Ingredient Spotlight: What Can You Do With Peanut Butter?

We are definitely not above having a big spoonful of peanut butter for a quick afternoon snack! Especially if there's a little honey or a few chocolate chips involved. As a raw ingredient, peanut butter actually has a lot of other uses and is quite handy to have around the kitchen. How do you use peanut butter in your cooking?

After reading last week's Minimalist column on the potential of peanut butter as an ingredient, we felt the need to give our half-used jar a little more consideration. We tend to like plain all-natural chunky peanut butter - just roasted and ground peanuts with a little salt to boost the flavor. This is very different from the Skippy we loved as kids, and it's a lot more useful for both sweet and savory applications.

Peanut butter is essentially a building block. Warmed slightly, peanut butter gets gooey and we can mix in a lot of other ingredients to change its flavor profile. Add a little liquid like chicken stock or milk, and we can thin it out into a sauce that will add a peanuty note to an entire dish.

On the savory side, peanut butter pairs with a lot of spicy ingredients (think African and Thai), meats like chicken and pork, and starches like rice and noodles. We used to make a quick curry in college by microwaving a combination of peanut butter, yogurt, milk, and curry spices until it was creamy and then pouring this over steamed vegetables. Blended with soy sauce and lime juice, peanut butter makes an excellent dipping sauce or marinade. A spoonful stirred into a soup will add another dimension of flavor.

On the sweet side, peanut butter can be a miracle ingredient. It's goes well with caramel, honey, and both milk and dark chocolates, not to mention fruits like banana and coconut. Just a little can add a subtle nutty flavor in baked goods, but it can also take center stage as a main ingredient. We've been itching to try making a peanut butter pudding or freezing it into ice cream.

We'd like to find even more ways to use peanut butter in our cooking. What do you suggest?

Read Mark Bittman's Minimalist column: Exploring Peanut Butter's Potential

Related: Seasonal Treat: Strawberry Butter

(Image: Flickr member Dano licensed under Creative Commons)

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