Alice Medrich

A Handy (but Hands-Off) Trick for Storing Oily Peanut Butter

March  6, 2017

I’m tired of explaining that when I call for peanut butter in a recipe (for cookies, fillings, meringues, etc.), I don’t mean the kind that’s sweetened or otherwise adulterated with random fats or emulsifiers in order to make it “no-stir.” As a chef and cookbook author, pure peanut butter—just peanuts and salt—lets me start with the purest and best flavor, and control the addition of sugar, fats, and other ingredients in my dish. As an eater, I also crave pure nutty flavor—to which I can add honey or jam or nothing—on my peanut butter toast, or celery in my spicy peanut sauce.

In my perfect world—after world peace, equality, healthcare, jobs, and food security—a jar labeled “peanut butter” would contain only peanuts and optional salt. When sweeteners, palm or other oils, or starches are added, the jar would have to be labeled “Peanut Spread.” Purchasers would have a choice and know what they are getting—as well as know what they are feeding their children.

It's worth the effort Photo by James Ransom

Real peanut butter requires a teensy weensy bit of effort. Just as when you make your own peanut butter by processing roasted peanuts in your blender or food processor, the oil in a jar of pure peanut butter eventually separates and floats to the top so that you have to stir it in. Why shouldn’t the good stuff cause a little stir? My dad used to pour off the top oil, arguing that we didn’t need the extra fat anyway. I scrape the contents of a new jar into a bowl, stir it well, and scrape it back into the jar—or, if I’m in not a hurry, I turn the jar upside down in the cupboard for several hours to let the oil start traveling in the opposite direction. When the jar is less full, it’s easy to stir as you go; or you can continue to flip the jar occasionally, as necessary, or refrigerate it to halt the separation.

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It’s easiest if you haven’t started your kids on sweetened peanut butter, but kids are adaptable, and the need for stirring should not prevent them from indulgence. My daughter grew up on pure peanut butter and is now a well-adjusted, peanut butter–loving adult, completely unscarred by the inconvenience of early stirring or upside down jars. I’m still discovering new and tastier peanut butters—Krema Nut is my current top choice. Sometimes peanut butter is crunchy and other times it’s smooth, but the real stuff is always delicious—and addictive.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • judy
  • ez1019
  • Nancy Duggan
    Nancy Duggan
  • jstew52
  • VeganWithaYoYo
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


judy July 11, 2017
Well, we get our PB fresh ground from the store. Very nice, we keep it in the fridge adn it doesn't separate. No salt, no additives and no effort. Very good.I did know about turning the jar upside down fro natural PB--it does work, and then I stir when about a third of the jar gone. No real mess. I'll have to try the beater method next time and see if I like it.
ez1019 March 6, 2017
My husband thinks it's a huge scandal that our 14-month old is being deprived of JIF, but I love giving him the homemade stuff (only peanuts, no salt or anything else). I make it in our blendtec, about two cups at a time, and... I haven't experienced any oil separation or need to stir. Do you think it's because we go through it quickly? Or because we refrigerate it?
Smaug March 6, 2017
If you refrigerate it before it separates, that will do it.
Nancy D. March 6, 2017
So the "tip" here is to stir the stuff? Sheesh! I'm out.
Kenzi W. March 6, 2017
It's actually to store the jar upside down!
Smaug March 6, 2017
Not exactly a trick- everyone knows that, and it usually suggests it on the jar.
alme March 12, 2017
I didn't know it. I always just stir, which is a pain w/ a new jar.
jstew52 March 6, 2017
I read recently somewhere about a great tip that works- use one beater of your handheld mixer. No mess!
Antoniabalonia March 6, 2017
That's what I do!
VeganWithaYoYo March 6, 2017
Correction: googling shows that it's an "Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer" not a stirrer. Otherwise, one of my favorite unitaskers :-)
Sarah J. March 6, 2017
Oh my goodness. I have never heard of this device and I am extremely intrigued!
VeganWithaYoYo March 6, 2017
I'm eternally a fan of the "Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Stirrer." I've got several sizes of the thing (why aren't peanut butter jar mouths all the same size for the same amount of peanut butter?!?), and I've been using them for about ten years now. It's not perfect (usually leaves some unstirred peanut butter at the very bottom of the jar) but it makes so much less mess than a knife or the "put it in a bowl and stir it there" method!
Meryl March 6, 2017
I find turning the jar upside down does not work. All I get is the oil on top and still a mass of pb in the center. I like organic Santa Cruz dark roast. Dont think thats the difference tho.
Smaug March 6, 2017
What's the trick here?