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Food & Recipes

Peanut Butter Is Even Better When It’s Savory

Turns out the pantry staple is highly versatile.

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Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a classic. For most everyone I know, they’ve been in the regular “snack rotation” since childhood. I’m guessing it’s something you still make for your kids or grand-kids when they’re hungry and you’re in a hurry. But the spread’s salty/sweet goodness has potential that extends far beyond the school lunchbox. Here are some easy, yummy, and savory uses for peanut butter that will probably surprise you — and definitely wow you. 

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Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

While healthy might not be the first thing on your mind when you think of peanut butter — many popular brands have added sugar, oil, and fat — there are several healthy PB options that have simpler and more nutritious ingredients. According to WebMD, peanut butter is rich in vitamins and copper, a mineral that can be good for bone and heart health. The oleic acid and omega-6 fatty acid in peanut butter might also help to lower cholesterol. In terms of taste, adding peanut butter to a dish is a smart way to amplify sweet and salty flavors without resorting to more sugar or salt.

Peanut Butter and Meat

If you’ve ever eaten Thai food, you may have tried chicken satay. The dish — skewered grilled chicken dressed in an addictive peanut sauce — provides an excellent example of peanut butter as a savory element. As Southeast Asian cuisine proliferates in America, this application of peanut butter is becoming more and more popular. Pad Thai noodles are another crowd-pleasing Thai dish filled with savory peanut goodness. 

Chicken satay can be made at home, and it’s a great way to use your grill. This recipe from Damn Delicious, a blog devoted to “quick & easy meals for the home cook,” promises: “These chicken satay skewers could taste like shoe leather. And if they did, that would be okay. Because this peanut-lime sauce will make anything and everything taste so much better.” The recipe may seem daunting — its combined prep and cook time is 2 hours and 50 minutes — but the majority of that is for marinating the chicken. The active time is just 12 to 15 minutes. 

Peanuts are also a staple in African cooking. The blog Low Carb Africa has a recipe for mafe, a traditional African peanut stew, that uses beef, peanut butter, and a combination of vegetables and pantry items (like tomato paste and bouillon powder) to make a warm and comforting meal. It all cooks in one pot (always good for a busy weeknight), and it’s keto-friendly and free of both dairy and gluten. 

Finally, if you want a more indulgent peanut/meat combo, you can try the infamous “Elvis sandwich.” It’s a grilled mix of peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon that’s said to be a favorite of the late musical icon.

Peanut Butter and Fish

Peanut butter can also be paired with fish — and trust us, the combination isn’t as strange as it might sound. Try a simple Thai peanut shrimp curry, a recipe that’s perfect over rice and easy to customize with vegetables, or sample a quick and easy peanut butter glazed salmon and green beans. White fishes like cod, tilapia, and mahi mahi also work well with peanut, as in this recipe for Asian fish and peanut sauce over noodles

Vegetarian Peanut Butter

The satisfying flavor and texture of peanut butter makes vegetarian dishes shine. No comfort food better demonstrates this than a big bowl of noodles coated in a creamy, slightly spicy peanut butter sauce. Peanut noodles taste great served hot or cold, and they can easily be a side dish or a main course. 

Peanuts and tofu are another match made in vegetarian heaven. This baked tofu in Thai peanut sauce gets an added boost from maple syrup, which makes for a beautifully caramelized crust. Plus, it’s all made on one sheet pan, so cleanup is easy. 

Red lentils are full of iron, fiber, and protein, making them a terrific centerpiece for a healthy dinner — and a good pairing with peanut butter as well, as in the below one-pot curry recipe from vegan chef Anett Velsberg.

Peanut Lentil Curry

Ingredients (Serves 2 to 4):

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry leaves
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (400 grams)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • Juice from ¼ lime
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. In large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil and add garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add curry leaves, lentils, stock, and crushed tomatoes. Stir and place the lid on. Cook on low heat 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.
  3. Add coconut milk and peanut butter. Mix well. Simmer another 5 minutes, then season with lime juice, salt, and black pepper. Serve with rice, kale salads, or flatbreads. 

As the weather cools and your comfort food cravings grow, a bowl of spicy, creamy, peanut buttery curry is just the ticket. Next time you’re stumped about what to cook, simply look to that half-used jar of peanut butter in your kitchen for inspiration. There are so many different ways you can use it!

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