Insanely Delicious Things You Should Put On Your PB&J

You don't have to be in grade school to have a special affinity for the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In fact, aside from those who have food allergies, the PB&J in its simplicity makes for a pretty decent lunch that can fill you up while fitting into practically any meal plan. It delivers fats and proteins in the peanut butter, and carbs in the bread and jelly. And if you choose your ingredients wisely, focusing on whole grain breads, no-sugar-added preserves, and all-natural peanut butter, you won't even overdo the "bad stuff" (a.k.a, refined and added sugars and highly-processed carbs). 

That said, even if you're a PB&J addict, no one would blame you if the standard Jif and grape jelly sandwich occasionally loses its luster. So, if you're looking for a way to jazz up your favorite lunchtime staple, consider giving these toppings a try — in fact, go wild and mix and match the ideas according to your personal preferences. And don't forget: Getting creative with your breads and preparation methods can make a big difference in the end result, too. So, throw that sandwich in a panini press or switch out your Wonder Bread for crepes, rice cakes, or pita pockets. There are almost endless combinations when it comes to crafting the perfect PB&J. 

Go classic with banana slices in your PB&J

Yes, of course, the typical PB&J comes spread with, you guessed it — peanut butter and jelly. But there are one or two other traditional toppings that are easy to forget about, banana slices being on of them. So if you have a banana sitting on the counter that's this close to turning mushy, don't let it go to waste. Grab it, peel it, and slice it into horizontal rounds before adding to the top of your peanut butter and bread. From there, adding jelly is entirely up to you; although, really, the banana already slices offer the sweet fruit flavor that balances the salty/savory flavor of the peanut butter. 

And here's another idea: Try assembling a peanut butter & banana split. Start with a hotdog bun, and spread your peanut butter on either side of the opened bun. Then, slice a banana in half and nestle it inside the bun, as you would a hot dog. From there, add other toppings if desired, like a drizzle of honey or a spread of apple butter. 

Pump up the PB&J crunch with nuts and seeds

Some of the most expensive peanut butters on the market come packed with "extras" like chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and an assortment of nuts to add more flavor and texture to the spread. But if you don't want to lay out upwards of $15 per jar, you can always add a little somethin' somethin' at home by throwing some extra seeds on top of your smear of peanut butter. Or if you're feeling really motivated, throw an assortment of nuts and seeds in your high-speed blender and blend until smooth to create your own spread. A little honey can add sweetness, a dash of salt can give you a bit of flavor contrast, and you can experiment with different ratios of nuts and seeds over time. 

Just remember, if you're making your own nut butter, the natural oils in nuts and seeds can go bad quickly, so make small batches and store any leftovers in your fridge for up to a few days. if the oils separate from the spread, that's completely normal. Just stir them back in to keep the moisture in your peanut butter. 

Throw some bacon on that PB&J

OK, so adding bacon to your PB&J may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a bacon lover, you need to at least give this flavor combo a try. In fact, a grilled sandwich featuring peanut butter, bacon, honey, and banana slices was Elvis' personal favorite, so if it was good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, right? 

The trick, of course, is to get that perfect, grilled bacon crunch, so make yours on the griddle or in a frying pan before you assemble your sandwich. Then, simply counter-balance the crispy, meaty flavor with the smooth peanut butter spread and the sweet topping of your choice. You can, of course, go for honey and banana like Elvis himself, or you can choose your favorite fruit. A berry jelly would work particularly well, like a blackberry or blueberry preserve. Or if you want to add a little heat to your sandwich, kick things up a notch with jalapeno jelly. 

Try a few different fruits and berries for your PB&J

A great way to get the essential flavors of a PB&J without as many of the added sugars is to simply switch out your jelly for fresh fruits or berries. Banana slices are the OG of this style of sandwich, but the concept works equally well with sliced strawberries or apples, or whole (washed) blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. 

The trick is to add slices of fruit that won't make your bread soggy or your peanut butter runny (fresh mango is probably not the best choice). Just don't be afraid to experiment — slices of pear, or grilled pineapple slices (not fresh — they're a little too wet) would likely work great, but slices of citrus fruits like oranges or tangerines would be less so, as they might also be too liquid-y and affect the consistency of your peanut butter. And of course, you can always add dried fruits, too. Raisins, apricots, figs, and prunes are all options worth trying.   

