea salt. Hi-oleic peanuts are only grown in certain areas of the world; oleic acid is a ‘good’, monounsaturated fatty acid that reduces bad cholesterol and boosts good cholesterol levels.

However, it also comes with a steeper price tag. ManiLife’s 280g jar costs £3.99 (about £1.43 per 100g), which easily makes it the most expensive peanut butter in this lineup.

Meridian

Now, here’s one you’ll find everywhere. Meridian is ubiquitous; it’s available in stores large and small, specialty and general. The brand banks on its ‘no palm oil’ image, separating itself from the other widely available nut butter brand, Whole Earth. This peanut butter is straight up 100% peanuts, roasted skin-on.

A regular 280g jar costs £2.80 (£1 per 100g), which is the joint cheapest peanut butter in this test.

Pic’s

You’ll only be able to buy Pic’s either on its website, or in Tesco and independent retailer Fenwick’s. This Kiwi company is slowly making its way around the UK, and it uses 100% hi-oleic peanuts for its peanut butter.

Its jars only come in 195g, 380g, and 1kg. The 380g costs £4.50, which is about £1.18 per 100g, which is slightly more expensive than its competitors, but the brand knows that, acknowledging as much on its website.

Pip & Nut

Pip & Nut is available in most supermarkets. It uses hi-oleic peanuts from Argentina, which comprise 99.6% of the butter; the rest is sea salt.

It offers jars of 225g and 400g, and 1kg tubs. The 225g jar costs £2.25 (£1 per 100g), which makes it the joint-cheapest peanut butter along with Meridian in this list.

Whole Earth

Whole Earth is, alongside Meridian, the most common peanut butter brand in the UK. You’ll find it in the smallest of stores in the most remote areas. It has a massive range as well, from the regular crunchy and smooth peanut butters, to organic editions, rich roasts, and variants with 100% peanuts and mixed seeds.

But the most commonly found ones are the standard nut butters, which have a controversial ingredient in the form of palm oil. Yes, it’s sustainable and RSPO-certified, and the brand has a lot of transparent information on its website. But it’s not on the WWF’s scorecard and the term itself can fend off potential consumers. The regular crunchy peanut butter by Whole Earth uses 97% roasted peanuts — the least out of the pack — sea salt, and sustainable palm oil.

While it does have the 100% peanut butter, its availability is limited across the UK. The 227g costs £2.49 — about £1.09 per 100g — which is the average price for unadulterated and non-supermarket brand peanut butters.

This test for the best peanut butter in the UK was carried out by Olivia Rafferty and Anay Mridul.

Read our in-depth review of the best oat milk in the UK.

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