Crunchy Peanut Butter
We selected 13 brands, eliminating six in an initial pretasting: Arrowhead Mills Crunchy Valencia Peanut Butter; Arrowhead Mills Organic Crunchy Valencia Peanut Butter; MaraNatha Natural with Salt, Crunchy & Roasted Peanut Butter; MaraNatha Natural No Stir Crunchy & Sweet Peanut Butter; Jif Regular Peanut Butter, Extra Crunchy; Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter. We then sampled the remaining seven crunchy spreads to figure out which ones had the best peanut flavor, texture, and balance of sweetness and saltiness.
Not surprisingly, our favorites—and least favorites—tracked almost identically with the results from the creamy tasting. The losers all suffered from texture flaws, with tasters condemning them for “grainy,” “gritty” consistencies and, particularly in the case of one, for being so “soupy” and “viscous” that it was “hard to eat.” In some instances, their flavors were no help either; the hints of “fishiness” that we picked up on in the creamy version of one were just as present in this chunkier batch.
Likewise, tasters gravitated toward the crunchy versions our two favorite palm oil–based peanut butters from the creamy tasting. In fact, both of these spreads beat out their conventional equivalents (eliminated after the pretasting), with tasters praising their sweet-salty balance, “strong roasted flavor,” and “really good crunch.”
(Our peanut butter taste test has received an overwhelming response from passionate peanut butter fans. We’ve also received so many questions that we have decided to share our responses to the most frequently asked questions in the related how-to-cook, FAQ: Peanut Butter Tasting.)
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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