Point/Counterpoint: The great smooth vs. chunky peanut butter debate

Illustration for article titled Point/Counterpoint: The great smooth vs. chunky peanut butter debate
Photo: BarnabyChambers, gvictoria (iStock)

Lincoln-Douglas. Kennedy-Nixon. Now, Bernot-Ihnat. Our venerable Takeout writers square off to share their impassioned views on one of the greatest culinary issues of our time: Which texture of peanut butter reigns supreme? We promise rhetorical skill, cunning wordplay, and dazzling argumentative maneuvers, all in service of the peanut buttery truth. Won’t you join us?

Chunky peanut butter for President

Friends, citizens, compatriots, thank you for being here. Though our grocery shelves are packed with myriad options when it comes to peanut butter, there is only one clear choice that provides the textural pleasure, the natural crunch, the satisfyingly toothsome vision our country needs at lunchtime. And that, my fellow Americans, is crunchy peanut butter.

Kate “Chunky Or GTFO” Bernot
Kate “Chunky Or GTFO” Bernot

Crunchy peanut butter represents the wholesome values that our lunch sandwiches were built on. Before hydrogenation in the 1920s, all peanut butter was crunchy. I believe that crunchy textural diversity is an American value. Some bites have more peanuts bits, some have fewer. And that’s okay. That’s the common-sense middle ground you’ll get with crunchy peanut butter: not too nutty, not too creamy, just a little bit of chew in each bite.

We have enough smooth and creamy sandwich spreads these days: jelly, butter, hazelnut spreads, the suddenly trendy smooshed avocados. What we need is a balance, folks. We need a crunchy spread that’s not afraid to stand up to its smooth counterparts and say look, sometimes we need another viewpoint in our pantry. If you, too, are in favor of textural diversity and common-sense deliciousness, please choose chunky peanut butter on your next shopping trip. And may God bless America.

Make America Smooth Again

Kate Bernot is an impressive beer judge, exemplary coworker, and all-around standup human being. And yet, here we stand, on opposite sides of the crunchy/smooth divide. I disagree with Kate on few things, but mainly her desire to put things into things. Chocolate chip cookies don’t need chopped-up nuts. And neither does peanut butter.

Gwen “Why does chunky p.b. want to hurt me?” Ihnat
Gwen “Why does chunky p.b. want to hurt me?” Ihnat

Picture the things you use peanut butter for: A PBJ sandwich. Lovely, creamy, probably on soft white bread. Why would you want some sharp, unwanted interlopers like chopped-up peanuts in there spoiling your good times? I also dearly love to spread peanut butter on apples. This is nearly impossible to do with chunky peanut butter. Oh, let’s make this velvety delicious peanut butter sauce—what’s that? You’ve got some gunked-up peanuts in there? For what purpose, except for messing everything up?


Does this chunky peanut butter hatred stem from the fact that I had braces as a kid and had to stringently avoid it? Honestly, probably. But after being raised on smooth peanut butter, I find absolutely no use for the chunky version in today’s modern world, despite my opponent’s, um, friend’s fancy talk about hydrogenation history. Life is chunky enough; you don’t need obstacles in your peanut butter.

Fortunately, Kate and I do agree on the real hard-hitting issues: the sacrilege of dunking cookies in milk and the majesty of raw cookie dough.


Who won?


Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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I used to dig smooth. But for years now, peanut butter has been ruined for me. When I moved in with my now-wife in 2002, I found she doesn’t respect countertops. I started finding butter knives chunked with peanut butter festering on countertops.  That smell of rancid peanut butter ruined it. I can't do it anymore. We moved to a suburb that has a rendering plant and tannery by the river.  The smell makes everyone else think of death, but when I catch that smell on the wind, it makes me think of dried gobs of peanut butter.