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A Southern Tradition in Charleston: Boiled Peanuts


"Don’t knock ‘em ‘til you try ‘em"—isn’t that how the saying goes? Down south, we LOVE our boiled peanuts and ‘tis the season for them. Perfectly boiled in water for hours, perfectly salted and seasoned and perfectly appropriate for a cocktail hour snack or baseball game, it’s one of our favorite, odd delicacies.

For those who aren’t as crazy about the idea of a boiled peanut, it’s usually because they can’t get past the texture (which is a bit like a baked potato, by the way) or the fact that salty water fills the shell and one has to act fast to not lose any of that delicious goodness (naturally). But, for those who love this time of year—the harvest of the green peanut (the BEST kind of peanut for boiling, in my humble opinion)—boiled peanuts are just like Lay’s potato chips and you’ll never be able to eat just one.

Before you form any specific love or hate for this southern staple, let me just give you a little history about the boiled peanut and why it means more to us than just good food. It is said that peanut boils became popular during the 19th century. From May to September, peanuts were harvested in the south. Any of the unsold peanuts would be used in the peanut boils—gathering family and friends together to share in feasting and merriment—much like an oyster roast, lowcountry boil or fish fry. The boiled peanut cemented its place in our history when in 2006, Governor Sanford signed into law House Bill 4585, making the boiled peanut the official snack food of the state of South Carolina.

Ready to give them a go? Find the simple recipe below:

  • 4 to 5 lbs of green peanuts (keep them in their shell)
  • 4 to 6 qts of water
  • 1 cup of salt for every gallon of water

Wash peanuts until the water runs clear. In a large pot, place the washed peanuts and cover them with water. Add the salt. You may also wish to add additional spices (Cajun seasoning perhaps or Old Bay seasoning—depending upon the spiciness that you desire) at this point, too. Bring the water to a boil. Once they have reached the boiling point, reduce the peanuts to a simmer and keep the pot covered for about 4 hours. Continue to check on these peanuts occasionally to stir and to make sure that the peanuts are always covered with water (you may have to add more). After about 4 hours, begin to taste the boiled peanuts. Once they reach the right texture and saltiness, they are ready to serve.