No road trip across the Southeast U.S. would be complete without stopping for boiled peanuts at a roadside stand. For the uninitiated, boiled peanuts are a Southern delicacy that people pine over when trekking through the country. Roasted peanuts have a crunchy, nutty profile, but boiled peanuts have a soft texture and beany flavor that—when done right—are an irresistible snack worth munching on.
If you’re hitting the open road through the Southeast, keep your eyes peeled for handmade signs guiding you to the boiled peanut stand and make it a point to stop for a bag (or cup) full.
But if a Southern road trip isn’t on your agenda this year, no worry! Here are 5 tips for making boiled peanuts at home.
1. Use raw or green peanuts – There’s an ongoing debate among boiled peanut connoisseurs about whether or not it’s acceptable to use anything other than green peanuts for boiling. The truth is, both work great but raw peanuts take more time to soften. Green peanuts are freshly dug and haven’t been through a drying process, so their moisture content is already high. It’s like boiling fresh beans versus dry. One is quicker to cook than the other but they both taste great in the end.
2. Salt the water! – There’s a saying among chefs that water for boiling pasta should be “salty like the ocean.” The same is true for boiled peanuts. If you’re concerned about the volume of salt a recipe calls for, feel free to cut back some.
3. Consider seasoning – Many boiled peanut vendors offer either traditional or Cajun. You can impart flavor to your boiled peanuts by adding seasonings, spices, and even aromatic vegetables like jalapeño peppers. Just make sure you add enough to flavor the cooking liquid. If you can’t taste it in the liquid, then you won’t taste it in the peanuts.
4. Add vinegar for depth of flavor – Much like adding spices and seasonings, adding vinegar to your boiled peanuts provides another layer of flavor. Steven Satterfield, James Beard Award-winning chef and author of the Short Stack cookbook, Peanuts, says that he adds apple cider vinegar to his boiled peanuts to balance the taste and give them a little tang. If you can delight even more taste buds on the tongue, why not?
5. Don’t eat the shells – As with any delicacy, there is an etiquette for eating boiled peanuts. While the rule of thumb for oysters is to “shuck it and suck it,” the same concept applies to boiled peanuts. Peanut hulls (shells) are fibrous, and even after boiling are tough and chewy. There’s nothing wrong with eating peanut shells, but some might argue that you’re better off getting your roughage from leafy greens. We suggest pulling those shells apart and sucking out the kernels (along with all of their delicious, briny liquor) for the best boiled peanut experience.
Ready to make your own boiled peanuts? Check out our basic recipe here, and customize it using the tips above.