Why Do Peanut Butter and Jelly Go Well Together?

Sarah McColl, Shine staff
Shine FoodJune 20, 2012

Like bread and butter or french fries and ketchup, peanut butter and jelly are a match made in flavor heaven. They belong together, like Angelina and Brad.

So when did they first meet? There's some dispute about when peanut butter and jelly were first sandwiched together. One popular theory suggests that as army rations during World War II, soldiers spread jelly on top of peanut butter to make it more palatable (peanut butter apparently had an even worse tendency then to stick to the roof of your mouth). Others claim that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches had been packed in kids's lunches all throughout the 1920s and '30s, ever since peanut butter brands Peter Pan and Skippy were available on grocery store shelves. Either way, the PB&J sandwich is an enduring classic. In 2002, it was estimated that the average American child eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school, reports TIME.

But why does this pair complement each other so well?

"PB&J checks all our gustatory boxes," Brian Buckley, chef/instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education told Yahoo! Shine. "Chewy bread, slippery sticky jelly, and the permanence of peanut butter. There is a lot going on for something that is perceived as such a simple pleasure."

Think of complementary hues on the color wheel: opposites attract. Bright, sweet jam or jelly is a flavor foil to rich, creamy peanut butter. Peanut butter and jelly are a perfect sweet-salty pairing.

And we haven't even touched on the bonuses of cost of and convenience. Super-affordable peanut butter and jelly deserve a spot in every larder and are good for the long haul. You'll likely finish the jar long before either is in danger of going bad. Slather them on a piece of bread, crackers (or in desperate times a stick of celery) and a practically-instant, perfectly simple meal is born.

But peanut butter also plays well with others. While we would never suggest any of these combos approach the enduring, classic appeal of PB&J, they're worth a try:

Banana
Nutella
Chocolate
Sliced Apple
Raisins
Maple Syrup
Shredded Coconut
Marshmallow Fluff
Cooked Oatmeal
Rice Noodles
Raspberries
Dates
Strawberries
Honey

Do you still eat PB&J?

Related:
The best natural peanut butter and jellies
Classic comfort foods made healthy
Weird flavor combinations that work

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