How to stir a jar of natural peanut butter

It's peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich season in the Dornfest household, so I've made my requisite back-to-school purchase of several jars of natural peanut butter (the stuff you have to stir — we try to avoid partially hydrogenated oils). Stirring natural peanut butter takes finesse; if you work it too vigorously, you get an oily mess all over the counter. Here's my technique:

1. With a butter knife, slowly poke several holes into the peanut butter solids to let the oil penetrate.
2. With the tip of a butter knife fixed on the center of the bottom of the jar, slowly begin to rotate the handle of the knife. Picture a witch stirring her cauldron — that's the motion you're aiming for. Start with small circles toward the center of the jar, and as the oil gets incorporated, gradually move the knife handle in wider and wider circles.

Roger made another suggestion in the comments of Toddler-friendly PB&J: dump the whole concoction into the food processor and blend to emulsify. Any other hints? Favorite brands of natural peanut butter?

Related post: Streamlining PB&J sandwich prep

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  1. Katherine says

    Try Smart Balance peanut butter. No trans fats, no sugar, but the texture of regular peanut butter (it does not separate). It tastes great and has added omega-3s and other healthy stuff.

  2. Chakolate says

    I respect your desire to avoid hydrogenated oils, but commercial peanut butter has so little it really isn’t enough to count.

  3. Kim says

    I use a chopstick to poke the holes and to stir. It’s a tough slog at first but gets easier and works very well.

  4. Much More Than A Mom says

    I buy Adam’s brand (we also avoid the p.h. oils and sugar in other brands and we dump it in a large bowl & microwave it for 30 sec. to make it easier to stir.

  5. Scott Severtson says

    I second the microwave trick; warm, softened peanut butter mixes much easier than cold.

    I’ll also toss the PB in the microwave if I’m using it in a recipe (peanut sauce, peanut butter cookies, etc), or making a large batch of sandwiches. Much easier to mix in/spread.

  6. Dana says

    I’m a big fan of soy butter, which doesn’t need stirring. We started using it when my son was too young to try peanuts. (It’s also therefore good for a mixed-age crowd, even when your kids get older.) My son likes regular peanut butter, too, but sometimes requests soy butter specifically, just because he likes it. (It tastes pretty similar to peanut butter, but there is a slight difference.) As with peanut butter, there are brands with and without added sugar, so read the labels if you care.

  7. ZeitgeistMama says

    We store our PB upside down when unopened, so the oil is floating on the bottom of the jar once you turn it over to open it, then we use a stir technique like Asha, but without poking the holes in it, since the oil’s on the bottom. Then we store it in the fridge to keep it from reseparating. I’ve found that Trader Joe’s PB tends to stay quite liquidy even in the fridge, while Wegman’s store brand PB would get hard to spread…

  8. ryan Pitman says

    i haven’t gotten peanut butter in a while, but when i get cashew butter i just set the jar upside down overnight in the pantry when i get it home. it’s always been combined for the two weeks it takes for me to get through it.

  9. Chris Brogan... says

    I love TEDDIE peanutbutter ( which is fairly local to me (ingredients: peanuts, salt). It’s great, inexpensive, and top shelf.

    But you know what? I love super chunky. I just tip the jar over in the sink and let the oil drip off. I never miss it.

    Again, I like it really dry, though. Might not be perfect for kids.

  10. kaz says

    Woodstock Farms makes a great natural peanut butter and we also like Albertson’s natural brand Essensia- doesn’t require any stirring believe it or not. If you keep it in the fridge I heard it slows down the separation of the oil from the butter. In reference to a previous comment, all major brands of commercial peanut butter list a hydrogenated oil as their second or third ingredient, right after peanuts. Sounds like lots of hydro oils to me.

  11. Kat Williams says

    Funny I should read this about ten minutes after making a mess of a new jar of almond butter. I stored it upside down for a couple of days hoping that it would slightly mix itself to make my work easier, but it didn’t happen because the suction of the sticky almond butter to the bottom of the jar was too great. However, storing it on its side for a few hours did help. But I was still ungraceful in my hand mixing. I thought I was doing pretty well by making wells at the sides of the almond butter for the oil to slide down into, but then when I went to mix it from the middle the entire glob of almond mess stuck to my knife, lifted up, and fell back into the jar, slopping a bunch of oil over the edge. Bah.

    I don’t eat much peanut butter because I have a problem with occasional cold sores and peanuts are known to bring them on. I mostly stick to almond butter and other nut butters from Trader Joe’s.

