This wonderful and popular Chinese snack is easily made: just by boiling peanuts in water with warm spices, they get super tender and naturally sweet – without any sugar added!
These Chinese boiled peanuts taste like a cute mini version of sweet potatoes. But much better: they are low-carb and keto!
Boiled peanuts, a keto friendly Chinese snack
These Chinese boiled peanuts were indeed a discovery. The long story goes: I was at a buffet in a hotel in Singapore and saw something that caught my eye. 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 ketofy-able foods.
Anyway, this intriguing 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 are be in that? I wanted to be on the safe side.
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 heavy weightlifting.
Before going back to my table, feeling a mix of guilt and shame, I pointed at the beans in my bowl and asked the nice cook behind the counter:
What is this? His answer: Peanuts.
I said, What??
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???
I 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.
What type of peanuts can be boiled
So you found out about this awesome, keto friendly, 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 raw peanuts 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.
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 use 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 vs unshelled peanuts
Traditional Chinese 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 (but of course I found some right across the street just after making the recipe).
After making my boiled peanuts without shells with great results, I wouldn’t bother with unshelled peanuts anyway. It’s a lot more work!
First, 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 boil the peanut properly. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Should peanuts be pealed before boiling?
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 attractive.
Chinese Spice Boiled Peanuts
- Put peanuts, water and spices in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Boil for 1 hour on a pressure cooker or instant pot 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.
- When ready, turn off the heat and let the boiled peanuts cool in the pot for about 30 minutes. If using a pressure cooker, let the pressure release naturally before opening it.
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