Secrets to the Ultimate PB&J (and to Becoming a Superhero)

August 12, 2014 | By | Comments (11)
Photo by Whitney Wright

Photo by Whitney Wright

This time of year, as kids head back to school, the greatest sandwich on earth makes multiple appearances in my kitchen.  I’m talking about the Peanut Butter and Jelly, of course. Although this sandwich has solidified its place in packed lunches across the country (and a few other places), I’m here to tell you there’s nothing wrong with it wandering into your meal plan, even if you don’t have kiddies to feed. The back-to-the-grind vibe that comes with the end of summer calls for food that’s simple, fast, easy, and satisfying, and a Peanut Butter and Jelly could check every box. Grown-Up Bonus: It also happens to be the sexiest sandwich ever. My husband always wants to smooch after we devour PB&Js for dinner. I figure it’s the playful idea of the sandwich plus the nature of its ingredients (soft, supple bread + sweet, velvety peanut butter + sticky, luscious jam) that makes him feel like kissing.

Although a lame PB&J isn’t half bad, if you make one using the tips below, your kids will think you’ve got superpowers and your husband might buy you flowers. Ready, set, go…

1. Use Great Bread
I vote for anything that has the texture of Wonder Bread.  If you insist on a loaf that’s full of seeds and nuts, that’s fine, but make sure it’s soft and fresh.  Toasting the bread is appropriate, but only if you’re going open-face. (Too much toast + peanut butter starts to do that uncomfortable stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth thing.)

2. Use Red Jam
Duh. Orange and yellow-colored jams make the sandwich taste “interesting,” an adjective that has no business near a PB&J.  Jam or preserves (do not use jelly) is a key component because the pulpy fruit provides excellent texture and an explosion of sweet, fruity joy in your mouth every few bites.

3. Add Butter
Spread a thin veil of room temperature butter on each slice of bread. Ruth Reichl taught me this trick and it’s life changing. If you’re freaking out about the added fat and calories, please stop. It’s not like the sandwich was really good for you in the first place, so if you’re gonna eat one, you may as well go all out.

4. Nuke It
Another tip a la Ruth. Eight seconds in the microwave will do the trick. The peanut butter turns delightfully melty without getting goopy and hot. Speaking of temperature changes, some advocate for cooking the sandwich like a grilled cheese. It’s a fine idea, but adds 5 minutes of prep time, dirties a pan, and makes the sandwich tremendously messy, therefore I abstain.

5. Consider Potato Chips
If you need a variation, a single layer of potato chips gives the sando a crisp, salty edge.  Recently, our Test Kitchen discovered that BBQ potato chips are also darn tasty; if you’re a bacon fanatic, you’ll love how they add a hint of smoky flavor.

6. Skip the Plate
There is something wonderful about eating a PB&J straight off of a paper towel, or better yet, a piece of wax paper.  It makes the sandwich feel just made, just for you, and just right.



  1. Fenway

    I almost hate to say this but my premier PBJ is topped off with crispy bacon. 😋

    April 2, 2015 at 2:46 pm
  2. Link love – |

    […] Happy National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day… here’s a guide to the ultimate one […]

    April 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm
  3. Jane Turner

    Great idea for lunch boxes; however, here at our local schools in Baldwin county, AL pb&j is forbidden because someone in the school is allergic to peanuts.

    August 28, 2014 at 5:44 pm
  4. Paige

    Grilled peanut butter, honey and bananas. Its worth the effort

    August 19, 2014 at 10:21 pm
  5. janet

    Actually Frito are much tastier than boring old potato chips. Yum so crunchy plus the corny goodness adds so much

    August 19, 2014 at 9:22 pm
  6. Michael

    Forget the nuke, grill it like you would a grilled cheese sandwich.

    August 19, 2014 at 8:37 pm
  7. Littletoyman

    Potato chips on a PB&J, I’ve been doing that for over 70 years. It was more for the convenience than the taste although that entered into it. With only a 30-minute lunch recess, who wanted to waste time for eating. Add chips just before eating however, as any sooner they will lose their crispness.

    August 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm
  8. Karen Ellis

    Sheesh! What about chunky or smooth pb? Fresh made natural or jarred from a factory? I *like* good old grape jelly, especially home canned. Grilled on sourdough with sliced bananas is yummy. I have one friend who adds mayo, which I considered a travesty until I tried it.

    Isn’t there a cafe in Manhattan devoted to nothing but PB&J?

    August 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm
  9. lizzgold7

    love the honesty! (tip #3) refreshing! 8 seconds in the nuker-hummm-might just have to try that, thanks!

    August 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm
  10. Thursday Waylay – What, What, What | Peachtree Roadies

    […] Any PB&J lovers out there? Stripes is a HUGE fan – and clearly still a kid a heart. Southern Living provided some great tips for upgrading this classic! […]

    August 14, 2014 at 9:08 am
  11. pvwink

    Mix the jelly with the peanut butter…then all the other things you said. Nothing like what my children call a ‘mom’s mumbo jumbo peanut butter and jelly sandwich’

    August 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm

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