Have you ever noticed natural peanut butter is super watery (or runny) compared to its commercial counterparts?
How many times have you found a layer on top of your peanut butter? Perhaps quite a few times! But did you know that there’s nothing wrong with this type of peanut butter? The layer is nothing but peanut oil coming out. All you have to do is stir through it, and you can consume the peanut butter as usual.
However, you have a lingering thought- you wonder why other peanut butter doesn’t exhibit this layer? Well, read on to get your answer finally!
Do you have a pool of oil on top of your peanut butter? If yes, don’t pour it out, as it indicates how natural the peanut butter is!
What is natural peanut butter?
When it comes to natural peanut butter, we’re talking about one ingredient like peanuts (but sometimes a bit of salt is included).
Meaning, no form of added sugar or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils in the ingredient list. These two unnecessary ingredients are usually found in conventional peanut butter.
Did you know:
According to the FDA, peanut butter in the US should contain at least 90% peanuts, with the remaining 10% comprising optional ingredients like salt, sugar, and stabilizers like hydrogenated oil. source
The oil doesn’t have to come from peanuts, and big brands cut manufacturing costs by using all types of oil. For example, Jif once used just 75% peanuts and 20% Crisco. The amount of oil pooling at the top gives you an idea of the difference.
Why is my peanut butter watery?
If you wonder why your peanut butter is watery, it’s because of the natural oils in peanuts. Grinding releases peanut oil so that the peanut particles sit while the fat rises and collects at the top to make peanut butter creamy.
Peanuts are suitable for making peanut butter because their fats are primarily liquid at room temperature. The peanut oil melting point is about 3°C, well below room temperature.
Grinding releases fat
Grinding breaks the peanuts into smaller pieces, thus releasing all the fat trapped in them. You practically find small peanut particles floating in its oil.
The smoother the peanut butter is, the more peanuts have been ground into smaller particles to make it. You can even grind your peanuts at home using a solid food processor or blender.
You will realize that you need lots of fat for the peanut particles to disperse in, especially in very smooth peanut butter. And that’s why such a high-fat content nut-like peanut is suitable for making smooth peanut butter paste.
What if the peanut butter has no oil pool?
Conventional peanut butter that doesn’t separate indicates the presence of hydrogenated oils in the mix. Hydrogenated oil contains a high level of hydrogenated fats (or trans fats) and is bad for your health.
This type of oil prevents peanut butter from separating and keeps oil from rising on top of the jar. And most of all, it helps peanut butter extend its shelf life.
So it seems like a bit of separated oil on peanut butter isn’t bad at all!
Mixing the extra oil back into the peanut butter can be messy for all-natural peanut butter lovers. However, you end up with dried-out peanut butter if you pour it out.
Why does oil separates from natural peanut butter
Extending the shelf life of peanut butter is the main goal of most commercial brands when using special oils. Thereby, stabilizing the mixture to avoid oil separation.
On the contrary, as natural peanut butter doesn’t have any stabilizer, the peanut’s natural oils tend to separate from the butter, especially when the surrounding temperature is warm.
Therefore, oil separation is a natural phenomenon in non-hydrogenated peanut butter.
The cause of separation: sedimentation
Peanut particles will gradually settle down at room temperature—an oil layer forms at the surface. This is because of the process called sedimentation.
And that’s the reason why some peanut butter has a liquid layer of peanut oil at the top. The layer is safe as you would have anyway ended up consuming it if it hadn’t separated from the peanut butter.
Nonetheless, many find it annoying as stirring it intakes some elbow grease. So, someone naturally messy like me usually ends up splashing the oils all over the countertop!
Why some peanut butter don’t split
As long as the particles in the peanut butter don’t float down, it’s possible to prevent the fat layer from forming on top. And this is possible as long as the peanut oil is solid and not fluid.
This makes you wonder how to introduce solid fats that make peanut butter taste like peanut butter?
Enter hydrogenated fats
A new process- hydrogenation of fats, was introduced in the 20th century. This is a chemical process converting unsaturated chains into saturated ones where the melting temperatures increase and the fats become solid.
Many peanut butter manufacturers use hydrogenated oils to prevent the separation of oils, improve texture and extend the shelf life of packaged food.
They don’t usually use peanut oils but instead use other vegetable oils like palm oil for their natural flavor. The hydrogenated fat is chosen depending on its flavor, availability, cost, and regulation.
How to slow down separation without hydrogenation
Did you know that there’s a respite if you have peanut butter that splits since you’re too lazy to repeatedly stir your peanut butter before using it?
Yes, all you have to do is store it in the fridge!
