PB&J: A Technical Review

Perhaps you’ve thrown the PB&J aside in favor of more trendy culinary options. It’s time you reconsidered...

While hiking recently in Oregon I had the opportunity to perform some in-the-field practical testing on the PB&J sandwich. My buddy Jeff donated several PB&Js for free—I never accept payment in exchange for reviews—so we thought we’d drag them all over Mt. Hood and see how they held up. Here are our findings:

Pros:

Cost per Calorie

According to Business Insider, PB&J is the most cost-effective sandwich out there, coming in at $0.45 per sandwich. With an average of 300 - 500 calories per sandwich, your CPP (Calories Per Penny) ratio is through the roof. PB&J packs a whopping 11 CPP! For comparison, a chocolate chip Clif Bar clocks in at 2 CPP, Cup of Noodles offers an impressive 6 CPP, and beef jerky a minuscule .28 CPP. When it comes to lunch on a budget, it is nearly impossible to beat a standard edition PB&J.

Nutrition

PB&Js not only pack a decent calorie punch, they deliver just the right balance of nutrients to keep the adventure going. Jelly provides simple sugars to give you the energy kick you need up front. Whole wheat bread is full of simple and complex carbohydrates, which your body processes at different rates to keep you going. Peanut butter brings an ample serving of protein which keeps you full longer and helps with muscle repair after a long day of activity.

Customizability

We would be remiss not to mention the customizable platform the PB&J is built upon. PB&J is highly editable, leaving the eater with nearly infinite variables to tinker with to their heart’s content. Throw on some chips for an extra crunch. Substitute the standard grape jelly for boysenberry preserves. Experiment with different types of bread. There are thousands of iterations of the PB&J and, even so, it still somehow works perfectly in its standard factory configuration.

Mouth Feel

PB&Js are that perfect medium between “not too dry” and “not soup”. The inner ingredients help keep the bread hydrated and chewy even in dry alpine conditions. They are hearty enough to be filling but light enough that you can still jog along while munching. Once again, at the end of the day the mouth feel is completely up to the eater thanks to the customizable PB&J platform. Our samples came with an enjoyable crunch of chunky peanut butter and smoothness of blended jam, but many people prefer smooth peanut butter or heavily-textured fruit preserves.

Feature Rich

Other than the customizability (did we mention the customizable platform already?) here are a few features that stood out to us:

  • Portability - Weighing in at a feathery 3.5 oz and measuring 5” x 5” x 1”, you will always be able to find space in your bag for one.

  • Durability - For how soft they are on the palate, PB&J’s can endure some abuse. Ours stayed smashed in a tiny backpack for a 1.5 hour car ride and 3 hour hike. Pro tip: Put peanut butter on each slice to create a protective layer between the jelly and the bread.

  • Grip - PB&Js have a built-in grippy texture for on-the-go eats in harsh conditions. No more dropping your lunch off the mountain.

Cons:

Allergy Risk

Unfortunately, it is not entirely uncommon to be fatally allergic to peanuts. This makes PB&J an outright life threatening experience for some. Approximately 0.6% of the US population has a peanut allergy. If you’re old enough to read this and aren’t sure whether you have a peanut allergy or not, you probably don’t, but you should ask your doctor just in case.

Stuffability

While otherwise extremely portable, PB&Js are unfortunately non-compressible. Due to their small size, this shouldn’t prove to be an issue in packing, however you will want to avoid storing them near the bottom of a pack or in a stuff sack.

Availability

If you live outside North America, your options may be severely limited. It’s extraordinarily difficult to find peanut butter in vast swaths of Europe, China, and the Middle East. Peanut butter is a vital ingredient in a PB&J sandwich.


The Verdict

Despite the relatively small chance of anaphylaxis and/or cardiac arrest, the PB&J is a big winner in our book. Its inexpensive and calorie-dense open platform leaves the eater full, energetic, and satisfied. With so many customizable options, the PB&J will keep the hungry adventurer coming back for more time and time again.

Perhaps you’ve thrown the PB&J aside in favor of more trendy culinary options—forgotten it in the depths of a childhood lunch box next to the gushers, fruit roll ups, and limited edition purple goldfish. It’s time you reconsidered and brought the PB&J back onto your standard packing list.


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Aaron Rickel

Climber. Cyclist. Hiker. Writer. Currently has base camp set up in Los Angeles, CA. Runs the Los Angeles Field Guide.