Peanut butter is one of those foods that I simply cannot keep in the house. It’s so easy to go through a jar without even realizing it!
For those of you that share my passion for it, then you’re also familiar with how easily natural peanut butter can turn watery or runny.
Of course that doesn’t change the delicious taste but there’s something about a nice, thick spread of peanut butter that’s almost magical.
So if you’re wondering how to ticken peanut butter, we’ve got some super simple tips you can try. Before you know it, that runny texture will be long gone and in its place, smooth, thick creamy deliciousness.
For clarity, we’ll be talking about ways to thicken natural peanut butter whether you’ve made it yourself or purchased it at your local grocery store.
By natural, I mean it contains only peanuts and maybe salt, but no other ingredients like added fats or sugars. We touch on those types of peanut butter later in the article though if you’re interested.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
1. Stir It (Two Ways)
This one is probably obvious to anyone who makes a habit of munching on peanut butter whether it’s straight from the jar on my favorite, topping a cracker like Wheat Thins.
Whether you’ve ground it yourself, or cracked open a new jar, the very best way to thicken it is to get in there with a knife and get busy. I am partial to using a butter knife myself since the rounded end of it really enables me to dig down deep into those corners and stir, stir, stir.
Method 1 – Leave the oil in
As you stir the natural oils that separate from the peanuts and float on top will blend in with the ground peanuts. Stirring is used in the kitchen to thicken sauces and soups and works by the same mechanism by emulsifying (blending in) the oils with the food.
Method 2 – Drain the oil
Sometimes you might have a situation where the ratio of oil to peanut butter is such that stirring in the oil will only make the peanut butter more runny. In this situation, it’s best to slowly drain out the excess oil while stirring until the desired thickness is achieved.
The additional benefit of draining the peanut oil is that it can easily be repurposed for other uses around the kitchen. Some Asian dishes, like stir-fry, make use of peanut oil so be sure and hang on to it if you use this approach.
2. Stick It in the Fridge
This one is pretty straightforward – refrigerating anything will thicken it.
The only thing you need to be aware of here is that you’ve already stirred the peanut butter to the desired thickness before refrigerating it. If you don’t, when you take it out, you’ll have to wait until it reaches room temperature again before you can begin stirring it again.
However, assuming you’ve already got the peanut butter to the consistency you want, then refrigerating it will ensure it keeps it from changing.
Last, in some areas where temps or humidity is high, you might just have to keep it in the fridge to prevent the oil from separating.
3. Stabilize It
This method can be a little tricky since it requires having some additional oil hand. Vegetable oil or coconut oil are both good options.
Adding oil also seems counterintuitive but the reason the peanut butter is runny is that it’s not stable because of an imbalance between oil and peanuts. Adding additional oils a little at a time while stirring will help to restore this balance and make your peanut butter thicker.
The downside to this method is that while it can help to thicken the peanut butter, it’s likely that the oils will add flavors or tastes that you might not like.
4. Stop Grinding Sooner
If you’re at home making your own peanut butter, then the easiest thing to do is keep a sharp eye on the consistency of the peanuts as they’re being ground up in your food processor.
Usually, grinding for four minutes or less will result in an ideal creaminess. If you go much longer than this, you’ll probably start to notice your peanut butter becoming watery.
5. Xanthan Gum
You may or may not know what Xanthan gum is, but it’s commonly used as a thickening agent in commercially prepared foods and works by preventing liquids and solids from separating.
It’s also widely used in many recipes you’ll find online and is very safe as an additive. A word of warning though, is to add it slowly. Xanthan gum is very potent so you probably won’t need very much to achieve the thickness you want.
Xanthan gum is also not completely without flavor for some people who are sensitive to it, it might not be the best option. Some describe it as having a slightly chemical aftertaste so keep that in mind.
A Note on Thickening Store Bought Peanut Butter
Most commercial brands require little effort to thicken them.
Even though commercial brands start with the same product, natural peanut butter, they remove natural oil from it and replace it with various types of saturated fats – typically hydrogenated oils like vegetable or palm.
These fats are more stable at room temperature and half a longer shelf life which is one the main reasons they are used. The other reason is why you’re reading this article, the fats keep the peanut butter at an almost perfect, thick, yet spreadable consistency.