Boiled Peanuts

Peanuts, though American in origin, came to South Carolina with the slave trade from West Africa, where they were—and are—frequently used in cooking. No one knows the origins of our singular treat, boiled peanuts, but to those who love them, as I do, there is no better snack. Peanuts are of two types—bunch and vine—and many varieties. I never eat boiled peanuts except when they are in season (July through September), because they are good only when made from freshly dug “green” peanuts—and the small, red-skinned Valencias are the best. Unfortunately, this is a purely regional specialty; green peanuts do not travel. And I’m the first to admit that boiled peanuts made from previously parched or dried peanuts are awful. But don’t judge all boiled peanuts by them. Soybeans, a major crop in the Lowcountry, are similarly boiled in the shell in Asia; they too are delicious when made with the fresh green soybean still in the pod.

Three pounds may seem like a lot of peanuts; it will feed two boiled-peanut lovers through about two beers.

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  • 3 pounds freshly dug green peanuts in the shell, preferably the Spanish variety (about 8 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 3 quarts water


Cook the peanuts, uncovered, over a low boil in the salted water for 1 to 2 hours, until they are cooked to your liking. I like to be able to all but eat the shell.

Let the peanuts sit in the water until the desired degree of saltiness is reached.