TASTE
08/08/2013 08:38 am ET Updated Jul 06, 2014

Boiled Peanuts: The Southern Snack We Adore

Flickr: jasonlam

If you've never heard of a boiled peanut before, you're probably feeling a little confused. Aren't peanuts roasted? Why would you boil them? What do you do with them after you boil them? Can you boil any peanut? If you have heard of boiled peanuts before, you're probably thinking about how it's been too long and you need to get some.

Occasionally called "the caviar of the South," boiled peanuts are, in fact, exactly what they sound like. Sort of. You wouldn't want to grab a bag of ballpark peanuts and toss them into a stockpot -- they're already roasted. To properly boil a peanut, you've got to start with raw peanuts, and if you're extra, extra lucky, green peanuts. Green peanuts aren't really green, they're brown on the outside and white on the inside. "Green" in this case, refers to the fact that they are fresh, unroasted, not dried, pretty much straight off the vine. You don't see a lot of green peanuts outside the South, because that's where most of them are grown, and Southerners know how great boiled peanuts are. Proof: boiled peanuts are the official state snack of South Carolina.

Boiled peanuts can be made at home, but the truth is that most people in the South just buy them. They're abundantly available at roadside stands, gas stations, ball games, etc. You can even order some straight from South Carolina, via The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanut Catalog (they also sell raw peanuts if you want to make your own). How do they taste? Imagine if edamame tasted like peanuts and were frequently eaten with hot sauce. The peanut softens, sometimes to mush if you like them like that, sometimes just on the border of crunchy and tender. Purists will probably balk at this (most boiled peanut-loving Southerners insist on water and salt only), but we've added every flavoring to boiled peanuts we can think of, from Old Bay to Tabasco sauce to smoked paprika to curry powder. Everything tastes good in boiled peanuts so far.

Like all great American regional foods, there are even different ways to eat them. Some people crack the soggy shells open with their hands. Some people pop the whole peanut in their mouth, crack it open, extract the nut and spit out the shell. Some with intrepid digestive tracts even eat the whole thing, shell and all.

Get the Hot Boiled Peanuts recipe from The Kitchn.

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