I Tried 12 Jars of Strawberry Jam and There Were 3 Clear Winners

updated Dec 11, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

When you think of a classic PB&J, what comes to mind for the “J” part? Apricot preserves? Concord grape jelly? Seedless blackberry jam? If grocery stores around the country are any indication, you more than likely think of strawberry jam, because that’s the one variety you’ll find the most of. 

That means, however, that it’s the hardest to buy. There are just so many choices! One store I went to had a dozen brands alone. How could I possibly know which one was best? There was only one thing to do: Buy them all and hold an official taste test!

I skipped any brands that were super local and zeroed in on those that were nationally available, gathering a mix of high-end imports, budget-friendly store brands, and both low-sugar and organic options. Then I recruited some folks to help me blind-taste them on their own, on toast with butter (because fat helps distribute flavor) and on bread with peanut butter to see how well the jam’s flavor can stand up to the nutty spread. 

Some jams tasted really cooked, like fruit leather. Some were achingly sweet and got in the way of the berry flavor. Some were fine but unremarkable. And one even tasted strangely of prunes. Although none were gross (it’s strawberries and sugar, after all), in the end a few clear winners emerged.

Here’s the best of the bunch.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

Best strawberry flavor: Crofter’s Organic Premium Spread, $3.99 for 10 ounces

This reminded me the most of my homemade batches of strawberry jam. The wonderfully bright, sweet, and juicy flavor of ripe summer strawberries came through immediately. The texture was soft and jammy, rather than firm and jelly-like, and there weren’t any big fruit chunks (which I like but many people don’t). It has a bit less sugar than other brands (7 grams instead of 10 to 12 grams) and it’s made with organic strawberries and Fair Trade cane sugar. It was great on its own and on buttered toast, but the flavor did become a little muted when spread on peanut butter. 

Credit: Danielle Centoni

Best for PB&J: Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry Spread, $6.89 for 42 ounces

The versatility of this one put it in a tie with Crofter’s, as it balances its big strawberry flavor with a lively, almost juicy brightness that helps it stand up particularly well to peanut butter. But because not many people want a massive jar of jam taking up space in the fridge, or a warehouse membership in order to buy it, I put it in second place. It’s similarly low-ish in sugar as Crofter’s (8 grams) and berry-forward, but a bit more tart. The texture is a bit looser and saucier, though.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

Best bargain: Smucker’s Natural Spread, $3.39 for 17.25 ounces

Our bargain pick is available at mainstream grocery stores everywhere. While the brand’s regular strawberry spread was good (a little firm and candy-sweet), this one hit all the right buttons. It’s sweetened only with sugar, with no added corn syrup like the classic version. If you like bits of fruit in your jam, you’re in luck because this one has quite a few.