August 2, 2006
I Wouldn't Eat It: Boiled Peanuts (or maybe I would...)

It's been a while since we've had a good I Wouldn't Eat it post, but I found the perfect candidate at a farmer's market a week or so ago. Boiled peanuts. In a can.

Boiled peanuts are a staple of Southern cuisine. The most classically correct way to eat these goobers is to drop one in a bottle of Royal Crown cola and drink it down along with the cola. Well, I didn't have any RC laying around, but I did have a serving suggestion on the side of the can - "Heat in brine from can".

So first, we know that the peanuts inside this can have been boiled. Second, we know they've been canned. Third, we know they've been sitting in brine. Fourth, they're described as GREEN peanuts. What's not to like? (Shudder.)

The pop top on the can suggests that for many, heating the peanuts is something optional. Once I pop the top, I see some sad looking wet peanuts, with a not altogether pleasant smell. They don't look green, just ordinarily brown. Science must advance and so, into the pot with the brine the contents of the can goes.

By this point, I'm pretty sure this is going to be a bad experience, though not as bad as my Pennywort or Marmite experiences.

The nuts are hot by now, and I drain them. I'm left with damp peanuts in the shell. I take a bowl for the shells and a paper towel over to the table and prepare for an unpleasant experience.

The first nut. I usually eat about half my dry roasted peanuts in the shell with the shell still on. I try that here and the shell doesn't break crisply but wilts between my teeth before issuing the mildest crunch ever. The nut inside tastes like a salty peanut, but softer, more malleable. It's not unpleasant, but there's no way I'm swallowing this shell and nut mess like this. The strings would choke me. I spit it out.

The next nut, I crack open with my teeth (OK, pry open gently more than crack open). The nut inside is salty, soft, and flavorful. I continue. Not so bad. The peanuts themselves are definitely softer and moister than the dry roasted nuts I'm used to. Sometimes the nuts are almost mushy, which is disturbing, but overall, they're pretty tasty, and I don't get that dry nut dust cough that often accompanies a round of peanut eating.

So, basically, peanuts, salt - I guess I Would Eat It. What I'd worried would be a gross mushy mess turned out to be not bad at all. I don't get the same satisfaction of eating the shells that I do from dry roasted peanuts in the shell, but as their own thing, these were pretty good. I'm not sure I'll go out of my way to find these again, but I won't avoid them either. As for the green thing, it turns out that "green" in this context is a term used for freshly picked peanuts, and not for underripe actually green legumes. If I'd known that going in, I might not have been so apprehensive.

Good lord, am I becoming Southernized?

I will try to find a good recipe to make these fresh myself. Canning rarely does any favors for the flavor of food, so I'm sure that if I found this canned version of boiled peanuts acceptable that the fresh version might be quite tasty. If I find and try that recipe, I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

History of Boiled Peanuts
Wikipedia entry
Lee Brothers Boiled Peanuts Catalog

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at August 2, 2006 7:48 AM Print-friendly version

You really have to buy them fresh from a roadside cauldron that has been boiling for God only knows how long. Readers that like edamame should give this "lowcountry caviar" a chance.

Posted by Forrest O. on August 2, 2006 at 10:45 AM

I agree--freshly boiled is different than canned.

And, Forrest--I never really thought about it, but freshly boiled peanuts -would- be kind of like edamame! Great analogy!

Posted by Barbara on August 2, 2006 at 11:45 AM

Once you try the fresh, you will never want the canned. Fresh is so much better!

Posted by Beverly on August 2, 2006 at 11:54 AM

OK, I'm convinced I need to try fresh. Now, anyone have a spot in Maryland where I can go for fresh boiled peanuts?

Posted by barrett on August 2, 2006 at 12:59 PM

I believe that when the term 'Green' is used, it means not cured, which roasting does. RC Cola unlike the other colas does have a memerable flavor, in which 'salted roasted' are placed, not the boiled ones. If you don't like raw beans or peanuts, you will not like boiled ones.

