Pareto efficient nut butters that balance taste and affordability

I am a huge nut butter fan. I have a nut butter shelf in one of my kitchen cabinets, and I have even ranked my favorites:


Once upon a time, I blogged about nut butters and created a chart comparing taste and cost. I wanted to update the cost-affordability chart in my previous blog post to account for my tastes. While peanut butter is third on my list of favorite nut butters above, it’s on the taste-affordability efficient frontier. And I think that’s worth celebrating today on National Peanut Butter Day.

I consider four types of peanut butter as well as soy, almond, cashew, sunflower seed, and golden pea butter. I realize I could consider more subdivisions, but I wanted to keep things simple and be consistent with I actually categorize nut butters. Peanuts and peas are technically legumes, but legume butters options seem close enough to warrant a direct comparison to nut butters. I’ll refer to all of these options as “nut butters” in this post.

The peanut butter types are:

  1. Regular peanut butter or store brand peanut butter (Skippy, Peter Pan, store brand, etc.)
  2. Homemade peanut butter (see my recipe; it’s basically just a can of nuts placed in a food processor).
  3. Natural peanut butter (there are various kinds; imagine the kinds where the oil separates)
  4. Trader Joe’s peanut butter (it tastes different than the others to me)

The criteria I consider are:

  1. Affordability: the cheaper the better
  2. Taste: subjective according to my tastes

The homemade peanut butter has a hidden cost because I have to make it; however, I only include the cost of the ingredients in my chart below.

You might argue that my homemade peanut butter and natural peanut butter are the same thing except that I make the former kind. While technically that is true, I would argue that the homemade peanut butter tastes a lot better because I made it. The “Ikea effect,” a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created, explains why I prefer the nut butters I make.

The results indicate that there are four nut butters on the Pareto frontier:

  • Cashew butter
  • Soy butter
  • Trader Joe’s peanut butter
  • Homemade peanut butter



There are all kinds of nut butters with other things mixed in: chocolate, cookie dough, bourbon pecan (it’s to die for!). All of these nut butters are excellent, although some are better than others. It’s hard to compete with chocolate so I left those off. I also left off cookie butter because it’s not a nut butter and not nearly as good (at least to me).

My cabinet at home currently has: natural peanut butter, Trader Joe’s peanut butter, golden pea butter, soy butter, chocolate peanut butter, and Nutella (for my daughters; it has too much lactose for me).

What is your favorite nut butter?




4 responses to “Pareto efficient nut butters that balance taste and affordability

  • Dennis Hunter

    Two items
    If you’ve just made nut butter in your food processor, instead of washing it, toss in an egg or a banana and some flour, and presto, you have nutty pancake batter. (That was on a food blog today so I thought I would share.)

    My daughter is allergic to nuts including peanuts but regularly eats supermarket brand peanut butter without becoming symptomatic. I really doubt that those products qualify as “nut” butters.

  • Cheer4OR

    I have to agree on the lack of taste on almond butter. It is healthy but the taste is ewwwwww =(. You have to try Crunchy Coconut Peanut Butter from Everland! It is the awesome nut butter ever! And get them at TJ Maxx if they have one at your place, i guarantee its both highest in taste and affordability =)

  • Elizabeth Viggiano

    Have you found better cashew and soy butters in the last few years? Or has more exposure increased their flavor preference? They were both below peanut butter in the post you linked from several years ago.

    Also, nutty pancake batter sounds like a great idea! And may even reduce the perceived cost of making peanut butter.

  • Laura Albert

    Elizabeth, you’re right, I have changed my rankings! Good catch. Maybe I ever so slightly changed my taste preferences. Or made a figure that better captures my taste preferences 🙂

    To answer your question, I would say perhaps. Soy butter became harder to find for awhile, and I’ve been enjoying it lately, and that could have affected my rankings.

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