The better peanut butter and honey sandwich

This is about making trail food for hiking or backcountry skiing. I believe I have formulated the better peanut butter & honey sandwich – pictures included. [click the title if you don’t see the rest of the article. I first posted this on ClubTread… ]

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When my Mom made a peanut butter and honey sandwich it was good if it was eaten immediately. But if it were packed for lunch at school something happened during the morning. The honey soaked into the bread and some of it crystallized. The result was a gummy sandwich that was nourishing, but failed the texture test. Peanuts, honey and bread are almost as good as a Powerbar for providing energy when hiking uphill. I find it takes my body somewhat longer to process the sandwich than the energy bar.

The following recipe can be made quickly — in my case it’s often in the pre-dawn as I race to assemble my gear to be on an early ferry sailing off Bowen Island.

<rant> BTW, I loathe the standard cookbook recipe format that lists precise amounts of ingredients, and then requires arcane procedures that only a graduate chef would know about (really, how do you scald milk, or know when a custard coats a spoon?). Instead, I have a picture book for you. </rant >

Carefully measure out exactly one huge gob of peanut butter per sandwich. Add a big dollop of honey. The amount in the illustration will make 2 sandwiches.
Peanutbutter Honey

We are in a hurry, so it helps if these ingredients are warm. Therefore I nuke it for 15 or 20 seconds. Be careful, the honey eagerly absorbs the microwaves, and this is meant to be warm, not cooked! I give the warmed mixture a quick stir before I add the special powder.
Nuke Mix

Okay, this next item is not necessary; but it is not necessary in the same way that it doesn’t matter if nobody celebrates your birthday. Do this: wipe off your mixing spatula, or knife, and then use it to scoop up and add a generous amount of Cocoa powder (the real thing, no chocolaty milk powder).
Add Chocolate

Now mix vigorously.

What I’ve found is that the honey does not thin the peanut butter, it actually dramatically changes the texture as you mix. The mixture becomes stiffer and less sticky. Isn’t this amazing?
The Magic

This is meant to be energy food, so I recommend you use whole wheat bread. If you are slicing it yourself, keep the slices thin. We make bread frequently, but as I am rushing to be on that early sailing, I use frozen commercial slices. It is easier to spread the mixture on frozen bread, and it has hours to thaw in my pack. Put a large dollop on the bread.
Big Portions

Spread it in a thick layer, but taper it toward the crust so that it won’t ooze out.

Put the top slice on the sandwich, and don’t cut in half.

This mixture will not soak into the bread, and it is very easy to eat out on the hill.
Much later - on the hill

Sometimes I have made a Challah the way my daughters like it, which is quite sweet. When that egg bread is used with this filling it makes a wonderful confection.


11 Responses to “The better peanut butter and honey sandwich”

  1. 1 Sarah November 3, 2007 at 11:41 am

    You deserve a medal! This looks insanely good.

  2. 2 Lynne Snyder November 6, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    I can’t wait to try this. Did you think this up all by yourself? Thanks so much for sharing this great tip.

  3. 3 Robert November 6, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    @ Lynne. Yes. It was a 2-step process. First I tried mixing the peanut butter and the honey together. It seemed like a good idea to improve the long-term texture of the sandwich during the day in my pack. What surprised me was that the mixture became somewhat thixotropic. That means that it changes its viscosity as a result of shear (the rapid mixing). It is at a lower viscosity while mixed and then becomes stiffer when at rest. (In a former life I was a paint chemist.) This seems to account for the mixture not soaking into the bread. The second step was easy. Everyone knows how well chocolate goes with peanut butter. Ever since I was a kid we had a can of Fry’s real cocoa in the cupboard (not the same can). It was only a matter of time until that powder appeared in the recipe.

  4. 4 morgan June 17, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Great idea adding the cocoa! I linked to your blog.

  5. 5 Jessica March 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I gave up sweets (cake, candy, anything considered a dessert) for lent (the 40 days before Easter). I came across this website when I was looking up articles on peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I’ve found a loophole in my diet through this sandwich. This sandwich is delish. I’m biting the last few bites of it as I type.

  6. 6 Robert March 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Jessica, thanks for trying the sandwich, and for the endorsement.

  7. 7 JUSTIN September 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    this is awesome I have done this too! haha..though I have never mixed it all together into a past..just basically layered it and ate..though this seems perfect..then the viscosity index is higher as you said and the honey wont drip all over the place..I would suppose this would be good for kids to..

    one question to anyone..

    If you mixed PB an Honey or PB honey and Cocoa would it be ok in the cupboard for a month or so..??? they say the natural PB needs refrigeration though because the oil might go rancid i you think the honey would help preserve it??

  8. 8 Katherine Truesdale October 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I too have been mixing my honey into my peanut butter for years. I am glad that someone else had the common sense to do the same. lol I would have NEVER thought to add cocoa though. Genius!!!!! must try lol

  9. 9 Robert October 25, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Hi Katherine, thanks for the comment. You can see some other ingredients suggested at the Clubtread link in the first paragraph, above.

  10. 10 Brent December 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Thixotropic is a material that is time thinning (viscosity goes down over time). What’s happening here is shear thinning. The more energy you put into the system (i.e. the peanut butter) by stirring, the less viscous it becomes.

    The reason the cocoa powder keeps the mixture from soaking into the bread is because it acts as an emulsifying agent that holds the honey in a homogeneous suspension within the peanut butter. Otherwise, over time, the honey (which as a much lower viscosity than peanut butter) seeps out and into the pores of the bread.

    The glucose and fructose are the sugars that give honey its “sweetness”. Glucose is the one that influences crystallization. The more glucose in the honey, the sooner your honey will crystallize. There is also water in all honey (less than 18%). The water binds to the sugars. But water can separate from glucose. When glucose loses water it becomes a crystal. The reason this happens faster on bread is because bread is very porous and allows the honey’s surface area to increase dramatically, which accelerates the evaporation of the water content and thus the crystallization process.

    • 11 Robert December 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      Brent, what you describe as shear thinning is the property of thixotropy.

      Here is a reference from

      thixotropy, reversible behaviour of certain gels that liquefy when they are shaken, stirred, or otherwise disturbed and reset after being allowed to stand. Thixotropy occurs in paint, such as lithopone in oil, which flows freely when stirred and reverts to a gel-like state on standing. Quicksand, a mixture of sand and water, is rendered thixotropic by the presence of certain clays. Drilling mud, made thixotropic by the inclusion of bentonite, forms a cake on the wall of the drill hole to keep drilling fluid in the hole and to prevent outside water from entering.

      Back in the days when we were formulating paint we’d make the liquid slightly thixotropic so that when brushed on a vertical surface it would flow just enough to erase most of the brush marks. If it didn’t set up quickly, and the flow stop, the flow would continue and leave sag marks.

      Sorry about the slowness in approving this comment… I have not been visiting this blog in the past week.

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