Shelled or unshelled, dry-roasted or deep-fried, salted or coated in spices, or candied with honey or chocolate, the peanut is loved by many all over the world. When peanuts are roasted or fried, as they commonly are, they become that crunchy and “nutty” little treat that most of us are familiar with, but, technically, peanuts are not (tree)nuts. Peanuts are a type of legume: edible seeds that grow in pods, like beans and peas. And like beans and peas, when peanuts are boiled in (salted) water, they soften and become super tasty. These boiled, salty, soft peanuts are totally addictive and make for a delicious snack.
While I grew up mostly eating roasted or fried peanuts (such as these katjang bawang), my Indonesian grandmother would occasionally cook a large pot of boiled peanuts as a special treat. Of course, boiled peanuts are not exclusively ‘my grandmother’s recipe’ and neither are they exclusively an Indonesian snack: boiling peanuts as a (street)snack is quite common all over Asia, South-America, in parts of Africa, and the South of the USA. However, in The Netherlands where I am from (and I assume most of Europe) it’s pretty uncommon, which Is why I am posting this very simple ‘recipe’ here anyway.
What type of peanuts should you use?
My mother told me that when she was little, my grandmother would sometimes use raw peanuts meant for birds, as the raw peanuts ‘for humans’ were too difficult or too expensive to acquire in the Netherlands… not sure I would recommend that, but I suppose it’s inventive. Depending on where you are from, the fresh green peanuts or dried raw peanuts needed for this recipe might similarly be a bit difficult to find, but unfortunately, this recipe will not work with roasted peanuts.
The names ‘green peanuts’ and ‘raw peanuts’ are often used interchangeably to simply indicate that peanuts are untreated or unroasted. However, from my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong), they are not entirely the same. ‘Green peanuts’ are freshly harvested peanuts (almost) straight from the ground and they are pretty much impossible to find unless it is peanut harvesting season and you live near a peanut farm.
You are more likely to find (dried) raw peanuts which are also unroasted and raw, but differ from green peanuts in that they have been dried to make them more shelf stable.
Ultimately, both types of raw peanuts mentioned can be used, but dried raw peanuts do have a lower moisture content, so they need a longer cooking time than the really fresh peanuts. My recipe here is for the more common dried raw peanuts, which is why the cooking time is over 3.5 hours… which I do believe is completely worth it.
My Grandmother’s Katjang Rebus / Kacang Rebus (Boiled Peanuts Snack)
- 1kg raw (unroasted and unseasoned) dried peanuts in shell
- 4l water, more or less*
- 100g salt, more or less*
- *this is what I needed for my stockpot, but measure about 25g of salt for every litre of water you need to use to cover the peanuts. You won’t be consuming all the salt added for the brine, but If you don’t like a lot of saltiness, you can always choose to add less.
- Very large stockpot that can hold all the peanuts plus the water needed to submerge them fully
- large plate/board that fits into your stockpot to keep peanuts submerged
- Note: cooking/prep. time does not include overnight soaking.
- Warning: Don’t consume raw peanuts!
- Soak peanuts overnight: in a stockpot, cover peanuts completely with cold water. The peanuts will float so cover them with a large plate or board to submerge them. Soak peanuts overnight (around 12 hours).
- Next day, drain water and replace with fresh water. Measure out the litres of water you need to cover the peanuts and take note of the water level in your stockpot so it will be easier to top up once the water starts to reduce.
- Add 25g of salt for every litre of water added (ex. I needed 4 litres to cover the peanuts and added 100g of salt). Note: some people like to salt their peanuts near the end of the cooking process, as adding salt might slow down the softening of the peanuts. I personally just add it at the beginning, but you can choose to do whatever you prefer.
- Place on the stove, cover, and bring to a boil. Once the water starts bubbling, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for about 3 hours. Check occasionally to see if there is enough water left. If not, top up water to maintain around the same amount as you started with.
- After 3 hours have passed, sample a peanut and check if it has reached the desired level of softness (it probably won’t yet). I like the texture not very crunchy, but not too slimy and soft either, so I usually continue boiling for at least half an hour up to 1 hour more. Continue boiling until desired texture has been reached, sampling occasionally until you think they are fine.
- Once desired texture has been reached, remove pot from heat and leave peanuts to cool in the brine (make sure the water level is the same as you started with). Once the peanuts have cooled, drain and they are ready to eat.
- Can be kept refrigerated for a few days.
- Note: if you find that the peanuts have become too salty from the brine anyway, you can re-boil or soak them for a few minutes in fresh water to remove some of the salt.