The Best Grape Jelly from the Grocery Store
I do not like grape jelly. I didn't love it when I was seven years old. And—it turns out—I actually kind of hate it at 27. I like grapes in their off-the-stem form. I like them in wine form. Even juice is okay! But here's my hot take: grape is always the worst flavor. In gummies, in medicine, and yes, certainly in jelly.
But after figuring out the best peanut butter and the best whole wheat bread, it seemed extremely important to round out the end-all-be-all PB&J research with the J. And peanut butter and grape jelly is, for whatever reason, the go-to combination. It's what you see in cartoons—amber brown squished with alarming purple. It's what most people grew up with. So I subjected myself to seven jars of concord grape jelly to figure out the very best one. You're welcome.
Thankfully, there were a few jellies that I found at least tolerable. So I present them to you now. Go forth, armed with this new knowledge, and make the very best PB&J the world's ever seen.
The Non-Organic Ones
First up, the non-organic standards, that you have definitely seen if not spread on toast yourself.
Polaner Concord Grape Jelly
Almost alarmingly smooth and soft, this jar boasted of being "sweetened only with fruit juice"—emphasis their own. So perhaps it's no surprise that it tasted like a grape gummy candy, but one of the healthy ones, like Annie's. It was sort of tart, but mostly just extremely sweet. Due to the texture, this one honestly tasted like sugary, thickened grape juice.
Bonne Maman Muscat Grape Jelly
The only non-Concord grape jelly of the bunch, Bonne Maman came out of the jar not unlike Jello-O: extremely smooth and holding its shape shockingly well. While this one wasn't at all too sweet, it also wasn't really tart, which unfortunately resulted in a bit of a boring spread. It wasn't bad, but it would get lost in a sandwich. I still love the packaging, though.
Welch's Concord Grape Jelly
"Welch" is almost always how people wrongfully try to spell my last name, but that's not why I liked this one least! In my notes for this one, I wrote "tastes sticky." This one is so syrupy sweet, it seems like it coats everything with a sugar film—from spoon to teeth to tongue. There aren't any complex flavors here: this is a straight-up saccharine bomb. I'll pass.
Smucker's Concord Grape Jelly
You know how sometimes grapes have a bit of a powdery coating that you can feel on your fingers when you pluck one off the bunch? Smucker's tasted like the essence of that grape dust. Its tartness had the effect of an almost tannin-esque dryness on the tongue. This super smooth jelly was so sweet it made my teeth ache, but the sugar didn't register on my tongue as severely as some others. The flavors would hold their own on a PB&J, if that's what you're going for.
Winner: Smucker's, I guess.
The Organic Ones
Claiming organic status, these ones might be slightly less familiar, but they're pretty easy to find.
Crofter's Organic Concord Grape Jelly
Every single other jelly I tasted was such a dark hue, it was a bit of a shock to pop open the jar and see that this one was a lovely deep red. However, it's good looks didn't do much for the texture or taste. Crofter's was more like a fruit soup than a jelly. The thick puree was almost creamy, which was unsettling when you're expecting something gelatinous. It was tart enough, but also sweeter than sweet. This absolutely not the one for me.
Cascadian Farms Organic Concord Grape Jelly
While the taste of Cascadian Farms was way better and more balanced than Crofter's, this jar also suffered from fruit soup syndrome. Fortunately, it was a little sturdier, so it would be okay thinly spread on bread. But still, the soft puree just isn't great.
365 Organic Concord Grape Jelly
After Whole Foods' house brand's big win in the peanut butter category, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised by the pleasantness of their concord grape jelly. The flavor was good: the tartness and the sweetness were more balanced—though certainly sweet, no aching teeth here. And the texture was much more like the true, jellied non-organic brands, which seems better for a sandwich.
Winner: I still don't like grape jelly, but I'd happily eat 365's again.