Boiled Peanuts… and Hilton Head Island

I love traveling and while there are many ways to get somewhere, road trips are my favorite.

Load the car with gas, pillows, beverages, and your favorite traveling music. Though the final destination is always the highlight of the trip… depending, I suppose if you are traveling for leisure, business, or necessity… the places and stops you make on the way really give you a great view of the world.

A few weekends back, we traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina… the island of perpetual golf, resorts, and gated communities. Hilton Head is a beautiful island… almost to a fault. They have put so much into the care and preservation of the island that it is a blur of lush, natural colors of green, beige, and brown. Even the buildings are brown and beige as dictated by their multiple ordinances that insure the area remains as Charles Fraser, Sea Pines Resort visionary, intended it in 1956 for the future. The state of South Carolina has leased over 70% of the entire island to developers for resorts. I have since dubbed this island the Disney Island.

The island’s rich history is non-existent if you do not do some digging on your own as the local guides can only tell you the best places to shop and the best restaurants to visit. For the lot, the restaurants are not particularly memorable as being an exclusive feel for South Carolina. Much like the smell of chicory-coffee and powdered sugary beignets immediately, take me back to our time in New Orleans. Hilton Head does not promote their Lowcountry or Gullah/Geechee traditions, history, and food ways. So dig… and find that:

Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s is the only authentic Lowcountry restaurant on the island serving traditional Lowcountry Gullah food. I learned about Dye’s from a friend who grew up near the area. I am glad she told us about Dye’s because it was not in any of the visitor guides and I regret that we did not have time go back the next day. The food was incredibly delicious! The users of Tripadvisor rate the restaurant #5 of the 231 restaurants in the area as of April 2010. It is well worth the effort to go locate this place in the back of the Pineland Station Shopping Mall.

Some more digging and you will find that the national snack food of South Carolina is the Boiled Peanut. It would be messy for me to mention that I did not find an entire boiled peanut stand on the side of the road in Hilton Head Island… but I will mention it with a glaring side-eye glance at Hilton Head Island. There was not one… nothing… zilch… nada. Nothing says traveling through the South like being able to find a stand on the side of the road selling boiled peanuts. My sister and I even found one traveling down the Florida Keys. The all powerful and patient Boiler of Nuts will scoop them into a large Styrofoam cup and give you and extra cup for the wet empty shells…. and a lot of napkins. Like eating a fresh, ripe mango, it is best to eat boiled peanuts outside with ample space to discard your shells and amongst people who understand that you start eating a boiled peanut by first slurping and sucking the whole peanut. Slurping and sucking are perfectly acceptable with this snack and expected.

Since my trip to Hilton Head Island produced no boiled peanuts to snack on, I promptly came home and made myself a huge spicy batch. Making boiled peanuts is a test in patience, as they have to cook for hours…, hours…, hours…, hours…, and hours before the peanut yields to the liquid. Thankfully, boiled peanuts freeze very well so you can make a huge batch and freeze some for later. Thankfully also that a boiled peanut is filled with all kinds of antioxidants; more so than the roasted peanuts as the antioxidants leech from the shells during the boiling process.

Before you start boiling, you have to choose the proper peanut for boiling. Roasted peanuts, shelled peanuts, and fully mature peanuts will never do for boiling. Choose either “green” peanuts or raw peanuts. Green peanuts are those that literally dug out of the ground. They are sometimes smaller than the raw peanuts. Some markets might have green peanuts in the produce section. I have found them in the limited quantities in my local market around the end of August after the peanut growing season. They fly off the shelves very fast – even for south Florida.

Most likely, your market will carry raw peanuts, which are usually near the roasted peanuts, year round. Raw peanuts are a more mature green peanut; however, the peanut is not completely mature. They are dryer in texture than a green peanut. I like using raw peanuts because they are readily available; they are bigger than raw peanuts; and I like the cooked texture better. Just add kosher salt and water and your ingredient list is complete for this recipe – unless you crave even more addictive flavor. In which case, you can add practically any spice or seasoning blend (Cajun spices, Old Bay Seasoning, Lemon Pepper Mix, and Seafood or Crab Boil, etc) you want.

There are no specific measurements to this recipe. Everything is to your taste and by need. If boiling liquid gets low, add more water. While you can make the batch as large as you like; I have found that consistency in even cooking all peanuts is best if the batch is small, 3 pounds of in-shell raw peanuts. If there, is not enough heat from adding three cayenne peppers, add three more. Mix up the peppers if you want; and add a few whole garlic cloves. After you make your first batch, you will become very creative.


raw peanuts, in shell
kosher salt, to taste
water, to cover and more throughout boiling
fresh or dried whole peppers, to taste

My Method:

Pour peanuts into a colander and rinse well; remove any debris or dried vines; or any misshaped or black pods

Add peanuts into a large pot; add four times as much water as peanuts to start; add kosher salt to taste

Add your favorite hot pepper, dried or fresh pods, to taste: cayenne, serrano, jalapeno, ancho, or even canned chipotle peppers and their sauce will work

Bring pot to a complete boil; lower and simmer peanuts, uncovered, until tender; peanuts will take a minimum of 4 hours, or longer, to become tender

NOTE: This process is a test in patience!

To test for doneness; simply remove a pod; let cool; and taste it

If peanut is still starchy, mealy, toothsome, with a flavor of rawness; continue boiling

Cool and refrigerate boil peanuts, in their boiling liquid. They will store well in the refrigerator for about a week. Anything longer than a week will require freezing them and they freeze well. Always reheat by bringing the peanuts to a boil.

While digging I also found that boiled peanuts are not just a southern snack delicacy. India, China, Vietnam, Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, Salvador Bahia (northeast coast area of Brazil), Burma, Laos, and Thailand all boil peanuts to enjoy as a snack or street food. I can only imagine the different spices and seasonings that these countries add to their boiling pots.

Boiled peanuts are best enjoyed by first slurping and sucking the liquid from the pod, which prevents the juice from squirting all over the place on in your eye before popping the shell open; and devouring the soft, creamy, nutty peanuts inside the shell. Toss the shell in the discard pile and move on to the next one.

Serve plenty of ice-cold beer with these spicy peanuts… or a very chilled glass of Riesling.

always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!


About tawannapatrice

...a native south floridian, i am an artisan baker, personal caterer, and sarcastic demented librarian chick who finds life unbearable without immersing yourself in your true passions…
This entry was posted in Food .T.A.S.T.E., Snacks, Vegetables, Vegetarian/Vegan and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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