Smear some cream cheese on that PB&J

You already know cream cheese goes great with bread, and cream cheese goes great with jelly, so why not upgrade your PB&J with the tangy, smooth taste of a little cream cheese? Just put your peanut butter on one side of your sandwich, the cream cheese on the other side, then add your jelly (or fresh fruit) in the middle. While a classic grape jelly works well, you may also want to try red fruits like strawberry or raspberry jam. 

This is also a great time to upgrade your bread from the standard white sandwich bread. Try something heartier, like a bagel (what works better than cream cheese with a bagel?), or play up the tangy taste of the cream cheese by choosing a sourdough slice. And in this case, you can't go wrong with toasting or grilling your bread, too. There's something especially satisfying about a light crunch to your crusts before getting the creamy-tangy-sweet-nutty flavor combination of your sandwich fillings. 

Sprinkle toasted coconut on your PB&J

Regardless of whether or not you're a coconut fan, if you haven't tried toasted coconut strips, it's time to pick up a bag. The flavor is a slightly sweet, crunchy, and delivers a nuttier taste than regular coconut flakes. That said, when you add crumbles of coconut flakes to your sandwich, you don't want to overpower the coconut flavor with strong or sharp jellies. Instead, stick to smoother flavors, like adding a drizzle of honey or banana slices to round out your PB&J. 

And if you're craving your peanut butter in the morning? Turn this idea into a French toast sandwich. Make your French toast as you normally would (grilling your cinnamon, vanilla, and egg-battered bread slices in a skillet for a few minutes), then set aside and assemble your sandwich. Heat your peanut butter in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds to give it a saucier consistency, then drizzle over your bread, along with some honey, before topping with toasted coconut and a few slices of banana. You can eat it like regular French toast (with a fork), or you can put it together like a sandwich and take it with you on the go. 

Crumble up some cookies for your PB&J

You already know peanut butter and chocolate are a classic pairing, so when you want to turn your PB&J into an almost decadent, dessert-like affair, think about all the ways you can creatively add chocolate to the mix. 

For starters, take a trip down the cookie aisle of your favorite grocery store. Options like crumbled Oreo cookies or knock-off Girl Scout Samoas are good choices because they offer a crunch along with smooth ingredients (the creme and the caramel, respectively) to help prevent the mix from seeming too dry. 

The thing here is, you're adding crumbles, and not whole cookies, because you don't want to overdo the cookie flavor. A single cookie or two, smashed into pieces, should do the trick, so feel free to experiment to see what you like best. And to get the best consistency for your crumbles, put the cookie(s) in a plastic baggie, seal the bag, then smash with something heavy, like a rolling pin (or your jar of peanut butter). Then simply spread your peanut butter, sprinkle the cookies on top, and enjoy! 

Get salty with potato chips in your PB&J

You know you've eaten potato chips as a side with your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so what's stopping you from throwing them right there on top? The salty, crunchy flavor of potato chips makes a nice contrast to the smooth, peanut-buttery consistency, and if you choose to use jelly, the sweet also offsets the salty. Simply choose your favorite chips and layer them inside your sandwich. 

That said, when it comes to choosing the right chip, consider whether you prefer a "flakier" crunch, or if you want something heartier with a greater crispiness. Opting for standard potato chips (think your classic Lay's) will give you a flakier feel given that they're so thin, while the thicker consistency of a ridged potato chip, or even a kettle cooked version, will add a little more crunch. 

And if you'd like, go ahead and crumble up the chips before putting them on your peanut butter. If the crumbles really settle into your spread, you'll end up getting more chips per bite, reducing the likelihood that you'll lose some out of the sides of your sandwich when you take a bite. 

Try some extra tang with pickles for your PB&J

Admittedly, pickles and peanut butter sounds disgusting — presumably this combo started eons ago when some pregnant woman got a craving to eat nuts and vinegar at the same time. But as the saying goes, "don't knock it 'til you've tried it." 

The crispy crunch of the vinegary pickle slices contrasts surprisingly well with the classic smooth peanut butter flavor, offering a combo that's worth trying at least once. The only thing to consider is whether you want to "ease your way in" with a sweeter, bread and butter pickle, or really go for the taste bomb by adding dill pickle slices. Really, the choice is yours. And once you've realized this sandwich has been missing from your life for entirely too long, you can start getting even more creative. Throw some potato chips into the mix to really hit on all those childhood lunchtime favorites, or add some heat (yes, really!) by opting for a drizzle of Sriracha sauce. It sounds mind-boggling, but think of all the spicy, peanut-buttery Asian dishes that taste downright amazing. Is this really so different?

