Peanut butter may be an American staple, but it holds a special place in the hearts (and pantries) of many Filipinos. Made with peanuts and possibly other flavorings or oils, it’s well-loved slathered on toast, warm pan de sal, or just consumed straight up on a spoon. How do the different brands in the supermarket compare?
Note: We’ve narrowed down the selection to commercial peanut butters that are either locally produced or are locally distributed. We’ve included both peanut butters and peanut spreads (distinguished from peanut butters in the US based on the amount of peanut they contain) as they are branded similarly, and from lack of confirmation on whether any similar distinction exists in the Philippines.
The oil in this peanut spread floats to the top by default. Once stirred, it takes on a consistency unlike that of the others: silky-smooth and whippy, akin to cake frosting that glides seamlessly on bread and melts on the tongue. It tastes less of real nuts and more of a flavor we can best describe as artificial; it’s also the sweetest of the bunch. Though it feels far from natural, it appeals to our inner child anyway—and makes a great instant frosting if you’ve got any spare cake or cookies lying around the house.
When newly opened, Happy’s comes with solids and oils highly separated and can be challenging to stir together. Persist, however, and you get a very runny consistency with tiny granules of sugar and ground peanut you can chew down on. Though relatively savory, it still tastes mid-sweet, and has the distinct buttery flavor of dry-roasted peanuts—along with a certain vanilla-like note to round it out (though vanilla is not listed in the ingredients).
Lady’s Choice is thick, stiff, and holds its shape on a spoon. True to its “creamy” moniker, it’s very smooth (and requires no stirring), making it easy to spread on bread. Unlike Best Foods’, you still get a mild graininess toward the end, and it can feel dense on the tongue that it leaves an oily feel after you swallow. Taste-wise it’s the closest to American-style peanut butter: relatively savory and just a touch sweet, with a profile specifically akin to fried peanuts, and pops of salt for balance. Our head chef notes that it’s the most neutral-tasting of the bunch, making it your best bet for cooking with.
Lily’s is one of the OGs of the local peanut butter scene, having been around since the 1950’s. It requires stirring as the oil floats on top, but is relatively easy to stir as its peanut base is relatively viscous. As a result, you get a runny consistency with a slight powdery, gritty feel and granules of sugar toward the end. It’s decidedly sweet (a member of the team mentions a brown-sugary note that the author does not pick up), but this is balanced out by the creaminess of the nuts. The said nuttiness specifically brings to mind skinless peanuts that haven’t been roasted too thoroughly, making for an overall buttery flavor.
Perhaps Lily’s top rival, Ludy’s goes for a similar packaging and overall branding. Like Lily’s, it requires stirring to dissolve the oil on top but is easy to stir and gives you a runny consistency with a mildly gritty feel. It’s in flavor that the two differ however. Though the sweetness is just about equal to Lily’s, Ludy’s goes for more depth, exhibiting a more toasty nuttiness that brings to mind roasted peanuts, possibly with the skin on.
SM Bonus’ peanut spread comes with the oil and the peanut solids separated, and can be very challenging to stir together—even more so than Lady’s Choice’s. Eventually, you get an even stiffer, thicker mix that also holds its shape on a spoon, but is very gritty on the tongue and difficult to spread on bread. It’s also on the neutral-tasting end of peanuttyness—a touch roasted, not too buttery, not overpowering, though a taster notes that it has an “old” aftertaste. Either way, its rusticness makes it the closest to homemade, in our book. (With its thickness, it’s also your best bet for eating straight up.)
The Verdict: Lady’s Choice and Ludy’s
It was difficult coming up with a winner as the different brands all took on different profiles, making them hard to compare. As far as versatility goes, Lady’s Choice takes the top prize, as its standard peanut flavor and smoothness makes it great for spreading, cooking, or eating by itself. As far as distinctly Filipino-style peanut butter goes though, Ludy’s decidedly sweet and gritty consistency paired with ample peanutty depth makes it a standout in its own right.