The Secret To Making The Perfect Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich

If you're a foodie searching for the latest culinary trend, it might be hard to get excited about an ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But assembled the right way, using exactly the perfect combination of soft bread, fresh blended peanuts, and sweet-but-not cloying fruit jam, a good old PB&J can be as delightful a gustatory experience as whatever recipe that's dominating your Pinterest feed these days. 

There's good reason why Americans named the peanut butter and jelly sandwich their favorite comfort food — outranking even classics like macaroni and cheese according to a Smuckers survey. If you've had an especially long day, this classic sweet and salty sammie may be exactly what you need to munch those worries away. "The comfort of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is the comfort of the sensuously insensate, somewhere between relaxation and unconsciousness," noted Serious Eats' Chris Mohney. 

So how do you create a PB&J that will summon this nirvana-like experience? 

What makes a PB&J 'perfect'?

Of course the word "perfect," when it comes to comfort food, is subjective. Whether you prefer smooth or crunchy peanut butter, or grape or strawberry jelly, slathered on traditional Wonder Bread or two nice slices of seven-grain, will have more to do with your childhood experiences than anything else. (In a pinch, ask your mom or dad how they assembled your school lunch sandwiches and follow their lead.) 

That being said, there is one universal quality that all great PB&J sandwiches share: contrast. "The warmth from the toasted bread contrasts the cold jelly, bringing the entire sandwich together," gushed student Ginny Fagan in her ode to PB&J for The Penmen Press

Make sure your peanut butter and jelly sandwich contains the following types of contrast:

  1. Textures: Combine the softness of bread, the thickness of the peanut butter and the fluidity of the jelly and enjoy the complexity of these contrasts.
  2. Flavors: The bread and peanut butter are both salty and sweet; the jelly should be sweet and slightly tart.
  3. Temperatures: As Fagan noted, a really good PB&J will have bread that's warm from the toaster and jelly that's cool.

Do you have a sweet tooth or are you more of a salt fiend? While the perfect PB&J will be slathered with equals part of each, you can easily increase the ratio of jelly to peanut butter if you like things sweet, and vice versa if you don't want a sugar high.