Lick the Screen - Boiled peanuts
March 5th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
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This is a dish of boiled peanuts. You love them, you hate them, or you just haven't had them; they are not a foodstuff about which there is much neutrality.

It's quite likely the texture. Perhaps the smell. Maybe the mess.

This probably seems self-explanatory from the name, but the popular roadside snack is made by boiling raw or "green" peanuts (or "p-nuts" as they're often touted) in heavily salted water until the shells soften and the nutmeat loses any snap. Devotees pop 'em open and slurp them out of the shells like edamame with a Southern accent, but again - there are issues.

The shells are soggy from their multi-hour brine bath, and your fingers will stink and sting for hours after they've pried open a couple dozen and teased out the mushy, earthy legumes. You'll probably also get a fleck of shell in your hair or some brine spattered on your shirt.

This did not deter the business-suited gentlemen and linen-frocked ladies lunching on the porch of Charleston's Husk Restaurant on a recent sunny afternoon. There, like the patrons gobbling them down, the peanuts are a bit gussied up. Chef Sean Brock's rendition of South Carolina's official state snack is tangled in strands of salty country ham and spiked with tear-coaxing jalapeño peppers. They're sloppy as heck, and there's no way to down them daintily, but servers carried pail after pail of them to well-heeled patrons who just did their best to minimize the collateral damage.

A brine stain can be scrubbed, and the salty reek will dissipate, but a love (or loathing) for boiled peanuts - that's sunk in too deeply to wash away.

No roadside stand near you? The Lee Bros. can tell you how to make them at home, and they or Hardy Farms can ship you the makings. Peanut Patch makes a perfectly acceptable canned version for when you just can't wait or spare the boiling time.

Periodically, Lick the Screen will showcase a food photo that sets our stomach rumbling. If you'd like your work to be featured, submit your pictures to the Eatocracy Flickr pool or leave a link in the comments. We'll get in touch if what we see makes us weak at the knees.

soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. hdsnake

    I love boiled peanuts but they have to be the spicy hot variety.

    June 21, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
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    June 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  3. Sue

    I have to say that the picture is nothing if not plain unappetizing. That looks like cat puke. Why wouldn't you have just chosen some nice plump jumbo peanuts, shelled and unshelled, boiled to their soft, salty goodness and display that instead? Southerners don't disrespect boiled peanuts by hiding their flavor under a bunch of heat!

    March 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  4. AndyL

    The best are made from freshly dug, green peanuts. Packaged raw peanuts aren't bad, but they are usually pretty dry and have to be cooked a lot longer (like dried beans). In the very deep south you may find boiled fresh peanuts occasionally when they are in season, but even here most of the roadside variety are made from packaged peanuts, and probably packaged a long time ago.

    The comparison to edamame is apt, although it had never struck me until recently. I gave a young friend here some edamame and he said "Not bad. Kinda like boiled peanuts."

    Don't dis the chef for adding ham and jalapenos. How else is he going to charge five prices for 'em? And much as I like them straight out of the pot, I've been thinking about trying them chilled and marinated with other vegetables as a salad. That's one of my projects for the summer.

    March 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  5. Carn E. Vore

    Tried them about two decades ago. I did not like them at all. I tried them again about a year ago. Still did not like them at all. I guess they're just not for me.

    March 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  6. Nguba

    Boiled peanuts are loved around the world. We ate them for lunch with char siew pork and rice, while living in Singapore. They are neither mushy nor smelly when cooked properly. They have a meaty taste, similar to edamame, but more savory. They are easy to make, learn how at Boiled Peanut World.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:42 am |
  7. Shirely

    Boiled peanuts in the shell? Seems that's almost peanut soup.

    March 7, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • Sue

      You don't eat the shell, Shirley, and you don't serve them in a bowl with the brine... You really should try some. Being a true South Carolinian, boiled peanuts are a must have part of summer and life in the lowcountry. Personally, I'd stick with just plain old boiled peanuts. All that spicing and dressing up takes away from the magic that is just the boiled peanut and it's delicious salty goodness.