  12. Rachel says

    In Pennsylvania we have Crazy Richard’s PB – both crunchy and creamy. When thoroughly stirred, it stays very creamy, even afer being refrigerated, and tastes delicious. And, it’s just a great name. I’ve also used Smuckers, but it tends to harden up in the refrigerator.
    As to stirring, I slip my butter knife around the edges and pull the tip slowly toward the center, allowing oil to slip down. Then I continue to use a “folding” method to pull the hard from the bottom, and combine it with the soft. Works pretty well.

  13. Kip W says

    Besides poking the holes, I also use a sort of slow stabbing motion to stir vertically, helping get the oil down in a bit. Turning the knife in the holes helps get the two substances acquainted somewhat too.

  14. Lauren Snell says

    I’ll second the vote for Trader Joe’s PB. It’s remarkably easy to stir and so doesn’t get all crusty when you get to the end of the jar.

  15. Cindy says

    I tried storing the Trader Joes brand peanut butter upsidedown in my pantry once, and the oil leaked through the protective seal as well as the lid. Made a terrible mess, so keep that in mind.

  16. Tim says

    Skippy Natural ingredients: peanuts, sugar, palm oil and salt.

    Mmmmmm. Sugar.
    The palm oil is a saturated fat used to keep it creamy and stir-free.

  17. Lea says

    Whole Foods’ 365 Brand peanut butter is very yummy. Not the Whole Kids one–the regular 365 one. Loved it.

    Also liked the comment about using a wooden spoon upside-down to stir. That would give you much more to grab on top–it’s trying to hold on to a slick (oily) knife handle that frustrates me.

    – L

  18. Shannon says

    I have to agree with Rachel on the around the edge and then fold method. I use the Smucker’s Natural PB, the biggest jar I can find, and then store it in the refrigerator after mixing. I like my PB&J toasted, so the warm bread helps with spreading the cold PB.

  19. Amy says

    I also store our unopened Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter upside down so the oil isn’t floating on top when it’s time to mix. I used to mix with a butter knife, but now I use my handheld electric mixer. I only put one of the beaters in the mixer, lower it gently in the jar, turn it on and it’s totally mixed in about 5 seconds. Works like a charm. (And I must give full credit to my sister who was the first to suggest it.)

  20. Tim says

    Elana, your comment intrigued me, so I went and Googled the shelf life of peanut butter.

    Turns out, an open jar of peanut butter has a longer shelf life than that of Twinkies.

    Twinkies: 25 days.
    Peanut Butter (opened): 2-3 months.

  21. Karen says

    Here’s something my mother-in-law tried and it works great. It often happens that the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the jar is hard and dry. If this happens to you, just stir in some olive oil. Make sure to add it a little at a time! I’ve tried it with cashew butter, too, and it works.

    I don’t have to do this often, because like many previous posters, I store nut butter upside down. I’ve done this for a long time with Teddie brand and it’s always worked very well.

  22. Bill says

    From a bachelor to all hard working parents,
    > Take your cordless drill, clamp in mixing beater, then push to the
    > bottom of jar and proceed slowly. This method takes very little time.

  23. Jonathan says

    I love Essensia natural peanut butter and I have eaten it for over a year now but recently the jars always have lots of little black specks in them and you cannot convince me or my friends that it isn’t bug poop. It wasnt there before. Now every time I make a sandwich I have to remove all these little black things. I will not eat them. ESSENSIA we enojy your products but PLEASE STOP WITH TEH BUG POOP.

  24. Jonathan says

    I love Essensia natural peanut butter and I have eaten it for over a year now but recently the jars always have lots of little black specks in them and you cannot convince me or my friends that it isn’t bug poop. It wasnt there before. Now every time I make a sandwich I have to remove all these little black things. I will not eat them. ESSENSIA we enojy your products but PLEASE STOP WITH the BUG POOP.

  25. Aunt Sandra says

    I just discovered this great trick … I use the dough attachment on my hand mixer – on low speed of course. First, I poked holes in it with the back end of a wodden spoon and then used just one beater – it took no time at all and was super easy!!!

  26. alexa kim says

    Smucker’s Organic or Natural Creamy – awesome. And, they do not buy anything from the tainted Peanut Corp of America.

    I agree with those who turn the jar upside down, and if it still doesn’t make the oil move around, I tip the jar onto its side. I use a *sharp* knife and “slice” through the goo, while turning the jar. It’s much faster than using anything more blunt. I make sure the tip reaches the bottom of the jar. It’s kind of a weak Psycho slash motion. (Easy there cub scouts, I said weak.)

    Then I refrigerate it to keep the oil from going rancid (in case I take too long to finish it), and to keep it mixed.

    Do not go out and buy a $10 uni-tasker in-jar mixing crank thingy.

    I really like the hand mixer with a single beater idea and I bet an emulsion blender would work well too.

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