Go campfire style with toasted marshmallows in your PB&J

Maybe you've been adding marshmallow fluff to your PB&J since you were a kid. The concept has been around for quite some time. But have you ever considered toasting marshmallows at home to give your PB&J a more "campfire s'mores" essence? It's not hard to do — simply skewer a large marshmallow or two on a fork and heat them up over one of your stoves burners — turning them slowly to hit all sides — until they're golden brown. Then, simply place them on top of your peanut butter and get to eatin.' 

But of course, that's the simplest way to take advantage of this idea. If you really want to capitalize on the peanut butter s'mores sandwich, start by buttering both sides of your bread and grilling them lightly to get them to a nice, golden color. Spread both sides with peanut butter, add your toasted marshmallows, then sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top. And really, jelly, preserves, or fresh slices of strawberries or bananas will only serve to elevate the sandwich even more. 

Extra butter is always a winner for a PB&J

That brings us to basic butter. Of course it's essential if you want to grill your bread before eating your PB&J, but even if you're not planning on doing any grilling, and you just want to keep things simple, butter is a fast way to elevate the flavor. And, okay, it seems like overkill, right? You already have the creamy, fatty consistency of peanut butter — do you really need more creamy, fatty flavor? Try it once and answer that question for yourself.

A light smear of butter on either side of your bread, before you add the peanut butter and jelly, adds a softer, smoother flavor you won't want to miss out on. And if you use a butter with added salt, the extra saltiness also gives the sandwich an extra something' that counters the sweetness of the jelly and peanut butter. But really, to turly capitalize on this version of a PB&J, do toast or grill your bread to allow the butter to melt into the bread itself. It's really surprisingly delicious. 

Try a dash of Cinnamon Toast Crunch on a PB&J

When you're eating peanut butter and jelly for breakfast (it makes an excellent, on-the-go morning meal), you might as well amp up that breakfast feeling and add some cereal to your sandwich. 

Just like you might add potato chips to your sandwich for lunch, or chocolate or cookies if you're opting for a sweet treat, adding classic kids breakfast cereals to the mix provides a fun way to switch things up. The thing here is you need to choose cereals that will capitalize on the flavors of the peanut butter and jelly. 

The cinnamon and sugar in Cinnamon Toast Crunch is an excellent option, but it's not the only one. You could try crushed Cocoa Pebbles for a crunchy, chocolatey flavor, or an oat-based granola if you're opting for something a little healthier. But when going this route, don't skip the jelly or honey — the cereals add dryness to your sandwich, so you need the "wetter" ingredients to keep the consistency correct. 

Pomegranate seeds offer a nice surprise in a PB&J

You know you can add fruit to your PB&J, and you know you can add seeds to your PB&J, but have you ever thought about adding pomegranate seeds to your PB&J? 

Really, the concept is the same, but most people don't immediately think of pomegranates when making their traditional sandwich. This is a shame, because pomegranate seeds are pretty much one of the most delightful additions you could add. They're tangy and a little sweet and they won't add moisture to your bread, but when you bite into them, they deliver a nice burst of wet crunch, making them an excellent alternative to jelly. 

And because of their tanginess, pomegranate seeds also work well with cream cheese, so you could even make a breakfast-style baguette featuring peanut butter, cream cheese, and pomegranate seeds to serve to your friends for brunch. You can add additional garnishes, like basil leaves or sprinkles of flax seed to make it look especially fancy. 

Spice up your PB&J

This may not be something you immediately think of, but spices and seasonings are an excellent way to give your PB&J a new twist. Simply put your peanut butter in a small bowl and sprinkle in the seasonings of your choice. For instance, cinnamon and vanilla are good options when you're eating your sandwich with banana slices or marshmallows. Cocoa powder works when you're enjoying a strawberry or raspberry preserve. And believe it or not, a dash of cayenne pepper will add a kick that goes well with just about anything if you're the spice-loving kind. And of course, get creative — a little pumpkin spice and nutmeg could pair nicely with peanut butter and apple butter (or even a smear of pumpkin puree). Just think about the spices that pair with your favorite pies or cookies, and add a dash here or there to experiment.