The Ubiquitous PB&J


 Janelle Maiocco, Brown Bag Blues – [The good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich is enjoying renewed fame in recent years for its versatility and ease.  Already well suited for dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian diets, at home chefs are not transforming it to meet their family’s tastes and special diets.  One mother put out a request for some new PB & J variations, and discovered a few worthwhile options…]

My son went to visit a new school, to help him decide ‘where to go to school next year.’

He knew some of the kids at the school, and met others that he really enjoyed. Not too long after his visit, I was having coffee with >my new, favorite friend who also happens to be a mom of one of the boys in this particular 5th grade class.

I had to share with her. I mean, how often do you get the fun, social scoop on your own child? I had asked my son what he thought of her son. We were having lunch and he peered at me over his fork and said, “yes, I remember him, he is very sanguine.” And, perhaps noting the demise of my education on such highly appointed verbiage he paused to share the definition: “happily confident.”

I smiled, to pretend I understood and mask my amusement at his use of vocabulary. As if it were normal. As if his mom even knows how to pronounce, let alone define the aforementioned word. Sanguine. It does roll of your tongue, though, doesn’t it?

So I shared with my friend that she had a very sanguine son. And then, adult to adult, I shared the definition. We had a good chuckle and drank our coffee, like grown-ups should.

You would think ‘nice’ or ‘friendly’ or even ‘outgoing’ would have come to mind. Sort of like when you make a PB&J you would describe it as simple, basic, or standard.

But that is not always the case. In fact, PB&Js can be so much more. It is the quintessential sandwich to initiate good ideas; the ubiquitous combination that is the foundation for unveiled ingenuity… (Touché—mom knows big words too!)

I emailed some friends to ask how they reinvented the PB&J; here are some of the responses to my PB&J query, to bring these slices of bread and condiments beyond ‘classic,’ ‘nice’ or ‘usual.’ Here are personality-filled sandwiches that might even be considered sanguine:

  • Erika from had this to say: “My favorite is a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a sprinkle of toasted coconut. When blueberries are in season I also like fresh blueberries and almond butter on whole wheat bread.”
  • Stefania from Family Food had this amazing rendition: THAI-STYLE PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH. Serve on a toasted, halved whole wheat bagel (or wheat toast) spread a layer of creamy peanut butter. Then top that with chopped salted peanuts. (You could use chunky peanut butter but this method is waaay better.) Then, top the peanut-y peanut butter bagel with: thin slices of red onion, thin slices of cucumber, Thai or regular basil leaf.
  • Michele from What’s Cooking? has reinvented PBJs twice over: her daughter loves hers open faced on Naan with lemon curd, her son isn’t allowed to have peanut butter at his preschool, so she uses sunflower seed butter and jam. He can’t tell the difference—and the kids at school are safe!
  • Julie from Bad Home Cooking offered this: “my son loves his PB&J’s…but he also likes peanut butter and honey sandwiches (me too: especially with creamed honey and crunchy peanut butter!). A Japanese version of the ubiquitous (hey—that is where I got that word from—thanks Julie!) American PB&J that my kids love is Onigiri.
  • Alisa at Go Dairy Free offered her toasty “PBJ”: I love almond butter on toast with just cinnamon or a bit of honey and cinnamon. I like it in toast format, but a sandwich works as well. Also, very un-nut-like, I am addicted to Toby’s Tofu Pate with tomato slices and lettuce. Still a non-meat spread though, only partially with the theme.
  • Karen’s son prefers FlufferNutters made with REAL marshmallow fluff; she likes to sneak in the occasional crunchy peanut butter & piece of milk chocolate—a PB&smores! You can find more of her ideas at Family Style Food.
  • Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes (Okay, that is kind of a joke, since that Janelle is ME—I write on talkoftomatoes as well as brownbagblues—follow THIS link to my article on the Wellfed Network where I uncover the unusual way my kids like their PB&Js!) talks PB&Js, too.

So instead of landing a basic, borderline boring PB&J in your brown bag, aim for better, brazen and brilliantly revised PB&J’s! Please share your brown bag brilliance so we can all bag some novelty sandwiches! And to continue to curb your appetite for PB&Js:

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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