Peanut Butter and Jelly: Facts About This American Classic

peanut butter and jelly sandwich


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peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Trivia in a Jif

If you're packing up a picnic basket for a breezy summer outing, chances are good that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will find its way inside. And why not? PB&J is among the cheapest sandwiches you can make, packs in a substantial amount of protein, and satisfies picky kids and nostalgic adults alike. But like most classics, this lunch-box mainstay has a long backstory. Here are some interesting tidbits about one of America's favorite foods — and we promise they won't stick to the roof of your mouth. 

(Hungry for more food trivia? Here are Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Childhood Cereals.)

crab-apple jelly

It Made Its First Official Appearance in 1901

While it's possible home cooks may have enjoyed PB&Js for years before, the first recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich appeared in a Boston Cooking School magazine in 1901. Written by Julia Davis Chandler, it called for crab-apple jelly, not grape, and was considered a relatively upper-crust treat given peanut butter's exclusivity at the time.

Related: Jam Recipes to Preserve Fresh Fruit Flavors

World War II soldiers eating sandwiches
Felix Man/Stringer/Picture Post/Getty Images

World War II Made PB&J a Hit

Both peanut butter and jelly were a staple of soldiers' ration menus during World War II, so it was only natural that GIs began to combine the two, and the sandwich exploded in popularity after the war. Peanut butter, often called "monkey butter" by soldiers, was particularly favored on the battlefield because it was a cheaper source of protein than meat and wouldn't easily spoil.

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Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, New York
Andrius Kaziliunas/istockphoto

We'll Eat Nearly 3,000 of Them in a Lifetime

A 2016 survey by Peter Pan found that Americans will eat an average of 2,984 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which works out to about three a month for roughly 83 years. That might not sound like a lot, but a stack of those sandwiches would still eclipse the Statue of Liberty.

Stacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Peanut Butter Pita Pocket

More Americans Prefer Smooth Peanut Butter

If you slather your PB&J with crunchy peanut butter, you're in the minority. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed by Peanut Butter & Co. in 2019 reported that they like their peanut butter smooth, while 29% prefer crunchy and 20% will happily eat both. Personality-wise, Team Smooth is more introverted than Team Crunchy, according to the survey, as well as more punctual.

Stephen Curry
Ezra Shaw/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

An NBA Team Rebelled Against a PB&J Ban

To say that NBA players love peanut butter and jelly is an understatement. The sandwiches, which became a pregame ritual for the Boston Celtics as they rolled to a national championship in 2008, have become a staple in locker rooms across the country, according to ESPN. Several years later, when a nutrition expert with the Golden State Warriors tried to ban the high-sugar sandwiches, two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry led a successful revolt. 

Related: What Tom Brady and Other Athletes Eat for Breakfast

Classic Peanut Butter And Jelly

There Is a Right Way to Make a PB&J, According to Twitter

Do you put peanut butter on one slice of bread, jelly on the other, and slap your sandwich together? Or do you spread peanut butter and jelly onto the same slice of bread? A very unscientific poll of Twitter users proclaims the former method the winner by a wide margin.

Temple University
Smuckers Uncrustables
Sam's Club

Smuckers Lost Out on a PB&J Patent

J.M. Smuckers, maker of the lunch-box-friendly Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, probably figured it had little to lose by patenting a "sealed crustless sandwich" in late 1999. It didn't take long for a smaller company to challenge the patent, touching off a legal battle that made Smuckers an easy target for mockery. The company lost its patent in 2005, when a federal appeals court decided that the crustless sandwich was "not novel or non-obvious enough." Still, Uncrustables have faced few major competitors, and Smuckers has expanded the line to include non-PB&J offerings such as taco bites, chicken bites, and turkey and cheese.

A snack of peanut butter spread on a tortilla and the jar float together during food preparation on space shuttle Discovery's middeck.

