Peanuts don’t emerge from the earth salted and roasted. Fresh peanuts exist, though you won’t see them on many grocery shelves. They are incredibly versatile and the best time to eat them is right now—it’s peanut season.
While the classic way to prepare and eat fresh peanuts is boiled—that’s the official state snack of South Carolina—chefs are using them in a multitude of ways. Here, four delicious new ways to eat fresh peanuts.
In hummus. Charleston, South Carolina chefs Don Drake of Magnolias and Adam Close of Blossom both make hummus with fresh peanuts. They start by soaking the peanuts overnight, as you would beans. Then they boil them for a few hours and blend them with tahini, sesame, olive oil and lemon juice. Close prefers peanuts to chickpeas in hummus because of their rich flavor. “Chickpeas are pretty bland,” he says. “Peanuts have a richer, Southern flavor.”
In place of beans. At Charleston’s Cypress, chef Craig Deihl makes BBQ boiled peanuts, a take on barbecue-baked beans. “A bean is a bean,” he says. He soaks the shelled peanuts overnight before boiling them for about four hours. Then he adds molasses and any brisket ends or bacon pieces that are handy. Deihl likes to use fresh peanuts skin-on. “We want that dirty flavor,” he says.
Fermented. At Empire State South, F&W Chef-in-Residence Hugh Acheson’s Atlanta restaurant, chef Josh Hopkins ferments green peanuts in two ways: in a basic mix of sugar, salt and water, and in an unusual mix of sugar, salt, coconut water and buttermilk. The peanuts ferment for up to a week and a half, leaving them crunchy and full of funky flavor. Hopkins uses the peanuts fermented in water, sugar and salt in a salad with roasted peppers, arugula and couscous with a fennel pollen vinaigrette. The coconut-buttermilk fermented peanuts are served in a ragout of eggplant, apple and scallions with farro and harissa aioli.
In pesto. At AQ in San Francisco, chef and owner Mark Liberman uses green peanuts to make the salsa maro (a pesto-like sauce classically made with broad beans) for his black cod with broken rice. He simmers peanuts with salt, thyme and dried chile, then mashes them in a mortar with okra, garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice.