Turn A Nearly Empty Peanut Butter Jar Into A Perfect Noodle Pairing

Earlier generations were experts at minimizing food waste, frugally turning ingredients like rock-hard stale bread into some of the most delicious, longstanding recipes we enjoy today, like bruschetta, ribollita, French toast, and panzanella salad. With food prices soaring and a global emphasis on reducing food waste, it's time to stretch our dollars further and embrace "cucina povera," or frugal cooking, using items we mindlessly throw away like nearly empty peanut butter jars.

Despite our best efforts using a rubber scraper (or finger), there are always a few tablespoons of peanut butter left in the well-loved pantry staple after it's given us all the PB&Js, cookies, and smoothies it can muster, but what's left doesn't need to go to waste. Inspired by Martha Stewart's tip for making a delicious vinaigrette by squeezing the last bit of mustard out of a nearly empty Dijon jar, we have an equally ingenious cooking hack for a flavorful peanut sauce to complement cooked noodles, using just a bit of hot water. 

Sesame noodle recipe

This cooking hack works particularly well with the remains of natural peanut butter when lazy stirring has left a dried-out hockey puck of ground peanuts in the bottom of the jar. Still, it's equally useful for all varieties and can be prepared with other nut butters too.

Roughly add an equal amount of hot liquid like water or broth to the nearly empty peanut butter jar. It's essential to use a hot liquid to melt the peanut butter so the ingredients combine. Start conservatively with two tablespoons to avoid a runny sauce, and add more hot water as needed. Use a fork or mini whisk to loosen the peanut butter from the sides and combine the ingredients until they emulsify into a sauce. 

The two ingredients are delicious on their own, tossed with cooked noodles, but they can also be the base for your favorite Sesame Noodle recipe. Additional ingredients like ground ginger, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce can be added directly into the jar and shaken to combine. Toss the peanut sauce with warm noodles (so they absorb the sauce), and garnish with julienned carrots, cucumbers, red cabbage, and sesame seeds. The now-empty peanut butter jar can be recycled with a clear conscience, making clean-up a breeze.

More delicious peanut sauce ideas

This cooking hack is so versatile and works for any dish you wish had a peanut-y element to it. Just start with enough hot water to loosen the remaining peanut butter before customizing the recipe with additional ingredients or using it as is for smoothies and overnight oats. 

Adjust the consistency with less water and use the thick sauce as a dip. It's delicious with spring rolls, chicken satay, or grilled skewered shrimp as a main course. Combine the peanut sauce with ground chicken and diced water chestnuts for flavorful P. F. Chang-inspired lettuce cups everyone will love.

Similar to Stewart's original idea, use the nearly empty peanut butter jar to make a peanut vinaigrette for an Asian-inspired crunchy salad. Combine rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, honey, ground ginger, and vegetable oil with the loosened peanut butter and shake the ingredients until the dressing comes together. Toss the dressing with shredded Napa cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, English cucumbers, and shelled peanuts for a light lunch, or add protein for a hearty dinner.

And don't forget about the chocolate desserts. Drizzle peanut butter sauce on brownies, blondies, cakes, and ice cream to instantly add a creamy, salty element to any sweets.