15 Ways to Upgrade Your Peanut Butter Sandwich

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Few foods are more nostalgic than a peanut butter sandwich, but your culinary skills need a serious upgrade if you’re still making the same basic recipe you enjoyed as a kid. Here are 15 simple ways to elevate the classic lunchtime staple to new—and delicious—heights. 

1. TRY A DIFFERENT NUT (OR SEED) BUTTER. 

PB might the most popular protein-packed sandwich spread, but it’s not the only one sold in grocery stores. You’ll probably find almond, cashew, and hazelnut butters at your local supermarket, and specialty stores carry even more varieties, like sunflower and pumpkin seed butters, Brazil nut butter, and pistachio butter. Each one boasts unique health properties, and—more importantly—they provide your sandwich with new, distinct flavors without sacrificing the creamy texture you love. 

2. EXPERIMENT WITH SWEET—AND SAVORY—JAMS. 

Grape jelly is the go-to fruit spread for PB&Js, but other sweet preserves might taste just as good (if not better) when paired with nut butters. Try strawberry, raspberry, red plum jam, mango, blackberry, blueberry, and even boysenberry. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can opt for a savory spread, like bacon jam.

3. TOAST, GRILL, OR FRY THE BREAD. 

No one ever said a peanut butter sandwich is best served cold.  Try grilling it, frying it, cooking it in a Panini press, and toasting it in the oven. 

4. ADD SOME CRUNCH. 

Prefer crunchy peanut butter to creamy? Skip the chunky pre-made spreads, purchase a jar of plain PB, and whip up your own custom blend. Nutrition buffs might opt for seeds, granola, or coconut flakes, but if calories aren’t an issue (or you’re craving dessert early), try crushed cookies, potato chips, or even sprinkles.

5. SPICE THINGS UP.

Raid your spice cabinet and sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice, nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom into your peanut butter. Looking for more of a kick? Opt for cayenne pepper and chili powder. 

6. DOUBLE DECKER IT.

Instead of chowing down on a hearty club sandwich, consider making yourself a double-decker PB&J.  Take three pieces of bread, and cover two with jelly and one with PB. Place the PB-covered bread slice sticky-side down on top of one of the jelly-covered slices, and add more peanut butter to its other side. Place the second jelly-covered slice on top, cut it in half, and voila

7. TRY OUT DIFFERENT BREADS. 

Skip the white sandwich bread and opt for baguettes, sourdough, whole grains, English muffins, and even tortillas (try rolling them up like burritos).  

8. EAT IT FOR BREAKFAST.  

Try adding peanut butter to pancakes, croissants, crepes, and French Toast.

9. SWAP JELLY OUT FOR FRUIT. 

Looking to cut down on added sugars? Swap sweet spreads out for fresh fruits like grapes, blueberries, and strawberries. (If you miss the texture of jelly, try sautéing the fruits before putting them into your sandwich.) 

10. EAT YOUR PEANUT BUTTER LIKE A FAMOUS CELEBRITY. 

One iconic American rock and roll pioneer enjoyed an unusual twist on the peanut butter sandwich: Instead of eating with jelly, he preferred mashed banana—and he also liked for the bread to be pan-fried golden brown. 

11. TURN IT INTO DESSERT.

Marshmallow fluff, chocolate syrup, and melted chocolate-peanut butter cups transform an everyday peanut butter sandwich into a unique dessert. If you’re looking for something even more decadent, consider using slices of pound cake instead of bread.

12. ADD SOME PIZAZZ WITH COOKIE CUTTERS.

Use cookie cutters to cut a peanut butter sandwich into tiny tea sandwiches—Christmas trees, snowmen, and snowflakes for holiday get-togethers, and hearts, stars, and dinosaurs for year-round parties. 

13. MAKE A THAI-INSPIRED SANDWICH. 

Instead of ordering takeout from your favorite Asian restaurant, make yourself a Thai-inspired sandwich. Cover whole-grain bread with unsweetened peanut butter, rotisserie chicken breasts, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped red onions, and hot sauce. 

14. ADD EGGS. 

Top your peanut butter sandwich with poached, fried, or scrambled eggs. Your inner child might be grossed out, but your adult palate might appreciate the novel combination of rich, salty egg yolk and savory peanut butter. 

15. DRIZZLE IT WITH HONEY. 

According to fitness experts, a peanut butter sandwich made on whole wheat bread and drizzled with honey is a great post-workout snack. It’s filled with healthy complex carbs, plus it’s simple to make—and eat—on the fly.  

10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts

None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
margouillatphotos/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Who doesn’t love a pedantic houseguest? Next time you’re at a dinner party and someone breaks out the mixed nuts, seize the moment and let everyone know that a lot of the tasty treats we call nuts don’t actually merit the title. Botanists define a “nut” as a dry, one-seeded fruit encased in a hardened ovary wall (called a pericarp). Genuine nuts are fused to their shells and won’t naturally break open upon reaching maturity. Hazelnuts fit the criteria. So do chestnuts. But these ever-popular snack foods sure don’t.

1. Peanuts

The star ingredient of America's favorite nut butter isn't actually a nut. Instead, peanuts are considered legumes, along with soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Unlike nuts, most legumes come in self-opening pods—which may or may not grow underground, depending on the species. 