Posted by Gino on August 2, 2006 at 1:08 PM

Well having been born in Charleston, SC, my first real food was a boiled pnut and I seriously cannot think of anything I long for more than a brown paper bag full of hot boiled pnuts...there is nothing better.
Canned ones are like trying to compare canned asparagus to fresh.
Easy to just need a little Southern patience. Take raw peanuts (we called them green) put them in a heavy pot with water to cover and a more salt than you think you need. Keep them on a slow boil until they are the "doneness" you like them. I prefer them still a bit firm. But you have to keep testing them. Then Drain them. Store them in the fridge. When first cooked I like them hot, but on a hot day- they are perfect cold.
Now who wants to talk about Scuppernong and Muscadine grapes....
ohhh I miss the South after being in LA for 2 years!

Posted by Melissa Lillie on August 2, 2006 at 4:52 PM

I snickered out loud when I read your account of approaching and tentatively eating boiled peanuts like they are an alien lifeform.

I grew up with my father growing peanuts in our backyard garden. Not your typical backyard garden either - Dad was a NASA scientist and never did anything in a typical, small-scale way. He grew *lots* of peanuts. I can remember sitting outside in the summer picking peanuts off the roots. Now let me tell you, green peanuts newly dug are a real treat. Very fresh.

And, in my opinion, the only truly correct way to eat them is on a Saturday while watching SEC football, preferably the Alabama Crimson Tide. Drinking a Coke *with* them. You never put boiled peanuts in your drink. Yik.

I enjoy reading this blog. Please keep it up!


Posted by Anne P. on August 2, 2006 at 6:04 PM

An alternate way to eat boiled peanuts is to enjoy them on a fine Sunday afternoon, sitting in the stands of your local pro football stadium. Although I'd imagine that the stadiums down here in the south would be more likely to have guys shouting "Peanuts! Boiled peanuts here!" than stadiums in other parts of the country.

Most people I try to get to eat boiled peanuts have the same initial reaction as you did, but like you, they discover that they're not so bad after all. Might take a little getting used to, but I think people must believe the peanuts will be slimy, mushy kernels of nastiness, and they're pleasantly surprised.

Posted by Annette on August 3, 2006 at 5:19 PM

My husband brought back a can last year after a trip to Nawlins. I was indeed skeptical, but I actually became addicted to the suckers! I believe he bought the spicy ones. Definitely not "haute cuisine," but what the hey!

Posted by Ovens2Betsy on August 3, 2006 at 10:34 PM

Boiled or not but peanuts and wine make a great combination. uummmmmnnnnn, my mouth is lickering now.

Posted by Jeremy on August 4, 2006 at 6:22 AM

Growing up in Texas I had friends who would dump a little sack of salted peanuts-no shells-into their bottle of coke and eat/drink that. It did nothing for me. I became addicted to Dr. Pepper in Texas. To my sorrow, it is impossible to find in many other states, not to mention Europe. They used to serve it hot at football games in TX. Waco, TX is the home of DR. Pepper.

Posted by Linda on August 4, 2006 at 11:38 AM

In response to Linda's message ... I am British but currently living in Spain, Europe. We have had Dr Pepper in the UK for years and it's readily available here in Spain too. I can't comment on where you can buy it in the States, it's definitely around on this side of the pond. :)

Posted by Alison on August 5, 2006 at 1:42 PM

Where do I start? I'm a Georgia girl who regularly reads your blog. When I saw your post on quinoa, I thought oh there's an ingredient that I can't relate to. Imagine my surprise when the next post was about BOILED P'NUTS. Now you're talking about a serious delicacy.

Your other posters have made many excellent points. The first time I had edamame, I said oh that's just Japanese boiled p'nuts.

I have to disagree that the best p'nuts are from a roadside stand that's been cooking for god knows how long. My dad who was the ultimate expert on boiled peanuts would always ask a roadside vendor how long the peanuts had been boiling.

I did have to smile when I saw the yellow can in your photo. If ya gotta eat them out of the can, that's definitely the brand to get. It brought back childhood memories for me. Note: the only time we ever cracked open a can was during the dead of winter when we were seriously jonesing for some nuts. And we never heated them.

