You wouldn't think to serve peanuts, much less peanut butter to accompany a cheeseboard. And while some may enjoy a peanut butter grilled cheese, most people regard the combination as quite strange. Nevertheless, peanut butter cheese crackers—those PB-filled, neon orange cracker sandwiches—persist as a decently popular snack.
I rediscovered these childhood treats a couple months ago and realized just how bizarre the combination is. I'd really like to know who first thought it'd be a good, much less a profitable idea to pair cheddar with peanut butter, because I think it sounds terrible. When the first of such sandwich crackers were unveiled, were consumers not horrified?
A Mysterious Beginning
While the histories of many classic food pairings are pretty easy to trace, this did not prove to be one of them. After much fruitless google-searching, I concluded that no one else has shared my bewilderment at peanut butter + cheddar to the extent of publishing a study on the matter. I couldn't even find out when Keebler, Lance Inc., or whatever other company first debuted the cracker sandwiches.
Without any evidence, I hypothesize that the cracker combo surfaced during the 1980's-90's, a salty snack sensation made possible by artificial flavoring. After all, my love of PB-cheddar crackers hinges on the fact that they taste nothing like real cheddar. All of this speculation and curiosity begged a taste test to see how well real cheddar cheese goes with creamy peanut butter.
The Taste Test
First, I tried peanut butter on just a slice of cheddar. When it initially touched my tongue, I thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.” Even though I ate it cheese side down, I was only tasting the peanut butter. A second or two later, the cheddar hit me, and any notion that this might be a decent combination was quickly dismissed. The tanginess of the cheddar did not work with the peanut butter at all.
I then tried the combination atop a Triscuit, thinking that having a flavor-arbiter might make things better. It was definitely an improvement, but only because the Triscuit and peanut butter pretty much drowned out the cheddar. The only contribution on the cheddar’s part was unwelcome saltiness.
All in all, this is not a desirable pairing. Sure, a cracker can make it tolerable, but I don’t know why you’d want to waste your cheddar and/or peanut butter by trying to force them together. You'd be better off eating either of them, separately, with a cracker.
As for those people who make peanut butter-cheddar cookies or even grilled cheeses… I’m at a loss. Cookie batter or bread gets rid of some of the over-saltiness as compared to crackers, but I still don’t understand how it’s a concoction that anyone (except maybe a pregnant woman) would find reasonable.