These candied peanuts have been in heavy rotation at our house for years. The recipe is my go to for cocktail hour, teacher and hostess gifts, bake sales, and late night snacks. Beyond simple, the nuts are made on top of the stove, in one pan, with 5 ingredients, and done in 10 minutes. It doesn’t get any easier!
The recipe is adapted from one by David Leibovitz. An expat living in Paris, David shares his talents with the world as a blogger, cookbook author, and former pastry chef at Chez Panisse. The original recipe calls for raw peanuts which I have yet to find at my local store, so instead, I substitute roasted (or blanched) and unsalted peanuts.* These are found in the bulk section of the grocery store.
I feel compelled to warn you… the nuts are highly addictive and sought after. Friends have described them as “crack,” but my favorite nickname is Dirty Nuts. A year or so ago, I shared the recipe with my niece, who wanted to make them for a holiday party. Though Emily told everyone they were “Candied Peanuts” one of her friends, after pulling himself away from the bowl, promptly announced the peanuts were so amazing, they were “dirty.” And the name Dirty Nuts stuck.
Whatever you call them, know that you will create uncontrollable cravings in your friends and family. Gentle appeals may turn into begging, and finally outright demands. You’ll have to keep up, satisfying their needs as well as keeping your own stash topped off. Thankfully, because the recipe is so quick and easy, the task should be manageable… or just start sharing the recipe (that’s what I did!).
*I have used roasted and salted peanuts, but the recipe doesn’t work as well. I’m not sure why, but the sugar doesn’t seize the same way. The results have been best and most consistent with unsalted peanuts.
*adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz
2 cups raw peanuts (or almonds)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
½ teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
sprinkle of coarse sea salt
In a wide, heavy-duty skillet, mix the peanuts with the sugar and water. Cook the ingredients over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid seizes up. It will take a few minutes. The peanuts will get crusty and the sugar will crystallize; they will appear dry and sandy.
Lower the heat and keep stirring. The crystalized sugar will begin to liquefy again. Stir the peanuts into any syrup forming in the bottom of the pan, coating them as much as possible.
Continue stirring and coating the peanuts in the syrup as it darkens without burning the peanuts or the syrup. If the mixture starts to smoke, remove it from heat and stir. The peanuts are done when they are as dark as you’d like them to be.
Right before they’re done, remove from heat and sprinkle the peanuts with the chili powder, cinnamon, and sizable pinch of flaky salt. Stir them a couple of times, then immediately spread the peanuts onto a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet.
Allow the peanuts to cool completely, and then break up any clumps. Enjoy watching them disappear! If you have any leftovers, store in an airtight container.