Some things never change—like our love of that classic peanut butter and jelly pairing. It just works. You know what else works? Nutty, sweet PB&J housed within structures other than sliced bread. Why limit this couple’s scope? These guys are going places. And since April 2 is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, there’s no time like the present to try one of these upgraded iterations of the classic combo.
Originally a vegetarian health food, many credit John Harvey Kellogg for inventing peanut butter, or at least being the first to call ground peanuts “butter” in the late 1890s, according to “Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea” by Andrew F. Smith. He stuck to peanuts rather than other nuts because it’s the cheapest nut (and not a tree nut, but rather a legume that grows underground). Quickly becoming an American fad food, peanut butter was used as a substitute for cream and regular butter, in soups, cereals, sandwiches, drinks, and dressing on vegetables. Americans loved to slather it on sandwiches filled with beef, ham, boned fish, and tongue, mustard, and ketchup. Eek.
But peanut butter sandwich recipes didn’t burst onto the culinary scene in a big way until 1896, when Good Housekeeping magazine urged homemakers to grind peanuts in a meat grinder and spread it on bread. Peanut butter met jelly in a 1901 article by Julia Davis Chandler, and it became a hit with America’s youth, remaining a favorite ever since.
Check out all our recipes that use peanut butter if you’re nuts about the creamy legume on its own. Or get ideas when you’re hankering for sandwiches of all kinds. But remember, it’s always peanut butter jelly time (cue the dancing banana), no matter how old you are.
The Peanut Butter & The Jelly
One way to make the duo even more dynamic is to make your own peanut butter and/or jelly.
This Homemade Peanut Butter recipe is incredibly easy, and so good. (And, OK, yes, we’re illustrating it with a sandwich…but the white-bread slices are slathered in butter and slapped onto a griddle, grilled-cheese style; this simple Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich recipe technique can totally change your PB&J game, even if you use the store-bought stuff.) If you do go the homemade PB route, though, try tinkering with the sweetness level and adding spices like cinnamon or even a little cayenne pepper.
2. Grape Jelly
If you can get your hands on some Concord grapes, you gotta make your own grape jelly. Those grapes are so much more … grape-y … than other purple grapes. The flavor jumps out and hugs you with grape goodness. It’ll need two days to solidify into a jelly consistency. Can this jelly or just keep it in the fridge for not much longer than a month. Get our Grape Jelly recipe.
Grab a pound of fresh blueberries and your canning equipment to make some jam with natural pectin of an apple. Smooth, luxurious jam in its deep indigo hue will be better than any supermarket find, you can bet on that. Get our Fragrant Blueberry Jam recipe.
Red fruit jellies, jams, and preserves are just as good with peanut butter, and this easy strawberry-centric recipe will last up to a month in the fridge, or three months in the freezer. Get our Strawberry Jam recipe. (Or, go for Raspberry Preserves.)
Grown-Up Peanut Butter and Jelly Recipes
And then there’s the next step: combining the PB&J in new ways that go far beyond bread.
Our favorite two fillings are a natural fit within the chewy bar cookie construct, in which rolled oats are mixed with chunky peanut butter, sandwiching a thick layer of strawberry jam (so not jelly, but, hey, it still fulfills the “J” part of the equation). Get our Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars recipe.
Related Reading: Easy Baking Recipes to Make with Pantry Staples
Can you imagine these fluffy fried nugs of nutty sweetness in your brunch repertoire? Inventive. And making this doughnut alternative is not too hard, especially with pre-made pizza dough. Get our Peanut Butter and Jelly Fritters recipe.
This twist on the classic is just a bit zany, but still comforting, filling, and delicious—a lot to be said for a simple breakfast dish. The Cookie Rookie’s concoction is not your usual oatmeal, but it will be a regular once you try it. Get the Peanut Butter and Jelly Steel Cut Oatmeal recipe.
Peanut butter batter makes the muffins, and then strawberry jam and even more peanut butter gets swirled into the tops for this exciting remake of the sandwich pairing by Minimalist Baker. These also happen to be vegan and gluten-free, and are perfect for picnics, breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Get the Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins recipe.
Vanilla cupcakes need not be topped with buttercream frosting—try piping your favorite smooth, creamy peanut butter on top instead, and stuff the middles with your ideal flavor of jelly or jam. You can make all the elements from scratch, or go with high-quality store-bought options for an easy but exciting dessert. Get the Vanilla Cupcakes with Peanut Butter and Jelly recipe.
More interesting than the typical thumbprint peanut butter cookie with jelly spooned on top, this Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookie recipe takes it to another level. Raspberry preserves are a more sophisticated cousin to standard strawberry jelly, says Hope Hering Woodhouse of Pass the Cookies. They’re soft, chewy and a bit gooey where the cookie meats the preserves. (For a slightly more decadent version, try these peanut butter cookies stuffed with peanut butter, jelly, and peanut butter chips.)
Hey Modest Marce makes the pairing look perfectly posh in this cake recipe that would be fancy enough for an anniversary party. In fact, it’s the chosen recipe for this blogger’s one-year anniversary of blogging. The frosting is a traditional vanilla buttercream, deepened with smooth, creamy peanut butter. Use the jelly or jam of your choice to spread between the layers. Get the Peanut Butter & Jelly Cake recipe.
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Hey, it’s Tuesday! You made it through Monday, good job! I think that deserves a celebration! How about one of these Peanut Butter and Jelly Old Fashioned? 🥜 🥃 It’s on the sweet side, just so you know, but it’s made with @skrewballwhiskey, which has become a new favorite in our house! Have a great Tuesday friends, let’s make it to Wednesday! Also, it’s #oldfashionedweek, so let’s do this! Peanut Butter and Jelly Old Fashioned 2 oz @skrewballwhiskey Peanut Butter Whiskey dash salt .50 oz Grape Jelly Simple Syrup Place an ice ball in a rocks glass. Pour in Peanut Butter whiskey, and then Grape Jelly Simple Syrup. Add in dash of salt and stir until all is combined. Garnish with tiny PB&J sandwich if desired. #peanutbutterwhiskey #skrewballwhiskey #peanutbutterandjelly
A post shared by Jay & Leah|Cocktails & Travel (@gastronomcocktails) on
Honestly, most of the recipes here would appeal to kids as much as adults, but this one is truly for the grown-ups only. Turns out, peanut butter whiskey is a thing, and it marries perfectly with a simple grape syrup. Get the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cocktail recipe. (If you can’t find peanut butter whiskey, try making it at home.)
Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, price & availability varies on Drizly
Related Reading: These Grilled Peanut Butter Sandwich Combos Are Game-Changing
Header image by Chowhound.