Texas native Mario Esparza’s first homemade batch of nut butter was simple: almonds, coconut oil, and salt. But his combo yielded a flavor richer than any store-bought product he’d tasted—and it was devoid of all the fillers, preservatives, and unpronounceable ingredients that populate commercial brands. One taste and Esparza never looked back.

It wasn’t until seven years later, though, while sitting on a park bench in Denver, that inspiration struck. Esparza, who had moved to the Mile High City in 2010 to work at Snooze, realized his passion for making quality peanut butter could provide the additional money he needed to put himself through school at the University of Colorado Boulder. That was three years ago. Now, PB Love Co. co-founders Esparza and Andy Mason (the two met while at Snooze and are PB Love’s sole employees) spread the company’s real-food-is-good-food message.

For Esparza, that means sourcing ingredients from Colorado companies, including peanuts from the Colorado Nut Co. and Jerry’s Nut House, honey from Björn’s Colorado Honey, and coconut oil and coconut sugar from Golden Organics. As any business owner with the same passion knows, securing quality ingredients is not an easy task, but for Esparza and Mason (who handles the design and branding side), it’s worth it. “Part of our food philosophy is to find food that’s closer to you,” Esparza says. “I have something to say, and food is my medium of saying it.”

Esparza has tweaked the recipe slightly from his original (every week he makes the nut butter for 200 to 250 jars by hand), but the mission of simplicity remains. After coming to him roasted, the nuts are milled before making their way into a stone grinder in PB Love’s kitchen. Depending on the blend, the peanuts or almonds are mixed with combinations of Vietnamese cinnamon, coconut sugar, coconut oil, honey, blackstrap molasses, and sea salt, resulting in what Mason and Esparza call a “smunchy” texture—not quite smooth, not quite crunchy. thepbloveco.com

Flavor Wheel

When you’re in the nut butter business, you find a number of ways to make the most of each jar. Here, five inspirations from Esparza’s and Mason’s home kitchens.

With Cinnamon Almond

Soften one block of cream cheese and mix with PB Love Co.’s Cinnamon Almond to taste. This creamy combination makes the perfect breakfast spread for toast or bagels.

With Salty Peanut

Mix one jar of Salty Peanut with one pint of vanilla ice cream. Once refrozen, place a scoop between toasted slices of cinnamon-raisin bread.

With Smooth Almond

Make a large bowl of popcorn. Just after it’s finished popping, add Smooth Almond to taste. Mix and enjoy. (Keep napkins at
the ready.)

With Classic Crunchy

Top a bowl of warm oatmeal with a spoonful of Classic Crunchy and a heaping scoop of jam.

With Classic Creamy

After devouring one-fourth of the jar of Classic Creamy, fill the rest with your favorite jam or jelly. Mix in the jar and enjoy with a spoon.

—Photos courtesy of PB Love Co.