The invention of peanut butter is a little bit of a mystery. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, George Washington Carver is often credited with the invention of peanut butter. In fact, he developed over 300 uses for peanuts. However, Carver did not patent his recipe for peanut butter, and it is thought that peanut butter has been invented and reinvented many times throughout history. One source, the Encyclopedia of North American Eating & Drinking, states that peanut butter was invented in 1890 by an unnamed physician in St. Louis who “…wanted to provide his elderly toothless patients with an easily digestible protein food as a substitute for meat” (189).
The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture gives the credit for popularizing peanut butter in the United States around 1894 to John Harvey Kellogg (also the inventor of Corn Flakes). Katz writes that Kellogg was a vegetarian and a physician, and used it as a substitute for cow’s butter and cream. Peanut butter quickly became popular with vegetarians, who started using it as a meat substitute.
Other peanut butter facts from the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture:
- During the early 1900’s, peanut butter was considered a delicacy for the wealthy, and was served at New York’s finest tearooms.
- Peanut butter was served with mayonnaise, cayenne, paprika, cheese, watercress, meat, Worcestershire sauce, cream cheese.
- In 1896, commercial peanut butter became available.
- The first time peanut butter was combined with jelly (that we know of) was in 1901.
- As technology improved and it became easier to make, more people had access to it. In 1920 with the invention of sliced bread, peanut butter became available to those of lower socioeconomic status.
- Today, peanut butter can be found in 83% of U.S. households.
We Americans love our peanut butter. We eat it the usual way with jelly on bread; we eat it on crackers, in ice cream (my fave!), in candy, with chicken and other meats, and right out of the jar. There is even a song about it. Who could forget this?
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own peanut butter, take a look at this recipe.
And finally, with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I will leave you with this classic comic strip from Dec. 15, 1964.
Gay, Kathlyn. "Peanut Butter." Encyclopedia of North American Eating and Drinking. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1996. 189.
Katz, Soloman, ed. "Peanut Butter." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. New York: Thomson Gale, 2003. 56-57.
Schulz, Charles. "Peanuts." Comic strip. Comics.com. 11 Feb. 2009
“Who Invented Peanut Butter?" 11 Feb. 2009