Peanut butter may get all of the love and attention when it comes to America’s most treasured foods (I’ve already ranked my favorites here), but its fruity BFF is just as deserving of fanfare. After all, what is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the jelly?
So, in the spirit of inclusiveness, this week’s taste test is dedicated to strawberry jelly … or jam … or preserves … or marmalade … or whatever you want to call it. (They’re actually quite different and I wrote all about it here.)
To be completely transparent, this may be the most subjective taste test to date since the recipes of strawberry spreads vary not just by taste, but also by seed presence, thickness, chunkiness and the use of actual fruit. While some of us enjoy spreading it on toast, others like plopping it onto yogurt, and while many can deal with a bit of texture and grit, some like it silky-smooth. The possibilities with strawberry spread truly are endless.
But at the end of the day, each jar maintains the same goal: sweet, slightly acidic, gelatinous goodness.
All of the options sampled were stellar, so the ranking required me to get quite nitpicky. Your best bet, frankly, is to make your own (it’s super easy!) or buy from a local farmers market where the ingredients are likely minimal and the flavor is, well, *chef’s kiss.*
Check out the great eight below:
8. Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves
I’m not sure if maybe I’m used to eating Smucker’s jam or jelly, but the iconic brand’s preserves ain’t it. There were traces of nostalgia (I’m a sucker for any lunchbox food from my ‘90s childhood), but I’m almost positive that the recipe was changed in the past decade, which makes me cry real jelly tears. While I do think this jar could be one of the most versatile of the bunch (used to top an English muffin, mix into a parfait or fill butter cookies), it tasted almost syrupy and artificial with only faint traces of the actual strawberry I used to love and crave oh-so-much. Bring back the OG, Smucker’s!
7. 365 Everyday Value Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread
I really appreciated Whole Foods’ commitment to using the least amount of ingredients possible, but this was entirely too runny and not the best for a sandwich. The fruit pectin decided to take off work that day and turned this jar into something I’d actually scoop onto ice cream as a syrup of sorts instead of spread on a slice of bread. That said, the flavor is very fruit-forward and would make a wonderful addition if combined to make a different dish like a strawberry vinaigrette or a sauce on top of cheesecake. Think of it as a best supporting actor instead of a lead that makes history.
6. Dickinson’s Strawberry Preserves
This tasted a bit, dare I say, slimy? Like 365, the texture was a tad off-putting, but I’m not going to knock the flavor. In fact, I was shocked that something containing high fructose corn syrup still managed to taste so fresh and so clean, clean (I’ll never apologize for an Outkast reference). But while this was a preserve I’d gladly smother my pancakes with until there is literally no trace of an actual pancake, it wasn’t one of my favorites … which, again, proves just how stiff the competition is this week.
5. Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves
I am one of Bonne Maman’s biggest fans. But even I, someone who can sit on the couch and eat frosting with a spoon, found this to be hella sweet. In fact, it was the sweetest of the bunch (or strawberry patch, if you will), and will overpower anything you pair with it (so choose wisely). That said, I adored the intensity of its flavor, its thickness and the bits of fruit and seeds. Just use it sparingly or even mix in a splash of lemon juice to cut through it.
4. Santa Cruz Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread
Hello there, strawberry. Pleased to meet you. This was probably the most fruit-forward spread of the lot, thanks to a recipe that wasn’t super sweet and allowed the berry to shine. But I almost wish the consistency wasn’t so mealy. It would be easy to mask this texture as part of an overall dish, but not on its own. But again, that’s just me being very picky. It placed fourth, after all, people.
3. Welch’s Natural Strawberry Spread
Am I placing Welch’s ahead of nationally beloved Smucker’s and awarding it a bronze medal? I sure am! This also brought back the nostalgia, but had a bit more brightness than its biggest mainstream competitor. And while it felt kind of low-brow to squirt it from a bottle, I couldn’t knock it — the taste was there. My only wish was that it had a slightly stronger strawberry flavor and less sugar. Otherwise, Welch’s emerged as a surprise favorite and I am excited to use it again (despite the space it’s taking up in my fridge).
2. Crofter’s Organic Strawberry Premium Spread
This was one of the thickest of the bunch, which was a little annoying to spread, but there was something about its tartness that made it not only one of the most distinct on this list but also the most craveable. Aside from my No. 1 pick, it was absolutely the most memorable and one that I went back to the next day to use in a strawberry jam and lemon bar recipe (where its citrusy notes shined!).
1. Trappist Strawberry Preserve
This may be the most difficult one to find in major grocery stores (although it’s on Amazon), but Trappist slaughtered the competition, kicked them while they were down and then helped plan the funeral. I was surprised by this outcome because the monks (yes, actual monks!) use corn syrup to concoct the homemade blend of ingredients, but it was the most balanced (between sour and sweet) and tasted as if an adorable grandma in the neighborhood cooked and canned it herself. Give it the Oscar of foods, baby. It’s a star!