      March 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  8. Dinah

    When I moved to GA from MA, I fell in love with boiled peanuts right away. There is nothing like driving from the city and stopping on the side of the road for some Cajon spiced boiled peanuts in a brown paper bag from a good old boy. They are wonderful!

    March 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Hasher Iva

      Nothing better than a roadside stand selling boiled peanuts. A pickup truck, a cooker, some guy in t-shirt, jeans and a worn baseball hat. Messiest snack food around, but worth it! Even boiled peanuts in a can are a treat.

      March 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
      • Melissa

        I wholeheartedly agree!!!

        March 7, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  9. SouthernBelle

    Just seeing this picture makes me crave some good 'bolled peanuts'! Best part of when I lived in Alabama!

    March 6, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  10. Bolled Paenutz

    Along US19 in Florida, we see alot of signs for Cajun bolled paenuts. If you lik-em bolled goobers, it might be interesting to try. Maybe even adding Old Bay or seasoned to your water instead of plain ole salt would make a flavorful alternative.

    March 6, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  11. sarah cannon

    40 years ago living in Ft. Myers Florida, I was introduced to boiled peanuts by a native SW Floridian.
    Popped out of their shells and dropped one by one in to a bottle of " co-cola. "
    Get a good handful of peanuts in to the bottle and then start drinking the coke and chewing on the peanuts as they floated out with the coke.
    As awful as it sounds – it was really, really good.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Sue

      Never did that with boiled peanuts but our whole family would open a little snack back of roasted salted peanuts into a bottle of coca cola and it was sheer heaven!

      March 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  12. Dee


    March 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  13. sjenner

    Boiled peanuts are a great way to really explore the peanut as a bean. A sweet, sticky, salty, richly flavored bean. It's also a great way to learn the deep African roots that contribute to American Southern food.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Chief Hiwater

      Peanuts with African roots? Interesting thoughts considering the American Indian introduced peanuts to the European Explorers. Yep domesticating and cultivating peanuts started with South American Indians.... If only Cortez hadn't wiped their civilizations out.

      March 7, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • Mike in NJ

        If you read carefully, you'll note that nothing the poster you responded to contradicts your 'history lesson'. African Americans have contributed greatly to the American food culture.

        March 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  14. Philo Stevens

    I've had them prepared that way several times while visisiting Africa. They were very mushy and smelly.

    I did not know people in the US ate them that way, but I guess it's only in the South, so that makes sense.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • NODAT1

      smelly must be the water mine give a slight "cooked bean smell" but I presoak and change the water

      March 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  15. NODAT1

    just finished boiling and eating 10lb on Saturday. thou I never tried it with onions and peppers

    March 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  16. Beachgirl

    The first time I heard of them I could NOT bring myself to try them. Then, a friend made a batch of cajun boiled peanuts and I got hooked. They are an "acquired" taste...but a wonderful one indeed!

    March 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Down by the river

      I heard a New Yorker say the same thing, "Seems like an acquired taste". But when it came to warm banana pudding he was like "Please Sir, may I have another!".

      March 6, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  17. booktopiareviews

    funniest boiled peanut story: a friend's sister & boyfriend (from NY & Boston) were visiting in NC. We all went to see the local AAA team (Charlotte Knights, located in SC- I know, but it works). It was both the visitor's first trip to a minor league game. The guy comes walking around w/ the peanuts, and BF shouts for some like you would at a big league ball park and gestures for the guy to toss his peanuts over, rather than just passing them down the same path his $2 went. After a moment & a shrug, the bag of peanuts got tossed. BF got saltbrine on his shirt. The look on his face was priceless- he had never heard of boiled peanuts. It could have been a mastercard commercial w/ the look on his face. He gamely tried them, and then the rest of us split them and hailed the roasted peanut vendor for him. :-) fun memory.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  18. nascar_is_for_dolts

    I've always said southerners boiled peanuts because they're too stupid to know how to dry roast them.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • JuneBug #88

      I always provide catchers masks and chest protecters whenever I roll out # 88 into the peanut fields. The tire smoke adds a special taste to the peanuts,and my Farmer is happy 'cuz I'm always turning left.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  19. humanbean

    Well the peanut is not even a nut. It's a legume, so it would make sense that people would eat them boiled. That being said, give me them roasted any day. Boiled is WAY overrated, and the only reason why the people in SC and GA eat them that way is because they don't appear to know any better. It's like some kind of traditional cult-ish phenomenon. Maybe they were starving at one time and this is all they had.

