Difference between Peanut Butter and Jam

Updated on March 9, 2017

Two of the most popular and all-time favorite sandwich fillings are peanut butter and jam. Individually, these two go well with bread, scones, and crackers and are also preferred by many when combined for that added boost in flavor. So how do you differentiate peanut butter from jam? Read on as we spread out their main differences.


Peanut Butter
A jar of peanut butter

Peanut butter is made from roasted peanuts. They are ground and made into a paste. Other ingredients that are usually included in making peanut butter are sweeteners, salt, emulsifiers, and oil. Based on food regulations in the US, for something to be labeled as “peanut butter,” the product must contain at least 90% peanuts. If the contents fall below that quantity, it can only be called “peanut spread.”

Product history

The Aztecs were the first to use peanut butter or something similar to it. They would grind roasted peanuts and mash them into a paste. But it was Marcellus Gilmore Edson from Quebec, Canada who was first to patent peanut butter in 1884. He milled roasted peanuts until they turned semi-fluid in consistency. He then added sugar to the paste and when it cooled, it had a density very similar to that of butter or lard.

There were other developments and improvements to the process of making peanut butter in the years that followed. In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg developed a process using raw peanuts to make peanut butter. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub invented a peanut butter making machine. Then in 1922, a chemist named Joseph Rosefield came up with a process that kept the oil from separating, hence making a smooth textured peanut butter. He used partially hydrogenated oil and later on produced his own peanut butter brand named Skippy.

Other product names, uses, and health concerns

Peanut butter was also called “monkey butter” as a slang term during World War II. In the Netherlands, they call it pinadakaas, which means “peanut cheese” since the word butter is a protected term and can only be legally used for products that actually contain butter.

Peanut butter is usually packaged in glass or plastic jars. Apart from being a sandwich spread, it is now also commonly used as an ingredient in cookies, cakes, ice cream and as an added flavor to chocolate. Peanut butter is also used in dog food and as an adhesive on pine cones for bird seeds.

When it comes to adverse effects of peanut butter, allergic reactions to the product are very common. In fact, certain schools have banned it from being served or eaten on campus.

A bottle of jam

Jam is basically fruit preserves. It is made up of the entire fruit and contains the juice, flesh, and sometimes seeds. In preparing jam, the fruits are cut up or crushed then heated in pans with water and sugar until they are very soft. The process activates the pectin, which is a naturally occurring carbohydrate in citrus fruits. This acts as a thickening agent and creates that gel-like property of jams. Other times, the commercially produced pectin is also added. It is sold as a white to light brown powder which is extracted from citrus fruits. The sugar in jams also acts as the preservative.

Product history

As early as the 1st century in Rome, they already had methods of making jam. In some countries in the Middle East, where sugar was abundant, they thought of ways to enjoy fruits and get their fill of vitamin C all year round. In the US, the first book about making jam appeared in the 17th century. And at the time when they discovered that vitamin C prevented scurvy, jam became a staple on ships. Since fruits did not have a long shelf life, jams became the source of the sailors’ needed vitamins to stay healthy on their long voyages.

Other product facts

Jams that are commercially produced use either one of two methods: the open pan method or the one which makes use of a vacuum container. The open pan method is just a larger scale method of the homemade process, which gives the jam its traditional flavor. The other method places the jam under a vacuum, reducing its boiling temperature which removes the water content and retains most of the fruit flavor. In packaging the jams, they sterilize the rim and lid of jars to prevent spoilage when stored. Steam is also injected before covering the jars to create a vacuum. This is also to prevent spoilage and create a safety seal.

The top two most eaten flavors of jam are grape and strawberry. At present, certain brands sell a combination of peanut butter and jam spreads as well.

Peanut Butter vs Jam

What is the difference between peanut butter and jam?

Peanut butter is made from ground peanuts while jam is made using entire fruits. Peanuts are roasted and made into a paste by adding sweeteners, salt, emulsifiers, and oil. Making jams, on the other hand, involves cutting up or crushing fruits, then boiling them in water and sugar. Peanut butter contains more calories compared to jams which contain less fat and calories. Protein and dietary fibers are abundant in peanut butter whereas jams are a good source of vitamin C.

Comparison Chart

Peanut butter Jam
Made from ground peanutsMade from entire fruits
Peanuts are roasted and ground into a paste; sometimes sweeteners, salt, emulsifiers, and oil are addedFruits are cut or crushed then boiled with water and sugar; at times, commercially produced pectin is added
Contains more caloriesContains less fat and calories
Good source of protein and dietary fiberGood source of vitamin C