better peanut butter and jelly

Better peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

25 October 2017

I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost every morning of my school years, packing it up with a squat blue juice box of Hawaiian Punch and the little bundle of carrot sticks my mom would cut for me, rolled into a wax paper bundle with ends twisted. Now I make sandwiches for my kids, never much thinking about my technique until my friend Brooke visited from Colorado, chatting with my daughter and I as I made a PBJ for her lunch.

“I don’t think everyone does it that way,” she said.

“No?” I said, surprised. “How do you do it?”

“Peanut butter on one side. Jelly on the other.”

I looked down at my two slices of bread, both spread with peanut butter. “But then you get soggy bread from the jelly. You need peanut butter on both sides to keep the jelly from soaking into the bread.”

I must have figured this out in grade school, after one too many jam-soaked sandwiches. My dad, an electrical engineer, had a method at home for everything from dishwasher loading to water conservation to trash recycling/reduction. Optimization gave him a sense of order and satisfaction. I got that from him.

You don’t need PBJ system if you’re going to eat your sandwich right away. But if you’re going to pack it up, haul it to school in a jiggly backpack and eat four hours later, you’ll be glad to have a sandwich that doesn’t get soggier with time.

Funny that I spent my childhood thinking about PBJ methodology. But even then I would have seen jam-soaked sandwiches as a problem worth fixing.

Peanut butter on both sides of the bread will keep the bread nice and dry. Make thinner layers if you don’t like your PBJ too peanut buttery.

Nobody says peanut-butter-and-jam, but I think jam is in fact the more popular filling. Jelly is pretty runny.

Did you know that grape jam and grape jelly are two different things? Jam has fruit pulp. Jelly is just made from juice.

My husband grew up on grape. For me it was always strawberry.

Don’t skimp on the jam. Remember it has to stand up to double peanut butter.

If you are (or have) a crust-hater, there’s less waste if you cut the sandwich on the diagonals. That way you can eat down to the edge without nibbling into corners and getting peanut butter and jelly on your face from the flapping crusts.

See? You can eat this hours later, and the bread will still be dry.

Soggy PBJ is bad. But gooey is great.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Katherine 25 October 2017 at 11:44 am

I think you will appreciate this comedic skit about making pb&j:
My kids love Studio C, and their mom loves the clean humor.
Oh, have you tried Dave’s Killer Bread in White Done Right? Nice compromise. Unfortunately, it’s not sold at Costco anymore which means $5.99/loaf at the store.


cg 25 October 2017 at 11:50 am

lol katherine, that skit is right on! i’ve never watched Studio C but i just read about it in the wall street journal last week. too funny! thanks so much for forwarding. and i should try the bread for my picky younger ones. =)


Kathie Boucher 25 October 2017 at 11:49 am

But where in your methodology is the butter? Absolutely must have butter…. 🙂


cg 25 October 2017 at 11:56 am

haha kathie, you are like my husband! he always butters his toast before he puts peanut butter on. maybe it’s a regional thing? we don’t do that in california. =P


Casey 25 October 2017 at 1:33 pm

This is known as the “firefighters PBJ” –> exactly for the reason of soggy bread. mmmmmmmm. i want a PBJ now! xo


cg 25 October 2017 at 5:17 pm

hi casey – smart firefighters, love it!


CindyH 25 October 2017 at 2:00 pm

I never would have thought about that, but it makes sense. When prepping for a road trip I grab a loaf of bread and make as many PB&Js as possible with the slices. Then I cut them in half and put them back in the bag. I will do it your way next time. And, oh, definitely JAM!!


cg 25 October 2017 at 5:17 pm

hi cindyH – my dad would totally approve of your bag-reuse method! =)


Wolfsbane 25 October 2017 at 2:45 pm

There’s always toasting one or both sides of the bread first to firm it up a bit before smearing it with the goo and assembling it into a sandwich.


cg 25 October 2017 at 5:16 pm

hi wolfsbane – that’s good too! the heat will make your pb runny, which is good for eating right away but not so good for keeping for later.


Wolfsbane 26 October 2017 at 7:17 am

You don’t have to apply the peanut butter right away when the toast is still warm. You can let it cool. The toasting will crisp up the bread and make it less soggy.


cg 26 October 2017 at 8:33 am

aha, nice! i am too impatient to have thought of that. =P


"Takeru Kobayashi of sugar" 2 November 2017 at 9:23 am

HaHaa… I agree with Kathie, there MUST BE BUTTER on a PBJ Sandwich!


cg 20 November 2017 at 2:21 pm

you would think that, queen of butter! =P


Nance 3 November 2017 at 7:39 pm

Haha, love it! I never got to have jelly….ever! Alas, life in the house of a nutritionist. Brings me back though to a day when lunches were pro forma PB&J… except the one friend who ate black olives with mayo every day.


cg 20 November 2017 at 2:20 pm

haha, is that true?? your mom was ahead of her time. and i need to know who the black olive with mayo friend was!


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