    During the hot summer you'll see people along the road selling them and displaying a sign that says, "boiled peanuts." Sorry, but the last thing I want during a hot summer day is something boiled. More power to ya if that's what floats your boat.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • DelFuego

      Yea we don't know any better. Whatever, I guess you don't either.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
      • Kaori

        Tom,Contact RichardWeird event tonight in Times SquareWent to Virgin Records chsead out by mgmt.It seems Hillary of the cops or Obama is really tying to stop us.Google Richard Branson Al Gore World PeaceI handed out not 1000 flyersit was 1200 instead!!!!!Google American Patriot Jeff FisherTell everyone about it!!!!!Google Tom Heneghan Stew Webb also.Tell everyone about that also!!!

        December 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • NODAT1

      thank you Norm for that tibit of information we all know that peanuts are a league and not a nut thanks

      hey cheers is calling they miss your tidding of useless information that no real person cares about.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
      • Zell Miller

        Any idiot knows Cliff is the one with all the trivia on Cheers. Go back to Possum Crotch and learn how to spell "legume."

        March 5, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Bolled Paenutz

      Had 'em, didn't like 'em. Had 'em again with beer, liked 'em a little better. I don't drink much beer these days, so guess what happened to them bolled paenutz? Thanks, but no thanks.

      March 6, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  20. Michelle

    I'm from Hawaii and it is a local favorite. Onolicious!!

    March 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  21. Rod C. Venger

    A friend of mine in Georgia actually produces some of the peanuts for Peanut Patch and she sent me some years ago. They were quite good out of the can. Just heat them up in a shallow pan with a little of the juice from the can and eat them, with or without the shell...which is kinda stringy and chewy. The nuts themselves are soggy, yes, and it's a little hard to get used to. It's an acquired taste if you weren't raised with them.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  22. Hmmmm....

    I've never tried them but the Title of the article: "Lick the Screen – Boiled Peanuts" makes me ask, if I lick the screen of my laptop will it taste like boiled peanuts?

    March 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Bolled Paenutz


      March 6, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  23. KGreen

    I LOVE, LOvE,LOVE me some boiled p-nuts! Cajun' are me fav. but I'll eat the plain ones too! I used to live in NC and got a big bucket every Friday for the family to snack on for the weekend. Alas, we moved to VA 5 yrs ago and they are not to be found here. So anytime I visit my peeps in NC I still go by and clean out the store of their fresh hot boiled p-nuts! Cajun and regular...I bring them back and cherish the yumminess! Matter of fact I'm traveling back down this April and will hit up my old store and empty them out again....YUM, can'twait!

    March 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Zell Miller

      Yee Haw! Good for you, Opie! Thanks for sharing your life story!

      March 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  24. isolate

    Pop them open? I was introduced to them in West Africa, where you gobbled them whole with an ice-cold Biere Benin in your other hand. Pure heaven, and the only thing that got me through the dry season. I didn't remember how much I liked them until I saw the article. Thanks for the memory.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  25. Christine

    Do they taste anything like peanut butter? Seems like they would...but if not, I'd still try them because they look all kinds of good.
    One more question, does anybody eat the shell?

    March 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Rod C. Venger

      No they don't taste like peanut butter, sorry and yeah I can eat them with or without the shell, but your jaws will get a workout doing that. They're stringy, tough and tastes like salty cardboard lol.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • humanbean

      No, they taste more like beans.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Dinah pop the peanut out of the shell and eat them. You wouldn't eat the shell.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • George

      Not even close. They taste like boiled beans. Boring boiled beans.