Finally...never, never eat the shells. As we say in South Georgia...that ain't right.

P.S. if you decide to cook some for yourself, my mom discovered that the pressure cooker was ideal for cooking boiled peanuts.

Thanks for bringing a smile to my face!

Posted by Carol on August 5, 2006 at 6:15 PM

I just looove boiled peanuts. Discovered them at the Madras Club ages ago and it has become a regular snack at home. I have never known a bowl of them to last for more than 5 minutes.You can make them with the shells on or without them.
Here is my recipe:
250 gms shelled raw peanuts
2 1/2 cups of water
1/2 tbsp salt.
Put all the ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook for 7 minutes at medium heat after it reaches full pressure.
Serve hot.

Posted by Jyotsna aka deccanheffalump on August 6, 2006 at 8:30 AM

Here's a tip my grandmother gave me as a young child for eating canned boiled peanuts (hey, sometimes it the only option available!). Open the can and drain all the brine out. Pour the peanuts in a pan and cover with fresh water. Add salt till it tastes like ocean saltwater. Bring to a boil.

The amount of time you boil it is up to you. Generally, just a few minutes works wonderfully. It removes any "slickness" that may be there and also heats the peanuts so that they much more like "fresh" boiled peanuts.

It's great for Southern transplants like me when you live in an area where they've never even heard of boiled peanuts (faint...).

Posted by varaonaid on October 22, 2006 at 3:59 PM

I recognized that can right away, I'm from Opelika, Aalabama, but I moved up to Wisconsin about 15 years ago. I can't find Boiled peanuts anywhere so I have been making my own, unfortunately I can't get green peanuts, just raw. They still work ok, but they aren't anywhere near as good as green. I ain't ever seen someone put boiled peanuts in a coke, that's always roasted peanuts. As far as preparation for canned peanuts, open can, drain and rinse nut, eat. And most Yankees look a bit sick when you describe boiled peanuts btu when they actually taste them they tend to like them okay. BTW I always add a pouch of "crab boil" to mine it adds a bit of kick to them.

Posted by Travis La Koduk on November 9, 2006 at 5:25 PM

I recognized that can right away, I'm from Opelika, Aalabama, but I moved up to Wisconsin about 15 years ago. I can't find Boiled peanuts anywhere so I have been making my own, unfortunately I can't get green peanuts, just raw. They still work ok, but they aren't anywhere near as good as green. I ain't ever seen someone put boiled peanuts in a coke, that's always roasted peanuts. As far as preparation for canned peanuts, open can, drain and rinse nut, eat. And most Yankees look a bit sick when you describe boiled peanuts btu when they actually taste them they tend to like them okay. BTW I always add a pouch of "crab boil" to mine it adds a bit of kick to them.

Posted by Travis La Koduk on November 9, 2006 at 5:52 PM

Great post. I'm a little late, but...
I know some people prefer the green, briefly-boiled variety. They'll do in a pinch though I really can't stand the Roddenbery's.
I like my boilers made from raw peanuts (that means they've been dried a bit for long-term storage), not green (freshly dug of the earth, only a seasonal option). If you use raw, you should soak 'em overnight and then boil them for six to eight hours. Salt's a matter of taste. Valencia are perfect, but I also make 'em from raw Spanish peanuts. Enjoy!

Posted by Thomas on August 16, 2007 at 7:37 PM

Man I've eatin boilled peanuts all over the south.I discovered that its a whole lot easier to buy them raw,blanched green already a 5-10 lb. bag.Raw Virginia are superb.Man I'm serious, you can chugg em down without foolin with the shells.I used to be a shell man.But when your hungry for em.Why wait.And you can roast em just as easy.Try it!

Posted by Joe Man on September 28, 2007 at 4:09 PM

I live in New York. My boyfriend is from South Carolina. He introduced me to boiled peanuts. At first I was alarmed because I had never heard of them before. But after the first taste I was hooked. I first tasted them from canned ones his sister sent him from the south. Recently he found a grocer that has green peanuts. We quickly boiled them and had them as a snack. Everyone should try boiled peanuts.

