In recent years, a vast array of competitors have sought to perfect one of America’s favorite chocolatey treats: peanut butter cups. Companies have taken your traditional REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups and experimented with different chocolates, sizes, shapes and recipes. In fact, you may even find yourself a bit overwhelmed when deciding what peanut butter delight to indulge in. Don’t worry — On The Menu has you covered. Here’s a look at the five most popular peanut butter cups currently on the market.
REESE’S Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – 3/10
Of course, I started with the original REESE’S Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The density of the cup made it quite fun to eat as if you were sinking your teeth into a cloud of peanut butter. Despite an enjoyable first bite, the peanut butter became grainy upon chewing — borderline sandy, actually. It also immediately overpowered the chocolate coating, leaving a lingering taste of sub-par peanut butter. Once notes of chocolate finally revealed themselves, however, I wished they hadn’t. The chocolate tasted of pure sugar. It almost felt as though REESE’S had used the cast-off chocolate from a HERSHEY’S factory and covered it up with a thick peanut butter filling. While a perfectly fine treat at a movie theater or around Halloween time, this certainly wouldn’t be my first choice if craving a peanut butter cup. As a whole, the REESE’S was much too sweet in my opinion, and lacked the sweet-salty dichotomy that is the brilliance of a chocolate peanut butter cup’s design.
Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – 8/10
Justin’s has recently grown popular for its delicious selection of organic nut butters and peanut butter cups. In 2004, Justin Gold, a cyclist from Colorado, started developing homemade nut butters packed with protein to fuel his bike rides and eventually expanded his hobby into an enterprise. The company’s signature focus on natural ingredients made them highly appealing to farmer’s markets and health food stores such as Whole Foods Market. For me, Justin’s natural approach proved successful as high-quality ingredients clearly shined through the peanut butter cup. Unlike many other brands (especially REESE’S), Justin’s was infinitely less artificial. It actually possessed flavor and texture beyond cane sugar. What struck me most about this cup was a harmonious combination of chocolate and peanut butter. The dark chocolate tasted rich yet not overpowering, in effect complementing the saltiness of the peanut butter instead of challenging it with too much sweetness. While the cup was a bit thin and definitely could benefit from a bit more peanut butter, the structure still contributed to its goodness. The gooey peanut butter provided the perfect accompaniment to a crisp chocolate shell. Moving forward, I would always recommend a peanut butter cup paired with dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate.
Perfect Snacks Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Refrigerated Peanut Butter Cups – 2/10
Perfect Snacks Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Refrigerated Peanut Butter Cups bring healthy to the next level. The company offers a variety of bars, protein bites and peanut butter cups loaded with whole ingredients and superfoods. In fact, all Perfect Snacks must be stored in the refrigerator because they contain no artificial preservatives and are sweetened primarily with honey. While I have great respect for the mission of the company and the creativeness of its designs, I would by no means categorize this peanut butter cup as a treat. It really is more like a protein bar in the shape of a peanut butter cup. Instead of savoring a creamy filling, I was met with a powdery interior that hardly tasted of peanut butter. To make matters worse, the chocolate was also underwhelming. It barely withstood the persistent flavor of protein concentrate. Another way in which this cup varied from a more traditional offering was its shape. The Perfect Snacks cup resembled a dome lacking the usual ridges and curvature. This structure did not at all compromise the cup, but its poor taste alone managed to do so. I again reiterate that this is not a treat. While certainly a lighter option, I would stick to real peanut butter cups.
REESE’S THiNS Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – 5/10
As more and more competitors have sprung up in recent years, REESE’S has evolved to meet the times. The company now offers a wide selection of chocolates — from white chocolate to dark chocolate — and shapes in addition to its original peanut butter cup. I tried their THiNS Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and found myself pleasantly surprised. While the peanut butter still maintained the shortcomings of the original REESE’S, the quality of the chocolate was much improved. The richness of a dark chocolate coating better matched the peanut butter and left an enjoyable chocolatey aftertaste. However, I do believe even darker chocolate would enhance the cup’s flavor. As for its structure, the REESE’S THiN provided a decent crunch yet also an opportunity to skimp a bit on the peanut butter. I did miss the thick, buttery interior of an original REESE’S. In many ways, this cup resembled a rip-off of Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups with lower-quality ingredients. All in all, though, this REESE’S most definitely represented a step up from the original.
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – 10/10
Trader Joe’s has done it yet again. Its store-brand Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups were hands down the best of all those I tried. Unlike the other cups, these were mini. The smaller shape allowed for a thicker chocolate coating and concentrated the peanut butter into delightful pockets of creamy goodness. This structure resulted in a compact, powerful bite that delivered on all fronts of taste, balance and texture. What really sold me on these, though, was the chocolate. Smooth and flavorful, the chocolate supplied the perfect level of sweetness to complement the saltiness of the peanut butter. The two both played off and morphed into each other seamlessly — truly a match made in heaven. This is the kind of peanut butter cup that I would actively seek out, even if the nearest Trader Joe’s was miles away.
Hopefully these thoughts gave you greater insight into the peanut butter cups currently on the shelves of your local grocery and convenience stores. Next time you choose one of these delights, you will know exactly what to expect. Then again, all palates are unique. You may just need to have a taste test of your own.