12 Creative Ways To Improve Your PB&J

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is classic, but creative ideas can help to elevate it to new heights. There are lots of practical ways to add creativity or pizzazz to your PB&J — you can make simple or sophisticated versions of this sandwich using and combining items you already have in your kitchen. In other words, an upgraded PB&J can be extravagant without extra expenses.


Your sauces, condiments, and canned items can inspire and guide your remaking of this sandwich as you add, swap, and tweak your components. Your peanut butter and jelly can express your personality, too. Playful cooks may experiment with the color and consistency of the sandwich fillings; a gooey version with globs of ingredients may even give goosebumps to creative types. Detail-oriented cooks may pay closer attention to specific steps like cutting slices to a specific thickness, or even how the sandwich is plated. A small upgrade could include switching one or more ingredients for a richer-tasting alternative if you are craving something slightly refined yet reminiscent of the childhood simplicity of making the sandwich. (For example, you could use Ina Garten's preferred ingredients for PB&J.) Additions such as spices are always an option, too. Here are some ways that you can create a new and improved peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


1. Swap grape for strawberry for a seasonal change

A seasonal swap of strawberry for grape is a small way to change a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without any overly elaborate effort. You can either choose a healthy store-bought strawberry jam or jelly or dare a low-stakes recipe to make strawberry jam. Spring and summer are wonderful times to shop for the juiciest strawberries to turn into sweet jams. Mixing the berries with sugar — with an optional addition of some acidity from fresh lemon juice — over the stove can yield great homemade jam. You can highlight the strawberry pieces in the jam as well.


No matter how you make the jam, the bright red strawberry can have more eye-catching appeal than the darker grape. Additionally, the strawberry switch will allow for a subtle change in flavor and texture, especially if the jam retains the strawberries' seeds. You'll also get a good dose of Vitamin C by packing strawberry jam into your sandwich for added benefit — and that bit of nutritional trivia is just one of many strawberry facts worth knowing.

2. Switch to jelly or jam with less or a different type of sugar

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic childhood favorite known to satisfy those with a sweet tooth, but a more health-conscious version of the sandwich can involve simply using jelly or jam with less sugar. Finding a reduced-sugar selection entails carefully reading the nutritional labels on supermarket jams and jellies and favoring brands that sell products with more real fruit. A product with mostly fruit has more naturally occurring sugars and offers substantial nutritional value without the additional processed sugar and its effects on the body. An all-natural or organic jelly or jam with a low amount of added sugar or artificial sweeteners — or none — is a suitable choice.


Low-sugar options can be found in stores, but home canners can make them in their own kitchens as well. This requires pectin, a water-soluble substance found in plants and citrus fruits which acts as a gelling agent for jams; while they usually require sugar to gel, pectins that can gel without sugar are also commercially available.

You could instead opt for a different type of sugar in your jam or jelly. For example, find or make one that swaps out the commonly used granulated white sugar for brown sugar. Brown sugar is somewhat lower in calories, which may make it a slightly better alternative. Different types of sugar or substitutes can bring a signature sweetness to jams and jellies, help them to gel, and prevent spoilage.


3. Use crushed peanuts or marshmallows to play with texture

Your revamped PB&J can be a playground for peanuts to add crunchy texture. It would be a good idea to decide how small or finely ground the peanuts should be before adding them to your sandwich — larger-sized peanut pieces will add some bulk for a filling sandwich, while smaller pieces will blend in or become buried in your peanut butter or jelly. The amount of peanuts you add also comes into play here, too. A few pieces may be just enough, but more pieces are desirable if you want to reap the nutritional benefits of peanuts. 


If peanuts are unsatisfactory to your taste buds, marshmallows may be an attractive PB&J add-on, instead. Various brands of store-bought marshmallows can add a light fluffiness to your sandwich. You can pile in the marshmallows to squish between the slices, or whip them into an airy fluff. If you're going to squishing route, mini marshmallows will likely make for a sandwich that's easier to eat. Using marshmallows may remind you of making s'mores and complement the PB&J in terms of childhood nostalgia.  

Peanuts and marshmallows can be an exciting combination, too. You can melt down the marshmallows with corn or simple syrup in a pot and then take them off the stove. Once the mix is cool enough, add the peanuts — put the mix in a jar or storage container before pouring in the nuts. Now, you have a tasty spread to add to your sandwich. 


