Friday, April 18, 2008

Nutella VS Peanut Butter
The Ultimate Face-off.

Peanut butter has long been a staple of the American diet. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the quintessential American meal. Athletes too have discovered the values of peanut butter as a delicious, healthy, energy laden food which can be eaten on or with a multitude of other items. What peanut butter is to America, Nutella has long been to Europe. Consisting essentially of milk chocolate and hazelnuts, it can be found on breakfast tables all over the continent, it comes in little packets to be spread with bread at hotel buffets, and has been used as a mid and post-ride recovery food for years. It is only relatively recently that Nutella has been commonly available in the US, and that peanut butter has been available in European stores.

Globalization has finally put both products in our cupboards at once. And thus we are torn: which is better? Which is the PRO food to eat, which is the SMART food? Does it matter? Will I be judged by my choices? It is time to duke it out and settle it for good, which one reigns over the stomach of the common cyclist?

There is only one fair way to settle it. We will compare the two products across a range of criteria, and score them both on a scale of 1-5. Highest total score wins. It's a straight up Face-Off.

The Contestants

There are many brands of peanut butter available, so we have chosen the most worthwhile competitor for the Nutella: Adam's 100% Natural Peanut Butter. Now, Adam's initially requires mixing, which other brands don't but I believe this will not grossly harm the product's chances.

Nutella Website

Adam's Website

1. Presentation

As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes before we eat with our stomachs. Yes, presentation is key. While the perfectly smooth virgin look of any freshly opened jar is a delight to behold, we have to go with Nutella on this one for the totally PRO white top and matching label. The perfectly sized jars also imply rational serving sizing, as opposed to the commonly available massive tubs of peanut butter which are just so white trash. The Euro takes the first round.

Peanut Butter 3
Nutella 5

2. Nutrients

Here we have some interesting numbers. Both listed serving sizes are 2 tablespoons. Nutella registers 190 calories per serving, 100 calories from fat. Peanut butter reads 210, with 150 from fat. However, 21g in the Nutella serving are sugar, versus just 1g for the Peanut Butter, and although sodium is much higher in the PB (120mg versus 15mg), protein is also higher (8g vs 3g) and thus the calories from Peanut Butter are probably of slightly higher value than those in Nutella. Neither, however, is particularly full of carbohydrate, and both are primarily fatty foods, and high calorie. Fool yourself not.
Peanut Butter 3
Nutella 2

3. Spreadability

This one is close. On room temperature breads, both spread about evenly, with maybe a slight edge going to Nutella. On toasted items, however, the Nutella becomes slightly more fluid and glides across your piece with the ease and suppleness one expects from an Italian product. Peanut butter lags just a little behind, but is by no means a difficult spread. Still, the Nutella is just so smooth...

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 5

4. Bananas

Ah, Bananas. The cyclist's favorite food. Full of fibers and cramp-defying potassium, it is a common post-ride snack, often spread on the spot with either Peanut Butter or Nutella. Here, Nutella's spreadability becomes a liability. Peanut butter has a little more heft to it which allows it to stick to a slippery banana. There are not usually unsightly drips, but rather clean scoops balanced perfectly. Peanut butter has an edge, on technical merit alone.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 4

5. Bread

This is a difficult one. Bread's neutral background is a perfect complement and vehicle for a large expanse of flavors and savors. Both Peanut Butter and Nutella do well with this one. It is hard to think of a bread style that does not work for either - and any bread which works with the one works equally well with the other. I will have to call this one a tie.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 5

6. Bacon

Yes, bacon. There are few things more decadent than a piece of toast, spread with Peanut Butter, and layered with a strip or two of bacon. The combination of salts and fats, especially while still piping hot, is incredible. Try it. The chocolaty Nutella comes in far behind on th this one - Chocolate and Bacon just don't mix.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 1

7. Honey

Peanut Butter - Banana - Honey Sandwich, Nutella - Banana - Honey Sandwich, or just Peanut Butter & Honey on Toast, Nutella and Honey on Toast. Wonderful, warm, sticky, messy, sweet goodness. Both the Peanut Butter and Nutella score highly in combinations with Honey. However, the sweetness of Nutella is just a too much sweet when laid on top of sweet honey, here, Peanut Butter edges Nutella slightly for it's more subtle sweetness and nice balance of saltiness for the sweet & salty combo that is warm breakfast perfection.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 4

8. Cookies

Peanut Butter takes this one. I have yet to find a pleasing purely Nutella flavored cookie recipe. If one is available, however, do send it this way. Nutella can be mixed well to create a moist chocolate cookie, but it looses the creaminess and the hazlenut flavors in the process, and. Mind you, they are still delicious. Peanut Butter is a very common cookie ingredient, but a tricky one to work with due to the interesting ways in which it changes the consistency of dough, and a chewy Peanut Butter cookie that retains the full Peanut Butter flavors is a challenge. Of course, the Nutella fans will tell you that cookies are for the fat Americanos, and that Nutella makes wonderful Biscotti. Bull.

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 2

9. Tortillas

Both items spread well. Neither resists the wrapping process nor spreads excessively once wrapped, and they do not create a mess inside a pocket. Like bread, both flavors are well born by the blandness of the tortilla. Bananas, honey, or other items can easily be added to the tortilla to create a more complex culinary experience. This is a tie. Tip: Avoid the tomato flavored tortillas.

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 4

10. Straight from the Jar

This is the ultimate test. Armed with a spoon and a jar, and possibly some espresso, which one would you prefer to assault? I think the winner is clear. Peanut butter's heavier texture makes it much more difficult to process in direct form. It sticks to the mouth and the usual saltiness requires more liquids to compensate. Nutella, on the other hand, is a touch smoother to ingest and chocolate's undeniable love affair with coffee is hard to ignore.

Peanut Butter 2
Nutella 5


Peanut Butter: 40
Nutella: 37

And by a whisker, Peanut Butter takes it. Yes, versatility, perseverance, and the need for no special treatment, allows the old PB to nip the proud old Euro PRO at the line. There is just no denying a winner across a wide range of challenges, versus a specialist, no matter the hype.


Miriam. said...

What if one was to mix them together to a delectable peanut buttery/hazlenutty/chocolatelilicious goodness?

PS What about almond butter, thats some good stuff.

Quenton said...

what about transfats, or hydrogenated oils???I remember someone bashing nutella for it's ingredients a few years ago.

and almond butter tastes like crap with bacon... it's just plain wrong!

G said...

nutella may be bad for you, but it feels so right.

like cipollini in a tiger skinsuit.

Laird said...

miriam is on the right track...peanut butter and nutella on wheat please. If you need a little extra kick add a 'nana for a peanuttelana sandwich. Put that in your glycogen stores and smoke your competition!

jacmark said...

Don't forget about Belgian waffles and Nutella - I offered peanut butter and Nutella (along with fluff, honey, jelly, butter, and sugar!) as toppings at last year's cyclocross races, and about 80% chose Nutella.

Also check out "Le PNB" crepe at Le Happy in Portland. So good.

Joshua Creem/CycloSportif

K. Finch said...

This is silly. Everyone knows that Nutella is one of the foods of the Gods and is not to be triffled with.

gewilli said...

can you ice a cake with Peanut butter?

Nutella wins...

Together though. THAT is pure delicious brilliance.

peterfaj said...

Peanut butter sucks with cookies! Nutella on the other hand is perfect with cookies.

steed said...

Chocolate and bacon most certainly do mix:

I think Nutella deserves at least three points... bringing it into a tie with peanut butter.

We are the world!