      March 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  26. NoDoubt

    I've tried this before. It gave me nightmares

    March 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  27. RichardHead

    Leaving New Yawk,with a trailer full of whatever I would Always stop on the service road outside of Brunswick,Ga ( my fuel stop )-hit the air horn twice, raise 5 fingers as I left the cab and would receive 2 bags of boiled peanuts, and 3 bags of salted peanuts. For some reason,Georgia peanuts in the early season,especially Boiled were always Super Tasty for the trip to Miami.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  28. Roger

    You boil them in salted water and serve them just as they come out of the pot. You don't put all that stuff on them as seen in the picture. Some Yankee wrote this article.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Massachusetts

      Heh... "yankee."

      March 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
      • Massachusetts

        Makes me think of this:

        March 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Rod C. Venger

      I agree. No one east of Texas would put jalapenos on boiled peanuts. Not even sure Texans would. Californian's, yes.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Zell Miller

      Yeah, a Yankee wrote this. No upstanding white trash hillbilly would write something so strange!

      March 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  29. kdf

    it took 5 years and many many times "trying" them before finally loving them and making them at home often.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  30. Dasha18

    Many years ago, mom moved from Canada to the south, and yes they were an acquired taste, but she acquired the taste and the knack. Miss you mom and your homemade boiled peanuts.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  31. Tonya

    They are an acquired taste. I love them now, but initially was really turned off by them. Couldn't stand them, so I ate another. And then another. And another. Now, I'm wanting some just reading this!

    March 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  32. Skottikins

    O_o I'm not sure how I feel about this.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  33. pacman357

    Curious, but never tried them (p-curious?). However...South Carolina's official state snack? I realize all states seem to engage in this silliness, but c' do we keep voting for people who waste time and resources like that?

    March 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  34. elizabeth p

    I can't believe you didn't even mention Allen's! They are better than Peanut Patch and cheaper,
    You should give them a try and let your readers know.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Fanta

      I think patients need to uedsrntand that if they want their solo/two-doctor group to be there in the future that they will have to accept an alternative payment model (i.e. cash pay). Some of the future changes will certainly be welcome, such as new technologies that make both patient’s and doctor’s work easier and more efficient, but there will also be less-desired changes of more governmental interference, red tape, and an increase of insurance companies’ efforts to collect as much money from the patient and give as little as possible to providers. By breaking this unhealthly addiction to insurance/government patients would find their doctor to be able to provide a much better quality of care. I hope it happens.

      December 25, 2012 at 4:49 am |
  35. OldLarry

    Tried 'em with a southern friend who warned me I probably wouldn't like 'em. She was right. Definitely an acquired taste.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • chris

      typing "'em" takes longer than typing "them". for me at least.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
      • OldLarry

        Sorry-learned typing in the days of mechanical typewriters with nasty ribbons. 'em is no big deal. I have massive pinkies from those days :-)

        March 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  36. Mississippi boi

    Best thing on earth. Dont knock it till you tried them. Never seen the jalepenos on them but yeah. I cant knock it.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  37. Lili

    My grandpa was in Vietnam and would write my grandma telling her how much he missed home (South Carolina) and all the things that reminded him of home like sweet tea and boiled peanuts. One day he went out into a city I'm not sure which one but he smelled a familiar smell and was drawn into an alley where he found a woman making boiled peanuts. He bought as many as all the money in his pocket would buy. My grandma still has the note he wrote her later that night telling her all about finding boiled peanuts in Vietnam.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Priscilla

      Your grandfather was right in missing sweet tea and southern boiled peanuts. I'm from Florida and LOVE those two!! A-mazing.

      March 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • sonny

      great story. Boiled peanuts is indeed popular in Vietnam. My father here in the US buys them raw, and steam them for hours until perfect then he'd sprinkle some light sea salt

      March 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Massachusetts

      That is awesome.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  38. youareallfools


    March 5, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  39. oneSTARman

    Had them and Enjoyed them in South East Asia as Bar Snacks much like Edamame in Japan . I don't remember them being super Salty or Mushy. They seemed fairly 'Tame' compared to Assorted Fried Insects or some of the other even LESS identifiable TREATS that were shared with me.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
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