Chinese Spiced Boiled Peanuts

I was at a buffet in Singapore the other day and saw something that really caught my attention. I’m keto, but I’m not dead. Whenever I see something interesting that is basically for free – I’ve paid for the buffet, after all – I’ll try… at least one bite. A sacrifice, if you may, in the name of research: finding new ketofiable foods.

Anyway, this dish looked like beans, but not from a sort I had ever seen before. I took only a few of them – I don’t remember how many, but I actually counted – because who knows how many carbs would be in that. I wanted to be on the safe side.

Bowl of Chinese boiled peanuts with star anise and cinnamon sticks.

When I tried it, it was the most puzzling sensation. The taste was familiar, and yet I couldn’t guess what it was. The consistency and flavor somehow reminded me of a soft baked sweet potato – enough to turn me into a wild beast and run all the way back to the buffet table to grab all the remaining beans from the display before anybody else had the idea.

In my defense, there weren’t many of them left and I had just been through 2 hours of fasted weightlifting.

Before going back to my table, in a mix of guilt and shame, I pointed at the beans in my bowl and asked the cook behind the counter: What is this? His answer: Peanuts. I said What?? Peanuts. In disbelief, I tried to confirm, Peanut Peanuts? Not beans? He started laughing at me. How are they cooked? Boil peanuts. Just that?? Just boil peanuts and they turn in this sweet potato like deliciousness????

A bowl of broiled peanuts, with star anise and cinnamon.

I was too intrigued, and googled it immediately while devouring the boiled peanuts. My mind was racing: I mean, if peanut butter has an acceptable amount of carbs, peanuts must be the same, right? But they taste so sweet, they must have a ton of sugar in them! Not according to Google, they don’t. I was beyond excited: I had just found a new low carb carby tasting food that I could have as much as I could fit into my macros, and in this case it was a good satisfying amount of it.

The difference between green, raw, dehydrated and roasted peanuts

So you found out about this awesome keto Chinese boiled peanuts, but with all peanut variations out there, which one do you pick to boil? And does it even matter? Well, yes – always use the raw ones for boiling. You can buy them at the produce section of the supermarket, by weight.

Raw peanuts can be either green or dehydrated: the green ones are called such not for their color, but because they have been freshly harvested. They are harder to find outside the season. The moisture content in green peanuts is higher, so they will require less boiling time to reach the desired soft “baked sweet potato” stage.

Keto broiled peanuts with chinese spices.

Raw dehydrated peanuts are much easier to find, and are the ones I used for this recipe. They are available all year around, as they are basically green peanuts that have been air-dried to extend shelf life.

Don’t even try using roasted peanuts, like the snack salty peanuts that come in a can. Although you might be able to re-hydrate them after a much longer boiling time, they will still taste like roasted peanuts, never developing the fragrant sweet taste of raw boiled peanuts.

Shelled or unshelled peanuts?

Traditional recipes call for unshelled peanuts: It is said that the peanuts will only get the right texture if cooked with the shells on. I would’ve tried, but I couldn’t find any for sale (of course I spotted them in a market soon after having made the recipe). But having cooked them without shells with great results, I wouldn’t bother with unshelled peanuts anyway. It’s a lot more work!

You have to wash and scrub them, to remove the dirt. And then crack them open one by one before eating. I mean, worse, before and after: you’d have to do a tiny crack on the pointy corner of every peanut shell before cooking so that the boiling spicy water would be able to go inside to do its softening work. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Bowl of low-carb Chinese boiled peanuts.

Peeled or unpeeled peanuts?

I used peanuts with the peel on – the thin red skin. It seems like the peel helps the peanut keep its shape together while it boils. Some individual peanuts got naked while I was washing them before cooking, and these were the ones that were broken in two when I opened the pressure cooker. So, if your peanuts have the peel on – great, if the peel is off – don’t sweat it, the taste will be the same, they might just look a little less atractive.

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Yield: 10 servings

Chinese Spiced Boiled Peanuts

A bowl of broiled peanuts, with star anise and cinnamon.

A delicious, surprisingly sweet snack that is naturally high in protein and low in carbs

For US Cups conversion, see Notes.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes


  • 300 grams raw unshelled peanuts
  • 500 grams water (or until minimum mark on the pressure cooker)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 cloves


1. Put peanuts, water and spices in a pot and bring to a boil.

2. Boil for 1 hour on a pressure cooker on high pressure setting, or 3 to 4 hours in a pan with lid on medium heat. If using a regular pan, check on the water level occasionally and add more boiling water if needed. The peanuts should be fully covered in water at all times.

3. When ready, turn off the heat and let them cool in the pot for about one hour. If using a pressure cooker, let the pressure release naturally for this time.


US Cups approximate conversion: Use 2 cups peanuts and 2 cups water.

You can shorten the cooking time on the stove by soaking them overnight.

Boiled peanuts don’t change shape during cooking, the beans just get slightly larger from absorbing the water. If cooking in a regular pan, you can check if they are ready: they will mash with a light squeeze between your fingers.

Serve them drained from the liquid and warm. Keep them refrigerated in their water for up to 2 days, or freeze them in portions indefinitely.

Nutrition Information:

Yield: 10 Serving Size: 30 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 98mgCarbohydrates: 3gNet Carbohydrates: 1gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g

Nutritional information is provided as a guideline only. Different brands of ingredients may have different nutrition facts. If you are doing a very strict form of keto, such as for medical purposes, please do remake the calculations using the nutrition facts from the labels of the ingredients you selected. Net carbs calculated exclude carbs from insoluble fiber and the sugar alcohol erythritol.

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10 thoughts on “Chinese Spiced Boiled Peanuts”

  1. I’ve had a Southern US version before but not Chinese boiled peanuts, the flavors sound great ad I can imagine they are super moreish.

    1. Ohhh I’ve read about them Southern US boiled peanuts when researching about this recipe. They must be amazing too as I’ve seen them called the “Caviar of the South”- I don’t really like caviar at all but I understand that this should be a compliment, nevertheless. I must try this American version too, someday!

    1. Definitely Gina! I also went nuts when I tasted roasted chestnuts hahah but unfortunately the macros on chestnuts are not on our side. They are really non-keto friendly. That’s why I prefer these boiled peanuts!

  2. This recipe was fabulous! It was super easy and so tasty. My whole family enjoyed and I’ll definitely be making again!

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