4. Give your sandwich a whole grain boost

Those looking to gain on grain can simply switch the type of bread they use for PB&J to a whole grain variety. Whole grain bread contains one or more types of grain and specifically uses the entire grain. Wheat, unsurprisingly, is most common. You can find lots of nutrients in whole wheat kernels, which can be broken down into three layers: the fiber-packed outer layer of bran, the starchy middle layer of endosperm, and the especially nutrient-rich core of germ.


The fibrous exterior bran layer has a rich combination of iron, zinc, B vitamins, and other components. Fiber is known for its positive effects on the body, from lowering cholesterol to aiding digestion. The endosperm has protein and some minerals that may even protect against a few cancers. Finally, the germ is a hotbed of good fats and vitamins that can have profound health benefits.  

You can also purchase whole grain bread with nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, flax, poppy, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin, if desired. If you're someone who goes nuts over seeds, don't be shy about tossing them in. Adding a seed or nut mix can also elevate your whole grain or multi grain bread and thus your PB&J, as well. 


5. Go bananas

Sliced, blunt-cut, or air-fried banana pieces can quickly brighten the look of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The addition of the fruit is an easy upgrade that adds color to the PB&J while evoking a homey feeling of comfort as you eat it. You can neatly and thinly slice the banana to top your spreads, as if putting together two pieces of warm toast. It also works to make sharp, non-uniform, or larger cuts that allow for minimal alteration to the fruit's shape, as if you were tearing it apart right out of the peel. 


Aside from aesthetic appeal, bananas make for a heartier and more filling sandwich. Frying the fruit can add a crisp coating, making for a more decadent bite. The sensations that accompany biting into a crunchy banana slice might just feel like a little piece of food heaven. Also, in general, banana adds creaminess to the sandwich without sacrificing the harmony of the two main ingredients.

6. Bring bacon and fresh berries together for a savory spread

You can add a savory surprise to your PB&J with bacon, especially if it's mixed with fresh berries. The bacon and berries form a luscious layer between the jelly and peanut butter, turning your sandwich into a standout. It may feel like a risky move to add the twosome, but the daring combination complements the sandwich's main stars. A layer of crisp bacon can enrich the peanut butter's taste yet soak up the sweetness of the jelly; meanwhile, the berries fit well with the jelly while adding juiciness and texture to the peanut butter. Who knew that jelly, bacon, berries, and peanut butter could taste so good? 


Also, the bacon will have more flavor impact if you render the fat. Once you know how to render bacon, or heat the fat out of it, you can cook the meat like never before. The result of the rendering process will be slim, tasty pieces of bacon that bring a salty and smoky flavor. Of course, regular old pan-fried or even Instant Pot-cooked bacon can win rave reviews, as well. Combining and layering the bacon with berries marries savory and refreshing sweetness. 

7. Smear Nutella on a slice for even nuttier flavor

Nutella will give a hazelnut flavor to complement the peanut butter when you spread it on a slice, and a simple butter knife is all you need to add it to your sandwich. The amount of Nutella you use is up to you: A few spoonfuls spread thin can work — so can a nice, thick layer. Either way, you're left with an enhanced PB&J featuring another spreadable sweet element for a nice surprise, and the darker nut-based spread has the same smoothness as the peanut butter. 


You can make copycat Nutella at home with only two ingredients if you want an adventurous experience that takes you away from the grocery store. The spread's ingredient list is pretty simple, making it a breeze to create in your kitchen. You might even feel bolder and want to add those aforementioned crushed peanuts to your homemade (or store-bought) Nutella. 

8. Bake biscuits and experience Southern comfort

What's better than bringing a super-succulent game-changer to your sandwich? Bakers can do so by simply choosing great biscuit mixes and preparing them with — you guessed it — peanut butter and jelly. Swapping bread for ready-made biscuits creates a refreshing take on an ordinary PB&J, bringing a heavenly and inviting smell straight from the oven. Get started by simply baking up some fluffy, flakey biscuits according to the packaging's or your favorite recipe's directions. Keep in mind that the peanut butter and the jelly will slightly cool the warm biscuits when spread over them. 