The goal is to have more solid fats. So instead of changing its composition to make the fat solid, you can alternatively do it by reducing the temperature.
Then again, you may think that peanut butter will remain liquid in a fridge as peanut oil’s melting temperature is 3°C.
While it’s partially true, not all oils like this need to have one temperature, for their molecules to go from solid to liquid. These oils have a temperature range for this to occur.
So in refrigerated peanut butter, some of the fats solidify, and some remain liquid at temperatures above 3°C (27°F). It’s more than enough to prevent peanut butter particles from moving through the oil.
How to stir natural peanut butter
Stirring the oil into the peanut butter in the jar is undoubtedly the best option you have. However, no matter how careful you may be, the process often ends up messy.
Not only is mixing everything time-consuming, but you may also end up sloshing the oil out of the jar onto your fingers and countertops.
The good news is that there are a few tips and tricks you can use and try out to mix the peanut butter with a minimal mess:
1 Upside-down method
Storing the peanut butter upside down leads to the oil rising to the bottom.
Yup, it’s such an easy solution! The liquids separating the solid peanut butter body rise to the top, storing the peanut butter upside-down forces the oil at the top to travel through the butter to end up mixing right in them.
Once the oil travels to the bottom of the jar, you just have to store it right-side-up until you next use it. You can rinse and repeat the process to have well-mixed peanut butter.
Alternatively, storing the peanut butter in the refrigerator leaves you with thicker peanut butter.
This prevents the oils from separating for a more extended period. However, if you are someone like me, who uses a jar a week, you don’t have to worry about the peanut butter separating at all!
How to do it:
It’s an easy process.
- All I did was turn and leave my favorite jar of Natural Peanut Butter upside down in the pantry for two to three days and shake it for about 20-30 seconds right before opening it.
To be honest, I had read about this technique but wasn’t sure how effective it was. So I was shocked when I opened the peanut butter jar, only to find out that the method actually works!
The peanut oil reintegrated, leaving me with smooth and homogenous peanut butter. Of course, it wasn’t as smooth as it would be with the food processor, but it was better, if not as good as it would have gotten stirring by hand. So it’s a win-win situation!
Would I use this method again? Of course, I would! However, I must remind you that the final shaking is significant as it mixes everything.
2 The Hand-Cranking Method
With the help of this old-fashioned peanut butter mixer, I could finally stir up the peanut butter without waiting till my husband opened a new jar. The mixer is available on Amazon and comprises a lid assembly with a hole fitting the crank mixer.
Here’s how you can do it
- First, lube the handle by dipping or rubbing it with some oil.
- And then feed it through the two different rings on the lid.
- Now start cranking the handle around many times, and if required, you can also pull it out partway to mix the higher and lower areas.
The cleaning process is also easy.
All you have to do is pull the crank out and then the two lid tabs. The whole assembly and clean-up process took just five minutes, which is why I highly recommend the product. And I will definitely repurchase it.
3 The Immersion Blender methods
I was excited to try this method with my favorite Cuisinart immersion blender. I just placed it inside my favorite jar of natural peanut butter, turned to low speed, and moved it gently in an up and down motion.
And the end result?
It worked great! I ended up with smooth and delicious peanut butter, which is why I feel this hack is the second WINNER!
The immersion blender worked great! It was about how effective it was. Blending the peanut butter for about one or two minutes eventually gave me perfectly mixed peanut butter.
Most importantly, the immersion blender worked well. It didn’t create any mess and took only a minute, making it my favorite hack!
And the Ultimate Winner Is….
The upside-down method!!!
The reason it’s the ultimate winner is because it quickly and effectively mixes natural peanut butter without a mess. it’s not practical if you buy a jar of natural peanut butter and want to open and use it immediately. (the bottle has to sit upside down for a few days before you shake it).
However, if you store a few jars in the pantry, I recommend keeping them upside down and then shaking vigorously before opening. Voila! You end up with perfectly mixed natural peanut butter!
Why do you have to stir peanut butter?
You have to thoroughly stir the peanut butter jar upon first opening it because natural peanut butter contains just peanuts and salt, without stabilizers like homogenized oils.
As peanut oil is liquid at room temperature, it pools at the top after some time while the bottom gets dry and cakey. The only way to keep it spreadable and to taste right is by mixing it back up again.
Natural vs conventional peanut butter
The most significant difference between conventional and natural peanut butter is the need for stirring. While you need to give natural peanut butter a good stir after opening it, you don’t have to mix conventional peanut butter.
1 Both contain different ingredients.
Natural peanut butter usually comprises just peanuts and salt. As there are no fully hydrogenated oils, it’s not homogenized, which is why the peanut oil ends up separating from the peanut solids.