Astronauts Make Peanut Butter and Jelly in Space

Astronauts like peanut butter and jelly as much as anyone, of course, so PB&J is a staple aboard the International Space Station. Of course, it's made a little differently without gravity to aid the process. Instead of two fluffy pieces of bread, astronauts use a simpler tortilla as a base. Squeezable jelly aids in the process, as does a system of Velcro and tape to keep jars and utensils from floating away during the sandwich-making process.

It's peanut butter jelly time!

A Dancing Banana Made PB&J an Internet Meme

"It's peanut butter jelly time!" If that phrase makes you giggle in recognition, congratulations — you've probably been an internet user for approaching 20 years. For reasons unknown, a pixelated banana that danced to "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" by the Buckwheat Boyz became an internet phenomenon in 2002. It's been a pop-culture staple ever since, popping up in an episode of "Family Guy," the video game "Fortnite," on T-shirts, and plenty of other places.

peanut butter and jelly sandwich school lunch

It's Mostly an American Thing

Don't count on getting your peanut butter and jelly fix when you go abroad. Though the peanut butter industry has tried mightily to expand its international clout, a jar of the stuff remains hard to find in many other countries where local tastes have relegated it to a novelty at best. China, where Skippy has a factory, seems to offer the best hope for Americans to export one of its favorite addictions.

Related: The True Origins of Classic “American” Foods

President Bush addressing the media at the Pentagon, September 17, 2001
Wikimedia Commons

George W. Bush Was a Big Fan

Shortly before becoming president, Bush proclaimed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that PB&J on white bread was his favorite sandwich. Not long after taking office, the 43rd president put his peanut butter where his mouth was, adding peanut butter and jelly to the menu at the White House Mess, a basement dining room open to executive-branch officials. Guests could choose from grape, strawberry, or raspberry jelly.

Related: Favorite Foods of U.S. Presidents

Elvis Presley eating a sandwich
Hulton Archive/Stringer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Elvis Flew to Colorado Solely for a PB&J

The King of Rock 'n' Roll was served a sandwich called The Fool's Gold at a Denver restaurant in the '70s. Made from a loaf of sourdough, peanut butter, blueberry jam, and bacon, the baked sandwich so enamored Elvis that he later flew to Denver from Memphis solely to pick one up for daughter Lisa Marie's birthday.  

Related: Surprising Facts About Elvis and Graceland

Jimmy Kimmel hands out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at Emmy Awards
Kevin Winter/Staff/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images North America

It Was Handed Out at The Emmy Awards

Ellen DeGeneres famously ordered pizza for members of the audience at the Oscars in 2014. Following in her footsteps, Jimmy Kimmel helped hand out 7,000 PB&Js, many made by his own mother, at the 2016 Emmy Awards. Some lucky celebrities also got juice boxes and handwritten notes from Kimmel's mom with their snack.

PB&J With Tay
Andrea B./Yelp

Some Restaurants Serve Only Peanut Butter and Jelly

PB&J With Tay opened in San Antonio in 2019 and serves about a dozen versions of the sandwich including The Kitchen Sink, made with peanut butter, jelly, Nutella, cream cheese, bacon, banana, walnuts, and coconut flakes on Texas toast. Feeling a little more fancy? Head to PBJ.LA in Los Angeles for a high-brow version such as the Superfood, featuring cacao nib almond butter and acai or goji berry jam. There's also PeeBeeJays in Aurora, Illinois, where choices include The Swervin' Irvin, made with strawberry lemonade jam and toffee crunch peanut butter.

Related: Eateries That Are Famous for One Amazing Dish

Peanut Butter

Some People Are Afraid of PB&J

No, we're not talking about people with peanut allergies, though that's a very real reason to keep some distance from a PB&J. There are also people with arachibutyrophobia, which is a documented fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, nausea, sweating, tremors, and a "strong fight-or-flight response," according to Healthline.

peanut butter on two slices of bread

A Simple Hack Can Keep it From Getting Soggy

Tired of pulling a soggy PB&J out of your bagged lunch just a few hours after making it? The secret to keeping that moist jelly from seeping through the bread is simple: Put the peanut butter on both slices of bread, then layer jelly in between, according to Lifehacker.