Apple butter and peanut butter are both used on bread and are popular in the US, and that’s about where the similarity ends. In the SPICEography Showdown below, we will look at how these two spreads compare.
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How does apple butter differ from peanut butter?
Apple butter and peanut butter are made with different ingredients. Apple butter consists mostly of apples that have been reduced with some sugar and spices. The sugar content is usually pretty high.
Peanut butter is usually made with roasted peanuts — which are legumes — that have been ground to a paste. Peanut butter might contain a sweetener like sugar or honey, but the natural versions will have very little or none. Peanut butter will not normally contain any spices aside from salt.
The fact that the main ingredients are very different is evident in the flavor profiles of apple butter and peanut butter. Apple butter’s flavor is mainly sweet, with a little tartness from the apples. There will also be a little warmth from spices like allspice and cinnamon.
Natural peanut butter will be savory and nutty with a creamy mouthfeel. Traditional commercial versions of peanut butter will have stabilizers like palm oil to keep them from separating. The stabilizers give the peanut butter a denser, waxier mouthfeel. Even peanut butters with sweeteners will be considerably less sweet than apple butter.
Apple butter and peanut butter have different appearances. Apple butter typically has a deeper brown than most kinds of peanut butter. It can be slightly translucent, but the opacity can differ depending on the recipe. It also has a stickier, more syrupy consistency. Peanut butter is always opaque. Its consistency can vary. Natural peanut butter is typically a very thick liquid at room temperature, but the stabilized versions are denser.
Apple butter and peanut butter differ in popularity. Apple butter is a niche food item even in the US and Central Europe. Peanut butter is more universal in the US.
Having different main ingredients means that apple butter and peanut butter have different nutritional profiles. Apple butter does contain small amounts of multiple nutrients, but not enough to be considered a good source of any. Peanut butter is a good source of several nutrients including protein, several B vitamins and magnesium.
Can you substitute one for the other?
Apple butter gets its name because of its spreadable consistency, not because it is creamy or buttery in any other way. Apple butter and peanut butter are both great spreads for bread, so they are interchangeable in that respect. Apple butter won’t be a good peanut butter substitute if you are looking for a creamy or nutty flavor profile. When you use apple butter as a peanut butter substitute, you will be replacing a fatty and savory spread with a kind of jam.
Peanut butter can work as an apple butter alternative if you need a replacement with a nutty, somewhat salty flavor. It won’t be a good substitute if you want a spread that tastes like apple butter, since it lacks fruitiness and sweetness.
How should you use apple butter, and how should you use peanut butter?
Apple butter is a great way to add sweetness, fruity flavor and spice to oatmeal; stir it into oatmeal instead of sugar. It’s a great spread for toast, biscuits, and waffles. Use peanut butter on bread by itself or paired with a fruit jelly. Add it to smoothies to make them richer and increase their protein content.