Classic Boiled Peanuts

Say hello to a roadside favorite.

Classic Boiled Peanuts
Photo: Photographer: Jessica Furniss
Active Time:
10 mins
Soak Time:
8 hrs
Cool Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
14 hrs 10 mins
Yield:
12 serves

It's easy to master this roadside staple at home—boiled peanuts take hardly any effort to make. All you need are peanuts, water, salt, and time. They're the perfect road trip snack, but great for tailgates and cookouts, too. Boiled peanuts also happen to be the perfect accompaniment to an ice cold beer, no matter the occasion.

Once you master the simple technique of making boiled peanuts, you can get creative with how you flavor them. Plain salt is classic, but you can add heat with cayenne or tang with vinegar, season with a Cajun spice blend or a touch of curry powder. No matter how you flavor them, you won't be able to resist popping these peanuts the moment they're done cooking.

History of Classic Boiled Peanuts

Peanutsare not native to the South, but made their way to the region on board slave ships, which were stocked with peanuts for the long voyage. Initially, peanuts were primarily grown and consumed by African American families, who had long traditions of boiling peanuts, according to Serious Eats.

Just like okra and black-eyed peas before them, peanuts eventually made their way to the dining room tables of white families. It was around the Civil War that peanuts became a more widely eaten snack, as people were hungry, and peanuts were available. But boiled peanuts didn't become the Southern icon we think of them as until the turn of the 20th century, when they began to appear in newspapers.

Ingredients for Classic Boiled Peanuts

Aside from water, you really only need two ingredients to make Classic Boiled Peanuts: lots of kosher salt and raw or green peanuts.

What's the difference between the two kinds of peanuts? Raw peanuts have been air-dried to reduce their moisture content, making them shelf-stable and available year-round. Green peanuts on the other hand are freshly dug from the field, and no moisture has been removed.

Some boiled peanut fans say you can only use green peanuts for making boiled peanuts, but raw peanuts work just as well. The only difference is an extended cooking time. Because green peanuts are only available during harvest season (and are highly perishable), they must be refrigerated and should be used within a few days of their harvest.

How to Make Classic Boiled Peanuts

Three simple steps get you the most delicious snack:

Step 1. Soak overnight

Mix 2 gallons of water and ½ cup of salt in a large stockpot, stir to dissolve. Add raw peanuts. (Skip this step if you are using green peanuts.)

Classic Boiled Peanuts
Photographer: Jessica Furniss

Use a large dinner plate to help submerge the peanuts. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.

placing plate on top of peanuts
Photographer: Jessica Furniss

Step 2. Drain and cook

Drain soaking water; add 2 gallons fresh water and 1 cup salt to peanuts. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low.

peanuts with salt
Photographer: Jessica Farthing

Simmer, covered, until peanuts are soft, 5 to 8 hours (2 to 3 hours for green peanuts), keeping the water in pot within an inch or so of its original level with regular additions of water.

After the peanuts have boiled for 3 hours (1 hour for green peanuts), sample one to check for texture and salinity. If it crunches, keep cooking. If the brine lacks salt, add more by ¼-cup amounts. If it is too salty, remove some of the water, and replace with the same volume of fresh water. Sample peanuts every hour until they are pleasantly tender and salty.

peanuts boiling in pot
Photographer: Jessica Furniss

Step 3. Cool and enjoy

Remove from heat, and let the peanuts cool in the pot for 1 hour (20 minutes for green peanuts). When cool enough to handle, drain and eat. Or store in the shell, in a sealed container, in the refrigerator 7 to 10 days or in the freezer several months.

Classic Boiled Peanuts
Photographer: Jessica Furniss

The Proper Way to Shell a Peanut

It's easier than it sounds, if you take the advice of Test Kitchen Professional Karen Rankin: Using both hands, pinch the seam of the shell between your thumbs and forefingers until the top shell gives way, and then pry it off. You can lower your mouth to the peanuts and tease them out using your teeth, or pick them out of the shell with your fingers. Slurping the brine left in the bottom shell (like you would with oyster liquor) will earn you extra credit among aficionados.

