Peanut butter and jelly is the ultimate comfort food. You grew up eating it (and your mom probably cut the crust off) and now that you’re a broke, dining hall-hating college student, it’s probably returned as a staple in your diet. What once was a fun finger food of ultimate nostalgic proportions is now a boring (but still beloved) one-dimensional sandwich that makes you long for warm, home-cooked meals and simpler times when “Taco Tuesday” wasn’t the only day you could eat actually edible food.
Just because you’re confined to a dorm room and the salt in your ramen has all-but-destroyed your taste buds, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of boring meals. It’s time to take back PB&J — to upgrade it, make it better than it ever was before, and enjoy it without getting tears in your Smucker’s.
1. If you’re bored: Jam out.
Grape jelly is one of the most boring foods out there. Take your peanut butter and jelly to a whole new level by swapping your usual fruity filling for something more bold, like apricot jam. If you think it might be too much for you, take it down a few notches and try raspberry or blackberry preserves.
2. If you like it sweet: Swap jelly for honey.
If you like the sweetness of jelly without all the gooey gelatinous mess, try swapping jam or jelly for honey. It’s sticky sweet and will balance out the peanut butter perfectly.
3. If you like it savory: Put the “butter” in peanut butter. Literally.
Amp up the flavor of your PB&J by adding a thin layer of butter to your sandwich, too. The butter will bring out the creamy, savory side of the peanut butter. Pro tip: if sweet isn’t really your style, ditch the jelly for a PB&B. You will not regret it.
4. If you’re feeling fancy: Go for Nutella & strawberry jam.
Class up your traditional peanut butter and jelly by swapping out grape jelly for strawberry jam and using Nutella in place of peanut butter. Choosy moms might choose Jif, but classy college kids choose Nutella every time.
5. If you want more texture: Add chocolate chips & bananas.
For this one, you can choose to keep or ditch the jelly, but if you want to beef up your sandwich and add a little texture, go for the chocolate chip/banana combo. Creamy peanut butter, ooey gooey jelly, chunky chocolate chips, and banana slices — what could be better?
6. If you want more substance: Use sourdough bread.
White bread is for kindergarteners. Everything beyond whole wheat may be unfamiliar territory for your PB&J, but never underestimate the power of crispy, slightly bitter sourdough bread. It’ll take your sandwich to a whole new world of flavor depth.
7. If you’re feeling adventurous: Use banana bread.
If you can find banana bread in your grocery store, you should absolutely try this. It has all the familiarity of a PB&J on traditional, soft white bread, but thicker, sweeter, and with just a hint of banana. Bonus points for walnuts.
8. If you love breakfast: Leggo your Eggo.
Sandwiches don’t just have to be confined to a loaf of bread. Pop some Eggo waffles in the microwave, and then load ’em up with peanut butter and jelly to make a waffle sandwich that will blow your mind before you even leave to go to class.
9. If you’re trying to be healthier: Wrap it up.
Trying to cut back on bread? No problem. Try wrapping your PB&J up in a tortilla with granola and banana (or more, if you’re feeling adventurous!) and enjoy.
10. If you’re feeling fresh: Get fruity.
Instead of putting jelly on your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, why not swap it out for fresh berries? Blueberries and strawberries would be a great substitute, but if you want something crispier, apples work too.
11. If you have too much time on your hands: Break out the chopsticks.
Sometimes a change of visuals is all you need to improve something. Turning your traditional PB&J into little sushi rolls? Perfect.
Not-so-dorm-friendly bonus: Peanut butter + fluffernutter + bacon
Need I say more? The only downside is, for this one, you’d need access to a kitchen so you can grill the bread and cook the bacon. Bookmark this one for when you get a real apartment.
And now, if you’ll excuse me…
It’s peanut butter jelly time.
Photos via Thinkstock unless otherwise specified.