These PB&J biscuits will be showstoppers for lovers of Southern cooking or soul food. You create a more hearty peanut butter and jelly sandwich with biscuits instead of regular bread slices, proving that the baked dough can pair with more than gravy. A biscuit bar or board could be a great way to showcase these fluffy, savory sandwiches.

9. Grill your sandwich to satisfy crunch cravings

In the same way that a cook can change a simple cheese sandwich into a masterpiece, the humble peanut butter and jelly can become a culinary work of art. Just use your spatula to move and flip the sandwich as it warms up and sizzles in your skillet, same as you would for a grilled cheese. A grilled PB&J can make for a very appealing treat; even a leftover one might tempt your taste buds.


The biggest benefit of "grilling" a PB&J is that the heat makes the sandwich a tastier treat and gives off an aroma that's enticing to the senses. The heat allows for a complex chain of changes that alter how one perceives taste. According to a report by the National Institute of Medicine's Committee on Military Nutrition Research, certain tastes are intensified by adding heat, among them sweet. Given the jam or jelly in your typical PB&J, the sandwich might taste even sweeter once warmed up. On top of that, a grilled peanut butter and jelly will also be crispy, with each bite producing a satisfying crunch.

10. Infuse jam or jelly with herbs or spices for a seasoned snack

If you're craving a more flavorful uplift for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sprinkle some seasoning into your spread. You can infuse the jam or jelly with herbs and spices such as sage, rosemary, cardamom, and cinnamon. You can also choose mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, or lavender based on your desired taste. Once you make your choices, heat the jelly or jam on the stove and add those ingredients. The trick is to stir the ingredients together while the whole thing simmers; you won't want to simply toss your herb-spice blend into your jam or jelly without stirring. The fruity condiment will thicken as you stir, and the seasoning will mix for a balanced combination of flavors.


What you get by adding seasonings to your peanut and jelly sandwich is an elevated comfort food. The seasoning sets the stage for a flavor explosion that'll excite your taste buds in a new way; the enhanced jam or jelly will feel like the perfect pick-me-up that you have been waiting for. You may never look at PB&J in the same way again. Your chosen mixture of spices and herbs might make for a unique-tasting condiment worthy of use and consumption beyond PB&Js, too — you might even want to package it to sell at a local flea market. 

11. Use French toast as a savory base for a restaurant-quality PB&J

How about showcasing the peanut butter and jelly on a bed of French toast? You get luxurious layers of creamy spread with egg-soaked bread for a decadent eating experience fit for a daydream. You can also simply spread the peanut butter on each slice and top the toast with jelly or jam. A tower of flavor-drenched PB&J French toast will be far more enjoyable than a regular sandwich, and if you want to up your French toast game even before you add the peanut butter and jelly, try Robert Irvine's recommendation of using true cinnamon as opposed to cassia cinnamon. 


The rich French toast version of the sandwich feels more like a restaurant-quality item, and although PB&J is generally a homemade item, the French toast PB&Js have made their way onto the menus of many specialty restaurants. Of course, the sandwich has held its own in such venues due to chefs combining, refining, and adding distinctive flavors for uniqueness and flair. 

12. Use a Thai peanut sauce to add heat and build flavor

You can bring some heat to your peanut butter and jelly sandwich by trading traditional peanut butter for Thai peanut sauce. The sauce builds on a foundation of peanut butter with the addition of ginger, garlic, or other ingredients used in cooking in both Asian countries and the U.S. You can make your own by whisking your ingredients together in a saucepan and bringing them to a simmer. The key is to slowly stir to prevent the sauce from scorching and achieve a smooth consistency. The condiment will cook and be ready in a few minutes — the time you take to spread regular peanut butter on a slice of bread is approximately the same as it takes to create peanut sauce. A flavorful sauce that quickly transforms peanut butter into a tangy treat is a culinary win!


A PB&J with Asian-style peanut sauce gets a serious upgrade to its flavor profile. The ginger and garlic blend well with other heat-inducing components that layer complementary flavors into a lusciously delicious condiment. A strong taste emerges from the sauce, which also brings a distinctive scent. You'll have a saucy addition to your PB&J that celebrates a creative cooking style.