Boiled peanuts really are a delicious delicacy. But for those who did not grow up on them, the whole idea is strange and people often find them off-putting. You probably think that boiling peanuts is a peculiar tradition of the Southern United States. Not a lot of people know it, but boiled peanuts are also enjoyed in Asia. The image below shows boiled peanuts from Japan. In fact, most of the world’s peanuts are actually grown in India and China. If you are a displaced Southerner and want to boil up some peanuts, or if you want to try them for the first time, you might also be surprised by this: Some peanuts are better for boiling than others.
What Variety of Peanuts are Best for Boiling?
Green peanuts are best for boiling, but they are difficult to come by outside the south. Green peanuts can refer to immature peanuts, pulled early in the harvest season, but it also refers to raw peanuts that have not been dried. Most peanuts that are shipped all over the country have been dried to about 10% moisture. This allows them to hold up and not rot or grow mold during storage and transport. Green peanuts have not been dried, and retain all their moisture content, from 50 to 60%. They are not available past the peanut season and they are pretty much impossible to find outside their growing area. We could buy green peanuts at the grocery store in my home state of Mississippi, but if you do not live a peanut growing area, you probably won’t find any. It is possible to get them shipped, however.
Many people erroneously state that you cannot boil “dry” raw peanuts. This is not true. If all you can get is dry raw peanuts, then you certainly can boil them. It just takes a lot longer. They will still be delicious.
As for the particular variety of peanuts, of the four major varieties of peanuts in the U.S., Virginia, Spanish, Valencia, and runners, most people would probably assume Virginia peanuts are the preferred variety for boiling since they are so large and tasty. However, they also have very thick skins that are not conducive to boiling.
It is usually agreed that Valencia peanuts are best for boiling. They have a small round oval shape with a red skin, and are the only peanut to have three or more peanuts per shell. Valencia peanuts are high maintenance and represent only 1 to 2% of all the peanuts grown in the U.S. Whatever variety of peanut is used, they should preferably be immature and green.
Raw Valencia peanuts will be hard to find, and, any raw peanuts you can find will work and will turn out tasty. However, you could try the Peanut Dude Home Boil Kit which comes with two pounds of raw Valencia peanuts, boiling instructions, and a seasoning packet.
Growing up in Mississippi, boiled peanuts were common. They were often sold in plastic bags at convenient stores and even gas stations. Of course, we made them ourselves. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t go through many a can of Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts. If you just want to try some for yourself, you can order them online.
Do You Bite the Shells of Boiled Peanuts?
One confusing factor is the mistaken belief that you are supposed to eat the shell and all. Although there are peanut preparations that involve eating the shell, such as fried-in-the-shell peanuts, you eat only the soft but al dente salty peanuts, easily removed from the boiled shell.
There is no need to bite the shells of boiled peanuts to crack the shell open. The shells are very easy to crack open with your fingers. The only reason we bite the shells is to suck the salty juice out, and only dummies would say this is the only “correct” way to eat them, although it can save you from having the juice squirt all over when you do break into the shell. The correct way to eat boiled peanuts is any way you like. Is this making you want boiled peanuts, or just grossing you out?
If you’re from South Carolina, you’re with me. If not, did you know that boiled peanuts were adopted as the official snack of South Carolina?