Peanut Butter and Mayo Sandwiches Sound Like a Sick Joke, But They’re Not
Here’s what they really taste like.
This all began when my favorite XM radio station asked listeners to call in with weird sandwich combinations. When a caller disclosed they loved old school white bread sandwiches slathered with a layer of peanut butter, I totally agreed. But instead of topping it off with jelly, bananas, or even marshmallow fluff—they topped their beloved PB sandwich off with a spoonful of mayonnaise. Yes, mayonnaise.
At first I thought this was an anomaly. I’m all about using mayonnaise in a creamy dressing or sauce, or even in cakes or ice cream, but this caller was obviously insane. However, as more and more listeners dialed in to share their love of peanut butter and mayo—sometimes with the addition of pretzels, pickles, or bananas—I knew I must be missing something.
I quickly searched MyRecipes for recipes including mayonnaise and peanut butter, and I came across this Banana-Peanut Salad entailing equal parts mayonnaise and peanut butter, tossed with roasted peanuts and bananas. Is this normal? Actually, it is. Garden and Gun considers peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches to have once been as popular in the South as a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In fact, newspaper clippings of recipes reveal the weird lunchtime treat was popular between 1930 and 1960, and may have begun as a way to make the nut butter more spreadable.
The Garden and Gun story described the flavor as a sour peanut butter... so naturally, I had to give it a try. I made a few Google searches to see if there was any real science to concocting the sandwich, and ended up finding recipe variations that added pretzels to the mix, others with tomato piled high, and another with lettuce layered on top. I opted to keep it basic and grabbed a tub of peanut butter, some mayonnaise, and slices of white bread to concoct my own sandwich. I scooped a tablespoon of peanut butter on one side a tablespoon of mayonnaise on the other. And to my surprise—it wasn’t awful.
I cut the sandwich into bite-sized portions and tried to convince editors to try the retro combo. Some were eager to taste, and even reminisced on days they ate other equally strange combinations (like banana and mayonnaise sandwiches, as one editor admitted). Others took one nibble, but couldn’t get the offputting idea of mayonnaise and peanut butter out of their heads. And a few refused my offer all together. Given, it’s a strange pairing that definitely takes guts to sample if you didn’t grow up on it.
Overall, I didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it. The peanut butter (thankfully) dominated flavor-wise, while the mayo does make for an extra creamy consistency. I don’t think I’ll be packing PB&M sandwiches anytime soon, but the unlikely sandwich is one I can imagine having strong nostalgia for if it was a mainstay in my childhood lunchbox.