Nutella and peanut butter are two incredibly popular nut-based treats. Nutella is more of a newcomer in the US, though it has been a part of European cuisine for decades. They are both typically used in the same ways, but have very different properties. Let’s compare them in this SPICEography Showdown.
Table of contents
How does Nutella differ from peanut butter?
The most basic difference between Nutella and peanut butter is that they are different products made up of different ingredients. While they do have shared items like salt and sugar, their respective ingredients lists have little in common. Nutella’s main ingredients are hazelnuts, cocoa, and skimmed milk powder. Sugar is one of the top ingredients, along with palm oil. The most common peanut butters consist mostly of roasted peanuts, but may also contain tiny amounts of vegetable oil and sugar. Natural peanut butter contains only peanuts and sometimes salt.
The different ingredients result in different flavor profiles. Nutella is dominated by the taste of chocolate along with its sweetness. In the background, there is the nuttiness from its hazelnuts. Peanut butter will usually taste mostly like peanuts, with only a very slight sweetness. The different kinds of peanut butter have consistencies that vary from the waxy smoothness of stabilized versions to the creamy slickness of the natural ones.
The difference between the two sets of ingredients also means that Nutella and peanut butter will have different nutritional profiles. Nutella has more calcium than a similar-sized serving of peanut butter and more magnesium, but it also has more bad stuff. It contains many times the amount of sugar in natural peanut butter and more saturated fat. In comparison, peanut butter has much more protein and dietary fiber.
Nutella and peanut butter look different. Nutella is a deep brown resembling chocolate frosting, while peanut butter is light to medium brown.
Nutella and peanut butter have different costs in many places. Nutella is typically more expensive than the most common peanut butters, which are relatively inexpensive in the US and some parts of Europe.
Can you substitute one for the other?
Nutella can work as a peanut butter substitute only if you want a much sweeter option or if you are trying to avoid peanuts because you are allergic to them. The flavor is different enough that Nutella should not be your first option as a peanut butter substitute. Note that replacing peanut butter with Nutella in baked goods will greatly increase the sweetness of the finished products, so you will need to adjust any other sugar in the recipe.
Peanut butter can work as a substitute for Nutella if you want nut butter with less sugar. It won’t give you the chocolate flavor, but you can add a little cocoa powder or dark chocolate to get a better approximation of Nutella.
When should you use Nutella, and when should you use peanut butter?
Use Nutella when you specifically want the sweetness and chocolate flavor of the Italian spread. In addition to using it as a spread on bread, you can dip fruit into it and use it in a variety of desserts. For example, it is a good ice cream topping.
Peanut butter is fine by itself on toasted or fresh bread, but it is more often seen paired with jelly or honey. It is a popular ingredient in cookies and other baked goods, and it can be used to flavor ice cream and oatmeal.