It doesn’t get much more classic than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…but just because something is classic doesn’t mean it doesn’t allow for any creativity. In fact, foodies across the board are constantly on the hunt for the best possible version of this all-too-nostalgic dish.
Keep scrolling for expert tips on how to up your PB&J game.
1. Use the Right Bread & Grill the Whole Thing
John Kanell, Preppy Kitchen
For culinary expert and blogger Kanell, the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich all comes down to the right kind of bread. He leans toward a fresh, chewy sourdough or a soft potato bread. Kanell also puts a twist on the traditional PB&J with his jelly selection—strawberry rose jam and blueberry preserves are his favorites—and sticks to crunchy peanut butter always. The final secret? Grilling the sandwich just like you would a grilled cheese!
2. Leave It Open-Faced & Make It Pretty
Camila McConaughey, Women of Today
“We eat with our eyes!” McConaughey, who features many of her recipes on the Women of Today blog, says. “Presentation—even in a PB&J—is important, but can be simple.” McConaughey likes to leave her sandwiches open-faced and decorated “like the top of an açaí bowl with raspberries, shredded coconut, pepitas, and sometimes a few chocolate chips.” She prefers almond butter to peanut butter and opts for her Gooey Strawberry Honey Jam instead of your standard jelly.
Blueberry Lemon Basil Jam, $13 from Trade Street Jam Co.
Why stick to grape jelly when there are so many other flavors to try?
3. Adjust Your Recipe Depending on the Experience You’re After
Xenos says that you can choose the ingredients for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich based on what you’re looking to get out of the eating experience. A PB&J is inherently nostalgic, but if you want to really hit a nostalgia home run, for example, you can go for Wonder Bread. Then again, you can also elevate it for a more adult meal. “I make my PB&J tartine-style with one thick slice of whole wheat sourdough on the bottom, slathered with cashew butter or peanut butter and dark fruit preserves or jam,” Xenos says of her own grown-up take on the classic. “I toast the bread just enough so that it has enough structure to hold up to the nut butter and preserves, but not too much that it scratches the roof of my mouth.
4. Pay Careful Attention to the Construction
Kait Rubin, Slumber & Scones
Food lover and blogger Rubin has her preferred PB&J ingredients—namely, whole wheat bread, crunchy peanut butter, and strawberry preserves—but for her, the key to the perfect sandwich comes down to construction. She recommends spreading your crunchy peanut butter on both pieces of the (preferably toasted) bread “to plug any air holes in the slices that the jelly might leak through” and cutting the sandwich diagonally into four triangles. “[It] allows the versatility to eat starting from a crust or middle piece as your first bite!” she says.
5. Pick the Perfect Peanut Butter
Raymond Cua, Travelling Foodie
The prevailing wisdom from many serious foodies is that crunchy peanut butter is the way to go, but Cua makes a convincing argument for the creamy variety. “My favorite type of peanut butter for PB&J is the really thick and creamy one, because it is a contrast to the smooth consistency of the jelly,” he says. If possible, he recommends using peanut butter made using lightly toasted peanuts to add another level of flavor.
Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Butter, $14 from Mouth
Upgrade your peanut butter.
6. Add Some Simple Twists to Amp Up the Classic Combo
Jason Goldstein, blogger and recipe developer
Goldstein thinks of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich as the classic salty-sweet combo. His perfect version is made with classic white bread, grape jelly, smooth peanut butter, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and a small handful of chopped, salted roasted peanuts. After spreading the peanut butter on both slices of bread, he adds the cinnamon and peanuts before a generous heap of grape jelly. “When you close the sandwich, there should be a good half-inch of purple jelly showing,” he says. “This is classic crunchy sweet perfection.”
7. Bring in Some Butter & Salt
Bren, Bren on the Road
Having grown up in New Zealand, Bren doesn’t have a nostalgic attachment to peanut butter and jelly. Today, he spends his life eating and traveling around the world and has only recently learned about the classic sandwich. Since then, he’s been working on devising the best possible iteration. His favorite version incorporates white bread, chunky pure peanut butter, strawberry jelly, a thin slice of butter, and a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt. “Those [last] two give each bite a creamier texture and a serious flavor pop,” Bren says. “Not sure if those break any American PB&J rules, but it’s been delicious for me.”
Related Reading: 10 Salts to Stock in Your Pantry
8. Make It Peanut Butter & Honey
Anna Rider, Garlic Delight
Rider loves a good PB&J sandwich with crunchy, salted peanut butter and strawberry jelly, but what she actually recommends is PB&H—peanut butter and honey. “I especially love adding Manuka honey because it offers rich floral notes,” she says. “My preferred ratio is two parts peanut butter to one part honey, but you can go 50/50 if you like your PB&H sweeter.” Take your PB&H to the next level by zapping it in the microwave to warm it up.
Wedderspoon Raw Premium Manuka Honey, $37.32 from Amazon
This raw New Zealand honey is a hit.
Header image courtesy of Brian Hagiwara / The Image Bank / Getty Images