Try These Twists

They're delicious plain, but also try them paired with boldly flavored ingredients—from barbecue sauce to Old Bay seasoning.

Beer and Old Bay: In Step 2, reduce kosher salt to ¾ cup and water to 1 gallon. Stir 6 (12-oz.) cans beer, 6 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning, and 2 halved lemons into brine. Bring to a boil, and continue with the recipe as directed.

Smoky Barbecue: In Step 2, stir 2 cups barbecue sauce, 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika, 1 halved head of garlic, and 4 bay leaves into cooking liquid with kosher salt. Bring to a boil, and continue with the recipe as directed.

Soy and Spice: In Step 2, reduce kosher salt to ¾ cup. Stir 2 ½ cups soy sauce, 2 (5-inch) cinnamon sticks, 3 star anise, ¼ cup coriander seeds, and 1 ½ tsp. garlic powder into brine. Bring to a boil, and continue with the recipe as directed.

Classic Boiled Peanuts
Photographer: Jessica Furniss

Frequently Asked Questions

Need to know more about making boil peanuts? This FAQ might have the answer:

Do you have to soak raw peanuts before boiling?

This step saves a little time boiling, but if you don't have the luxury of soaking time, you can skip it.

Why do boiled peanuts get slimy?

They're probably overcooked or sat in the brine for too long. Make sure to cook the peanuts just until tender and to drain them shortly after cooling to avoid them getting soggy.

What makes boiled peanuts stick to the shell?

It's completely normal for peanuts to stick to the shell after cooking and softening. If this happens, use your fingernail or a small spoon to get the peanut out.

Editorial contributions by Alana Al-Hatlani.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 2 pounds raw peanuts in the shell or 3 pounds green peanuts

Directions

  1. Place 2 gallons of water in a 10- to 12-quart stockpot. Add ½ cup of the salt to water; stir until salt dissolves. Add raw peanuts. (Skip this step if you are using green peanuts.) Use a large dinner plate to help submerge the floating peanuts. Soak peanuts 8 hours or overnight. (This step saves a little time boiling, but if you don't have the luxury of soaking time, you can skip it.)

  2. Drain soaking water; add 2 gallons water and 1 cup salt to peanuts. (Note level of water on side of pot.) Bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until peanuts are as soft as roasted chestnuts or softer, 5 to 8 hours (2 to 3 hours for green peanuts), keeping water in pot within an inch or so of its original level with regular additions of water. After peanuts have boiled 3 hours (1 hour for green peanuts), sample them to check their texture and salinity. Remove a peanut, and wait until it is cool enough to handle. Open the shell, and give the peanut a chew, slurping some brine with it. If it crunches, cook it more. If the brine lacks salt, add more by ¼-cup amounts. If it is too salty, remove some of the water, and replace with the same volume of fresh water. Allow an hour for the salinity to equalize before testing again. Sample peanuts every hour until they are pleasantly yielding and as salty and appetizing as a good pickle.

  3. When peanuts are cooked, remove from heat, and let them cool in the pot 1 hour (20 minutes for green peanuts). When cool enough to handle, drain and eat. Or store in the shell, in a sealed container, in the refrigerator 7 to 10 days or in the freezer several months.

Updated by
Alana Al-Hatlani
Alana Al-Hatlani
Alana Al-Hatlani is an Assistant Food Editor at Southern Living where she works with the Deputy Editor to plan and write monthly print food features and stories. Before joining Southern Living, she worked as a baker in restaurants and bakeries. From cakes to cookies and everything in between, she spent 4 years covered in flour dreaming up desserts. In addition to baking, Alana has written about food for various outlets like Bon Appetit, Eater Seattle, Saveur, and Fodor's Travel.Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Alana graduated summa cum laude from New York University with a degree in journalism and a minor in food studies. She then went on to graduate from the Seattle Culinary Academy with a diploma in pastry arts. She now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her partner and pup. When not writing, she is probably baking and vice versa.
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