Make or Buy? Peanut Butter

Ah, peanut butter. Our old lunchbox staple and snacktime favorite, beloved companion to celery sticks and jelly sandwiches everywhere. When we were kids, it was a jar of Skippy or nothing else. What about now?

Just for fun, let's do a three-way comparison today: Skippy's Creamy verses Teddie Old Fashioned Smooth Peanut Butter verses Alton Brown's homemade recipe. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.

Peapod Online Grocery
Homemade Peanut Butter from Alton Brown

COST BREAKDOWN

Skippy's Creamy
TOTAL: $2.69
PER 2-TBSP SERVING: $0.17

Teddie Old Fashioned Smooth Peanut Butter
TOTAL: $2.69
PER 2-TBSP SERVING: $0.17

Homemade Peanut Butter
Makes 15 ounces, or 2 cups

15 ounces shelled and skinned roasted peanuts: $4.50
1 teaspoon kosher salt: $0.01
1 1/2 teaspoons honey: $0.08
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil: $0.09

TOTAL: $4.68
PER 2-TBSP SERVING: $0.31

Note: I used all organic ingredients for the homemade version and was somewhat limited by what was available at Peapod. If you have access to bulk bins or un-shelled peanuts, you can likely bring the cost of the peanuts down by quite a bit.

TIME BREAKDOWN

Skippy's Creamy: 0 minutes
Teddie Old Fashioned Smooth Peanut Butter: 0 minutes
Homemade Peanut Butter: About 3 minutes (add another 45 minutes if you roast and shell your own peanuts)

CONVENIENCE

The biggest inconvenience here can be finding the peanuts themselves. If I'm making my own peanut butter, I'm going to be picky about buying peanuts that are good quality, reasonably fresh, and preferably organic. The best peanuts aren't likely going to be at your local big-name grocery store, so this just takes a little footwork to around your neighborhood to find the peanuts you like the most. Whole Foods and local co-ops are a good place to start.

Alton Brown also recommends finding raw peanuts still in their shell, which can be hard to track down on a consistent basis. I usually settle for shelled peanuts, unsalted and either raw or roasted.

Once you find a good source of peanuts, making your own peanut butter is as simple as whizzing it for a few minutes in the bowl of a food processor. It keeps for up to two months refrigerated, which feels like adequate time to work through a batch even if you don't eat peanut butter very frequently.

TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS

Childhood favorite though it may be, Skippy just doesn't stack up anymore. It's sugary (at least to my palate) and contains hydrogenated vegetable oils. Teddie and other natural peanut butter brands contain only roasted peanuts and salt. They are thick, rich, and haven't had their essential peanut-ness processed out of them. They taste, as they should, authentically of peanuts.

In a side-by-side comparison, Teddie Peanut Butter feels like a tie with homemade. It's nice that you can control the amount of salt and sweetener when you make it yourself, but Teddie and its kin make a very good product.

MAKE OR BUY?

Homemade peanut butter isn't a hands-down winner here, but it's a great option to have in your back pocket. It's easy and keeps nearly as long as a commercial peanut butter. I feel sure that more cost-effective sources of peanuts can be found at local markets.

VERDICT: Skip the Skippy. Either buy a natural peanut butter or make your own.

Do you regularly make your own peanut butter?

Related: Make or Buy: What Do You Say?

(Images: Peapod and Flickr member justgrimes licensed under Creative Commons)