2. Almonds

A group of almonds in wood bowl atop a rustic table
These almonds formed inside a fleshy fruit.
onairjiw/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Almonds are seeds found within the fleshy, peach-like fruits of the Asian Prunus dulcis tree. They’ve earned a spot on our list because actual nuts don’t come wrapped up in softened fruit matter. So how do botanists classify almonds? As drupe seeds. Briefly stated, a drupe is a soft fruit with a hard inner shell. (Think peach pits.)

3. Cashews

Like almonds, cashews are drupe seeds pulled from soft fruit packages. The trail mix staples poke out of red, yellow, or green “cashew apples” that grow on South American trees. Cashew seeds are naturally protected by a toxin-coated outer shell that's roasted to neutralize the acid. In spite of this defense mechanism, the yummy snacks were soon embraced by Portuguese explorers and distributed across the globe.

4. Walnuts

A squirrel eating walnuts in a park
The walnuts this squirrel is noshing on are drupes, not nuts.
Serhii Ivashchuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hey look, it’s another member of the drupe clan! Walnuts inhabit green fruit on temperate trees in the genus Juglans. Most of the seeds that end up on American dining room tables come from the English walnut tree, Juglans regia [PDF]. Even if you don’t eat the drupes, you can probably find a use for them: Walnut shells have been incorporated into everything from cosmetic products to kitty litter.

5. Pine nuts

About 20 pine tree species—including the Italian stone pine—produce big seeds that get harvested en masse. Those seeds are removed from cones in a meticulous process, which accounts for their high selling prices.

5. Brazil Nuts

You’ll encounter Brazil nuts all over the Amazon rainforest, in such countries as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and (of course) Brazil. They come from a hardened 4-to-6-pound pod containing up to two dozen seeds that might become trees someday. The pods are so hefty, getting bonked on the head by a falling one is enough to stun or even kill you.  Surprisingly, Brazil Nuts can also be fairly radioactive thanks to the trees' roots, which grow deep within radium-rich soil.

7. Macadamia Nuts

Rows of trees at an Australian Macadamia orchard
An Australian macadamia orchard filled with the country's native drupe.
oxime/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Gympie, Queensland, has an odd claim to fame: Approximately 70 percent of all the macadamia nuts on Earth are descended from trees grown in the Australian town. Macadamias are an ecological staple in Queensland and New South Wales. But—stop us if this sounds familiar—their so-called “nuts” are drupes.

8. Pistachios

Not only are pistachios drupes, but they’ve got shells that automatically open with a literal popping noise once the contents reach a certain size. When all’s said and done, though, at least pistachios are Frank Drebin-approved.

9. Pecans

The Algonquian term for “nut that requires a stone to crack” gave us the English word pecan. Wild pecans can be gathered in Mexico and the United States—they’re true North American treasures. Name origin aside, they can’t accurately be called nuts. Botanists usually refer to them as drupes, but because of their tough shells, the label “drupaceous nuts” might be more appropriate. Either way, pecans aren’t true nuts. They make for great pies, though.

10. Coconuts

A monkey sticks out its tongue while eating a coconut
This cheeky monkey seems to be enjoying its delicious drupe.
Volga2012/iStock via Getty Images Plus

A drupe of unusual size, the coconut is a fibrous juggernaut that bears a single seed. The whitish fleshy interior can be immersed in hot water and then rung out through a cloth to produce coconut milk. Meanwhile, the outer shells are responsible for some of the most delightfully bizarre Guinness World Records categories, such as “most green coconuts smashed with the head in one minute.” (You can see other unusual Guinness World Record categories here.)

Coming Soon to a KFC Near You: Fried Chicken and Doughnuts

KFC is bringing doughnuts to the table.
KFC is bringing doughnuts to the table.
Kentucky Fried Chicken

You might have noticed that fast food franchises have upped the stakes considerably when it comes to promotion. In 2019, Taco Bell briefly opened a themed hotel in Palm Springs, California. Meanwhile, Wendy’s has become known for a particularly salty Twitter presence that takes swings at the competition, regularly roasting rivals Burger King and McDonald’s.

KFC recently introduced a collaboration with Crocs for shoes with a fried chicken design. In 2016, they offered a chicken-scented sunscreen. Their newest attempt to garner attention is in the form of a new fried chicken and doughnuts platter. But unlike some novelty foods, this one is rolling out nationwide.

KFC enthusiasts can choose either fried chicken on the bone or their boneless crispy chicken tenders that come with one glazed doughnut. (A big basket meal will give you two doughnuts.) If you want to reach Roman Emperor levels of decadency, you can opt for their fried chicken and doughnut sandwich, which uses two doughnuts to bookend a chicken filet.

All the doughnuts are served warm, a touch usually reserved for Krispy Kreme and other premium doughnut dispensaries. If you feel like grabbing a single doughnut, you can, provided you order one of their other meals.

KFC calls the chicken-and-doughnut combo “the newest fried chicken trend” that’s gaining in popularity, with some independently owned storefronts like Federal Donuts in Philadelphia basing their business on the dish.

KFC tested the doughnuts in 2019 and apparently got enough of an enthusiastic response to make them available across the country for a limited time. You can find the doughnut baskets and sandwich at stores beginning Monday, February 24. If you’re in Los Angeles, a special Colonel’s (Chicken and) Donut Shop will pop up two days earlier on Saturday, February 22.

[h/t Hypebeast]

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