Boiled peanuts: A South Carolina delicacy

Published: Jun. 27, 2017 at 9:44 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2017 at 11:47 AM EDT
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SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) – Not only are boiled peanuts - also known as goober peas and groundnuts - the official state snack, they play a role in South Carolina's folk and cultural history.

According to, boiling peanuts dates back to the Civil War, as they were an important source of protein for Confederate soldiers.

"By boiling the peanuts in salted water, the Confederate troops were able to sanitize the nuts, preserve them, and add much needed protein to their diet," explained an article in Charleston-based magazine The Local Palate.

It is unlikely the troops used salted water, according to Becky Billingsley, a food historian from Myrtle Beach.

"During the Civil War there was a shortage of salt," wrote Billingsley. "So it is highly unlikely soldiers used it to boil peanuts. Also, boiling peanuts does not preserve them. In fact, boiled peanuts quickly become slimy and inedible if they're not refrigerated or frozen, which would have been impossible for those soldiers."

Billingsley wrote, "The origin of boiled peanuts can be traced back to African slaves. They were fed raw peanuts from their homeland while on the slave ships coming to the United States, and then they grew them in their gardens by their slave cabins. They boiled peanuts among other culinary preparations and introduced them to their masters' families."

Many communities gather to boil the surplus of farmers' unsold peanuts and share in salty celebrations like the annual South Carolina Peanut Party in Pelion.

Nuggets of nutty knowledge:

  • Goober is the Gullah adaptation of "nguba" – the African word for peanut.
  • Peanuts aren't nuts! They're actually part of the legume or bean family. Unlike other nuts, which grow on trees, peanuts actually begin as a ground flower. The weight of the flower forces it to mature under the soil – hence the name "groundnut."
  • The smallest, most immature green peanuts are called "pops" and absorb the most salt during the boiling process. These have softer shells and are usually enjoyed whole!
  • Goobers are good for ya! Boiled peanuts are a great source of vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

SC boiled peanuts – how to make 'em:

In a large stock pot, dissolve one cup of salt in two gallons of water; add the green peanuts and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and maintain a low boil for 45 minutes. Check periodically to ensure that the water is covering the peanuts. Turn the heat off and carefully remove a peanut to sample, allowing it to cool first. If the peanut still crunches, return the pot to a boil. Boiled peanuts should be soft and mushy! Add more salt if desired. When the peanuts reach the desired consistency, turn off the heat and allow them to cool for an hour. When they're cool enough to handle, drain and serve.

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