There's A Better Way To Store All-Natural Peanut Butter

Though the earliest versions of peanut butter, likely created by the ancient Inca people of South America, consisted of nothing but ground peanuts, these days there is a lot of extra stuff added to the average jar of peanut butter. Sugar, hydrogenated oils, palm oil, and other added ingredients are added to improve peanut butter's texture, but they also affect its nutrition, which is why some people prefer buying all-natural peanut butter. Natural peanut butter is generally made of nothing but peanuts and salt.

But there's that pesky texture problem. When natural peanut butter is stored at room temperature, it tends to separate, with the peanut solids sinking to the bottom of the jar and the oil rising to the top. Thankfully, there's a pretty simple way to combat this tendency to separate: store your all-natural peanut butter upside down. Then, when you flip the jar over to open it, the oil is now at the bottom of the jar, and slowly moves upward through the peanut solids to redistribute. It helps reduce the chances that you'll be trying to stir a tight ball of peanut solids into a sea of liquid peanut oil, meaning peanut butter sandwiches can actually be a quick meal, rather than a messy 10-minute mixing ordeal. 

Why does all-natural peanut butter separate?

How come a jar of conventional peanut butter is so smooth and creamy? It's not thanks to the peanuts. It turns out that most peanut butter contains stabilizers, like palm oil and hydrogenated oils, that help prevent separation. Most conventional peanut butter also contains sweeteners like sugar or corn syrup which can affect the texture. 

Natural peanut butter, on the other hand, is usually just made by blending peanuts and salt, though salt-free varieties are available too. When natural peanut butter is stored, the oil and solids separate from one another, with the oil rising to the top and the solids settling to the bottom. It's kind of annoying, sure, but, leaving the oil separated from the peanut solids can also cause the oil to start oxidizing, which is partially responsible for food spoilage, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Storing natural peanut butter upside down, and flipping the jar regularly, can help prevent this oxidation because the solids and oils remain more emulsified and spend less time separated.

How to save separated all-natural peanut butter

Unfortunately, you can't always prevent natural peanut butter from separating, and often it's already separated in its jar when you buy it from the store. But there are a few easy ways to mix it back up that don't involve bending the head of your favorite spoon while churning the cement-like mixture of peanut solids and oil by hand. If your jar is wide enough, you can stick an immersion blender inside to mix the peanut butter back together, or you can use an electric hand mixer fitted with one mixing beater that fits in the jar mouth.

If you don't want to have to go through this routine every time you open your jar of peanut butter, store it upside down. You can also try refrigerating your natural peanut butter after it's been mixed together to keep it emulsified longer. It works because peanut oil thickens at cooler temps, rather than staying in the thin liquid state it achieves at room temperature. That means that at cooler temperatures the peanut solid-peanut oil emulsion in your natural peanut butter is more stable and less likely to separate. However, this can make the peanut butter firm and hard to spread, which is why so many people rely on simply storing their all-natural peanut butter upside down.