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"Smooth" peanut butter in a jar.

Peanut butter is a food paste made from ground dry roasted peanuts, which is sold as either "crunchy" or "smooth" variety. Major consumer brand peanut butter contains hydrogenated vegetable oil to stabilize it and prevent oil separation, salt to prevent spoilage, and dextrose and other sweeteners to enhance taste. Peanut butter marketed as Natural, or Organic, may only contain peanuts and salt. Peanut butter produced in the United States is exported to countries all over the world. It is popular in the United Statesmarker where it is used mainly as a sandwich spread, and a key ingredient in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. China also is a leading exporter of peanut butter.

In some types of gourmet peanut butter, chocolate, jelly, or other ingredients may be added.


Evidence of modern peanut butter comes from US patent #306727 issued to Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montrealmarker, Quebecmarker, in 1884, for a process of milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces until the peanuts reached "a fluid or semi-fluid state." As the product cooled, it set into what Edson described as "a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment."

J.H. Kellogg, of cereal fame, secured US patent #580787 in 1897 for his "Process of Preparing Nutmeal," which produced a "pasty adhesive substance" that Kellogg called "nut-butter."


Health benefits

Peanut butter may protect against a high risk of cardiovascular disease due to high levels of monounsaturated fats and resveratrol; butter prepared with the skin of the peanuts has a greater level of resveratrol and other health-aiding agents. Peanut butter (and peanuts) provide protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, arginine, and high levels of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid.

Health concerns

For people with a peanut allergy, peanut butter can cause reactions including anaphylactic shock which has led to its banning in some schools.

The peanut plant is susceptible to the mold Aspergillus flavus which produces a carcinogenic substance called aflatoxin. Since it is impossible to completely remove every instance of aflatoxins, contamination of peanuts and peanut butter is monitored in many countries to ensure safe levels of this carcinogen. Average American peanut butter contains about 13 parts per billion of aflatoxins, a thousand times below the maximum recommended safe level.

Some brands of peanut butter may contain a small amount of added partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are high in trans fatty acids, thought to be a cause of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and stroke; these oils are added to make the butter easier to spread. Natural peanut butter, and peanuts, do not contain partially hydrogenated oils. A US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) survey of commercial peanut butters in the US showed the presence of trans fat, but at very low levels. This survey was conducted in 2001, and it unclear what the current state of trans fats is in peanut butter products that contain partially hydrogenated oils. By law, if a serving size on the nutrition label contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fats, then the manufacturer is legally allowed to claim that that the product contains "0g Trans Fats per serving." Some manufacturers have decreased the serving size of their products in order to be able to claim that the product contains "No Trans Fat per serving."

At least one study has found that peanut oil caused relatively heavy clogging of arteries. Robert Wissler of the University of Chicago reported that diets high in peanut oil, when combined with cholesterol intake, clogged the arteries of Rhesus monkeys more than butterfat. [Atherosclerosis 20: 303, 1974]

Peanut butter can harbor salmonella and cause salmonellosis, as in the salmonella outbreak in the United States in 2007. In 2009, due to mishandling and apparent criminal negligence at a single Peanut Corporation of America factory in Blakely, Georgia, salmonella was found in 46 states in peanut-butter-based products such as crackers, peanut-butter cookies, and dog treats. It has claimed at least nine human lives , and made at least 691 people sick in the United States.

Other uses

Plumpy'nut is a peanut butter based food used to fight malnutrition in famine stricken countries. A single pack contains 500 calories, can be stored unrefrigerated for 2 years, and requires no cooking or preparation.

A common, simple outdoor bird feeder can be made by coating a pine cone once with peanut butter, then again with birdseed.

Peanut butter is an effective bait for mouse traps.


  1. U.S. Exports of (NAICS 311911) Roasted Nuts & Peanut Butter With All Countries US Census Bureau, April 2005
  2. Sci Tech The Hindu, December 14, 2006
  3. WH Foods
  4. Peanut butter is trans fat free.
  5. Investigation Update: Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections, 2008–2009, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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