Posted by Lourdes on December 15, 2007 at 6:33 PM

I've been eating boiled peanuts for years. They're easy to find in Georgia but down here in Fort Myers they're rare because all the Snow Birds don't know about them. You only put salted roasted ones in your RC Cola, not boiled. I boil my own now, but can hardly find the green raw nuts so I have to settle for the dried raw ones from the grocery store. They're not as good and take longer to cook. I never drain the brine after cooking because you'd risk the peanuts drying out and wouldn't get that delicious salty "likker" from inside the hull when you eat them. You should pry the shell open carefully to avoid losing the brine and then suck the nuts and brine out together. Mmm - Mmm!

Posted by Gary on December 29, 2007 at 12:42 PM

My grandmother lived in Columbus.I'm in KS.As a child, I remember going to the market to buy the peanuts,then the afternoon waiting, while they cooked.Delicious. Of course, these can't be found in KS.One time when my mom went to visit, my aunt sent back several cans of Rodd's.I was delighted.I asked the special order department of our grocery store if they could order them.They came in, and each can was marked $2.65 cents. I protested & said, "These sell for $.50 a can!"They didn't flinch and marked the cans$.50.I took the whole case home.Not knowing any different, I put some in a covered bowl & microwaved them. Worked just fine.The microwave bowl can be stored and reheated, no pan to wash.

Posted by Tira Kay on April 22, 2008 at 7:08 AM

They are an acquired taste to be sure. I love boiled peanuts and do eat Peanut Patch brand all the time. I have never heard of putting them in a soft drink, either. Thats for salty roasted nuts, I think. I grew up in South Mississippi where we had boiled peanuts all the time. We grew the things in our back yard. To eat them I put the whole peanut in my mouth and shell it with my teeth, a real Southerner can do that.

Posted by Brad on May 26, 2009 at 5:20 PM

I live in South Georgia and have been eating boiled peanuts since birth. I bought a 5 pound bag of fresh green peanuts yesterday. tossed half of them in a pot with a large amount of salt and water. Set the heat to high and boiled, while replenishing with more water every 20 minutes, for about 1.5-2 hours.... Boy, are they great. I can see how folks who aren't from the south would be a bit thrown off at first. Just give em a try! My girlfriend ( i think she was a yankee in a past life ).. she swore she didn't like boiled peanuts, only roasted. She ate some of mine today and she's changed her mind! Rock on Boiled P'nuts! Long live Southern foods!

Posted by Rocky on June 7, 2009 at 2:21 AM

You don't need to go anywhere for fresh peanuts. Just e-mail me and I will tell you. My uncle has been making them for me since I was young and there is really nothing to it. They are WAY better fresh and very pleasant with time.

Posted by Becca on July 22, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Fresh is best, but canned will do if you're up in the far north and can't get fresh. While some people say "NO WAY" I think they taste fine in the summertime right out of the can.

I give Peanut Patch canned peanuts a SEVEN in the South, and a TEN in the North.

Posted by 917786 on July 29, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Put them in a big pot (or crock pot) with enough water to cover them. Put in a cup of salt for every gallon of water used. Boil for about 8 hours. This is coming from a Southerner. Trust me, this isn't something you can screw up. Don't make it more complicated than it is.

Have you tried fried pickles yet?

Posted by Karie on December 20, 2009 at 7:15 PM

I love fried pickles! They are easy to make as well as the boiled peanuts. I put other spices like garlic & onion powder & red pepper flakes in the water with the nuts. Cook them in the crock pot for a couple of days on low.

Posted by Beth on July 29, 2010 at 3:07 PM

you are an idiot....

Posted by tonya on August 9, 2011 at 9:51 PM

The cajun ones in the can are much better. And that rc cola thing, thats disturbing. But yeah canned boiled peanuts arent so bad. I eatem at room temp mostly. And nearly always the cajun ones. All that said, fresh ones are off the chain but ive had some that werent as good as canned in many parts of the south.

Posted by toddxfideaux on October 11, 2012 at 11:19 AM
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