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Why is there oil on top of natural peanut butter?

Ask Peggy

Ask Peggy

DEAR PEGGY: If I spill out the top oil from a jar of peanut butter, will it affect the peanut butter or the taste? —D. A., Revere, Massachusetts

The oil at the top of a jar of "natural" peanut butter is from the peanuts. Processed peanut butters like Jif and Skippy have emulsifiers that keep the oil from separating out, making the peanut butter smooth and creamy. If you pour the oil out of natural peanut butter instead of mixing it in, the peanut butter will be quite thick, dry and difficult to spread, especially as you get toward the bottom of the jar.