This usually happens while the peanut butter sits in shipping containers heading to your local grocery store. So if you want to have peanut butter and not a spoonful of peanut oil with your strawberry jam, you need to stir and mix the natural peanut butter before eating it.
However, conventional peanut butter contains fully hydrogenated vegetable oils that stabilize the peanut butter and prevent it from separating due to temperature or time. It thus gives the peanut butter its smooth, creamy, and homogenous texture.
You don’t have to stir anything to start using your conventional peanut butter. All you have to do is open the jar and spoon out peanut butter to enjoy your snack.
2 They have distinctive looks.
You have to stir natural peanut butter to get the right consistency. It’s because the peanut oil of natural peanut butter separates from the solids when left to sit.
You thus have to stir and reincorporate it before consuming. Besides, even ‘creamy’ natural peanut butter is slightly grainier than the conventional options.
There are higher chances of the peanut butter separating if you store it at room temperature. However, natural peanut butter is rather challenging to work with after refrigeration.
However, conventional peanut butter is a cohesive spread that remains the same no matter where it’s stored and the temperature. Traditional peanut butter is a better choice for you if you occasionally snack on a spoon of peanut butter.
Why does peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth
Peanut butter is rich in protein. So when you eat it, peanut butter draws moisture away from your mouth like a sponge soaking in water.
Besides, saliva doesn’t quickly dilute the butter because of its high fat and low moisture content. This combination is what makes peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth.
Why does it happen?
Peanut butter contains about 25% protein, 50% fat, 1% moisture, and 24% carbohydrates and salt. While the high protein level gives the peanut paste good adhesion, the high fat and low moisture levels are why saliva doesn’t quickly dilute peanut butter. It’s for the simple reason that oil and water do not mix!
It’s this lethal combination that makes it so challenging to get peanut butter off your velar surfaces or the roof of your mouth. You will experience the same thing if you put a spoon of Crisco or lard in your mouth. However, it doesn’t stick as there’s no protein in it.
How long does peanut butter last?
There are so many delicious ways to use peanut butter. You can, for example:
- Spread it
- Use it for baking cookies
- Whip up a delicious batch of Pad Thai
- Make delicious peanut butter fingers just like Joey does in Friends.
No matter how you use it, peanut butter is very popular and exists In practically everyone’s pantries.
The shelf life of any food depends on some essential factors, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has specific guidelines for storing food at home.
Typical shelf life of peanut butter
Factors determining the shelf life of peanut butter include:
- How do you store it
- How you prepare it
- The ‘use before’ date
Unopened smooth and crunchy peanut butter will both last for a year. However, natural peanut butter only lasts for three to four months outside and three to six months in the refrigerator. This means that it’s time you threw away that three-year-old jar of peanut butter lying in the fridge!
However, an open jar of smooth or crunchy peanut butter lasts only three to four months, while you have to store natural peanut butter in the fridge after opening.
The famous brand Skippy follows these guidelines, which is why you can store It in the fridge or at room temperature. It remains perfect as long as you follow its best by date printed on the container.
Signs that peanut butter has gone bad
You don’t have to toss the peanut butter if you see oil at the top of the jar. It’s not gone wrong. You have to stir and mix the oil into the peanut butter.
This actually is an excellent thing to do. It reminds you of how fresh your peanut butter is, as the peanut butter sold In the United States must contain 90% peanuts.
The peanuts release natural oils while making them into peanut butter. And it’s this natural oil that you see pooling at the top over time.
You don’t have to panic if you see white stuff too. It usually means the oil has spilled, and many agree that turning the jar upside down prevents this.
Three signs to look out for
You, however, know it’s time to throw away your jar if you notice these signs:
1 Rancid smell
As peanut butter is so popular, you should be able to immediately identify if it has gone bad just by giving it a strong whiff. You know it’s time to throw away the peanut butter if it smells rancid.
If you are ready, try tasting the peanut butter for any loss of flavor. However, don’t take too much. Quickly decide if it’s gone bad, and then dispose of it in the nearest garbage!
3 Change in appearance
In addition to a change in texture, mold indicates that the peanut butter has gone bad. While refrigerated peanut butter is hard to spread, throw away peanut butter that’s:
- Changed from soft and creamy to hard and dry
- Become darker
So keep these points in mind if you have an old jar of peanut butter to ensure you don’t consume spoilt peanut butter.
Of course, peanut butter is so good that you may never keep it long enough to spoil! However, it’s always better to be safer than sorry and share these tips and information with other peanut butter lovers!