If you’re from the South, the title of this post likely made you think “yummmm”, and start daydreaming about weekends at the lake, road trips, and country highways. Because as every Southerner knows, boiled peanuts are best bought from a stand on the side of a country highway, where they’ve been boiling for days and days and days. They’re scooped into a styrofoam cup with plenty of the liquor from the pot, tied up in a plastic bag, and handed over. You nestle that cup into your cup holder, snatching steaming hot peanuts with slightly burnt fingertips. Ostensibly the plastic bag is for holding the shells after you’ve emptied them of the peanutty goodness, but usually I just tossed my shells out the window. They’re biodegradable, after all.
If you’re from the North (or for that matter any point west of the Mississippi) you likely either said “WTF?” or flat out “yuck!” at the title of this post. I get that. boiled peanuts take some getting used to when most of the rest of the country is used to eating peanuts that crunch. The idea of a soft, juicy peanut can be a little … well … off-putting!
But I promise you if you try them in good faith, and really open your mind to them, a boiled peanut can be one of the best snacks in the world. And really they’re super easy to make at home – they don’t need anything fancy and you hardly even need a recipe – just a large pot, a LOT of cooking time, and some patience.
I make mine in my crock pot and cook them on high for a minimum of 18-24 hours. You can make them on the stove top, but most people aren’t willing to let the range run overnight while they’re asleep, which I understand. You can also make them in your oven (exactly the same way you would make an oven simmered stock). Just set the temperature on your oven to 300° and put your large covered pot full of peanuts in there. My oven has an automatic shut off after 12 hours, so I just time it so that my first 12 hours are overnight and I can restart the oven when I get up in the morning.
For those who need a recipe as a starting point I offer this:
- 1 pound raw in-shell peanuts (if you can’t find any where you live, I’ve had luck ordering them from Whitley’s Peanuts)
- 1/4 pound bacon
- 1/4 cup salt
- 10-12 cups of water
Fry up the bacon (I use the microwave – no need to be fancy here) and put the cooked bacon AND the grease in your pot or stockpot. Add in your peanuts (rinsed well, but not shelled), the salt, and the water. If you’re using a crock pot, cover it, set it to high, and walk away. If you’re using the oven method, set your oven to 325°, cover the pot, and put it in the oven and walk away.
Wait at least 18 hours before trying the first peanut. They will be tender after anywhere from 8-12 hours, but you really want to cook them long enough for the salt and the bacon flavor to penetrate the shells, which takes considerably longer.
Use the above recipe as a starting point only. Some places add Cajun spice, or Old Bay to their peanuts. Some places use salt pork instead of bacon (or don’t use any bacon at all). Some places put onion and garlic in theirs. You can add any flavoring or spices that strike your fancy. Boiled peanuts are amazingly flexible and adaptable to just about any flavor profile.
Whatever you add to them, once they’re cooked, they’re best eaten piping hot. And think of them like … well … crawfish. You’ll want to not only peel open the shell and eat the nuts inside, but you’ll want to suck the juice out of the shell as well.
These will keep in the fridge up to a week (although I’ll bet you they won’t last that long) and can be reheated on the stove top or in the microwave.
If you’ve never had boiled peanuts before, I hope you’ll try these. I suspect you’ll love them!