Boiled peanuts are a popular snack in southern states like South Carolina and Georgia, but did you know that Chinese people also love boiled peanuts?
What’s different about Chinese boiled peanuts?
Like the boiled peanuts you might find down south at roadside stands and convenience stores, this boiled peanut recipe is easy-using fresh raw peanuts, water, and salt.
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However, the Chinese version also calls for a few aromatics for extra flavor: Sichuan peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and star anise. You can get adventurous and add other flavors like garlic, dry chili peppers, or even lemongrass!
Another important difference is cooking time. Southern recipes call for hours of cooking, until the boiled peanuts are super soft and salty (the first time you eat a boiled peanut, it may throw off your senses, but they’re deliciously savory and rich!). Chinese boiled peanuts are still a little al dente, but if you prefer them more tender, you can boil them longer.
You might have seen Chinese boiled peanuts show up on restaurant tables as a snack before your meal, where they quickly disappear before the food comes out. But we find they’re becoming less and less common, which is why we’re publishing this recipe, to record one of our favorite Chinese snacks!
Where can you find raw peanuts?
Raw peanuts commonly come in two forms:
- Raw fresh peanuts, AKA green peanuts, which come fresh out of the ground and are still very moist in the shell.
- Raw peanuts that have been shelled and air-dried. They must be soaked overnight before boiling to reduce the cooking time.
Starting with raw / green peanuts is easiest for making boiled peanuts since they are easier to cook. So where can you find them?
Raw fresh peanuts can be found in the produce section of Chinese and Western markets alike when they are in season (late summer through fall in the U.S.).
Can you use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot for boiled peanuts?
Yes, if you use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker for cooking your boiled peanuts, use a quarter of the time required for the conventional stove-top boiling method.
Be careful not to overcook them, as there’s a fine line between tender, whole boiled peanuts and mush that you can’t get out of the shell!
Chinese Boiled Peanuts: Recipe Instructions
If using fresh peanuts in the shell, soak in water for 30 minutes to loosen any dirt still clinging to the shells. If using raw air-dried peanuts that aren’t in the shell, soak overnight.
Wash them thoroughly and drain. Repeat as necessary until the soaking water is clear.
Using your thumb and index finger, crack open one end of each peanut (the pointier side is easier to crack open) by lightly pressing it. This is so the brine can get inside the peanut shell.
Put the peanuts in a medium pot along with 6 cups water so the peanuts are totally submerged. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt (or to taste), 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, 1 small cinnamon stick, 3 bay leaves, and 1-2 star anise pods (use 1 for a lighter flavor or 2 for stronger flavor).
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Bring the peanuts to a boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. This will produce a slightly al dente peanut, which is the way we like it. Increase the time if you like your peanuts softer and periodically taste test test to check the consistency.
Turn off the heat and leave the cover on; they will continue to cook and absorb the flavors of the briny liquid. Let the boiled peanuts cool to room temperature. It’s best to let them soak overnight in the refrigerator to allow them to absorb more flavor, and eat them cold.
As you eat your Chinese boiled peanuts, remember to keep any leftover peanuts in the brining liquid or they will turn dry! When you’re ready to eat your peanuts, drain and enjoy.
There are plenty of other Chinese applications for peanuts as well! You can use peanuts in soups, stews, and stir-fry dishes like Kung Pao Chicken. Another favorite appetizer of ours are simple wok roasted peanuts. You can see other ways peanuts are cooked in Asian dishes in our roundup of our favorite peanut recipes!