Salt-Roasted Peanut Recipe

“You’re A Winner!” said the email.

“You’ve won a Katana Series Nakiri knife, from Calphalon.”

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While I seem to be the quintessential person who never wins anything (except the fabulous no-expense paid trip to Paris that I’m enjoying), and I don’t remember putting my business card in the raffle fishbowl, I was happy to accept. And the knife made a lovely addition to my Katana collection, joining the smaller one that I already owned. I’ve been using both, and they’re really rather incredible knifes. I love the handles, and the blades are scary-sharp. Which is good.

While we’re on the subject of deadly weapons, let’s talk about salt. Everyone is scared of salt.

I don’t pay much attention to hot-shot chefs, but I’d read that Thomas Keller was once asked what makes a good cook, and he replied, “salt”. He summed it all up in one simple word, and that’s truly what it all comes down to…and that’s why he’s a great chef and I bought his French Laundry book even though there’s no way in h-e-double-toothpicks I’m ever going to make anything from it. But if he can use it, so can you.
So no matter what you do to food, whether you whip it into a foam, toss it on the grill, spend 17 hours cutting it into little itty-bitty cubes that people wait 6 months to taste, or churn it in your ice cream maker, salting makes all the difference in cooking and baking.

A lot of people are afraid of salt, citing health concerns. Yet experts tell us that if you stay away from pre-packaged convenience foods, the average person only consumes about 1 1/2 teaspoons to salt per day. Although I should talk…I can’t have enough of it and sometimes buy it by the kilo. So maybe at this point you’d be wise to just scroll down to the recipe.

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I mostly sprinkle top-quality salt on top of things, as a finish, where you’re going to taste it rather than adding it all at the beginning of the recipe where it can get lost. Whatever salt you use, I recommend coarse salt crystals, since the larger pieces take longer to dissolve, thereby giving your palate more time to experience the complexity of flavors, rather than just dissolving into a salty mouthful like fine salt does. Plus most commercial salt has additives which give the salt a bitter, acrid taste.

If you don’t know what fleur de sel is, you should. It’s fine crystals of salt that’s hand-harvested in marshes in Brittany, off the Atlantic coast of France. Although lots of fleur de sel-style salts have been showing up from Italy, Portugal, and elsewhere, the best fleur de sel is from the Guérande. I use it on everything; its fine, delicate taste is best appreciated when sprinkled over things, as mentioned above, rather than dissolved (like in soups) so it’s best to save it for places where it can be appreciated.

Fleur de sel is admittedly pricier than ordinary table salt, but when people balk at paying 5 or 6€ for a container of salt, that will cost them pennies (or centimes per day), they get all freaked-out. (Hey, it’s cheaper than gas, and lasts longer.) Just a last-minute flurry over a slab of foie gras or dark chocolate bark will give it a curious, other dimension. When you start using it, you’ll be as hooked as I am. You’ll never go back to ordinary table salt again.

I only buy fleur de sel harvested in Brittany, and I’ve recently befriended a récolteur who invited me to his marshes this summer to rake and harvest salt. His salt is incredible; light and flaky, with the fine, delicate taste of the sea. He sells his salt in Paris and I always tell guests to stock up here, since it’s one of the true bargains in Paris. A 250 g bag costs just 4€ ($5), which translates to .0136986 cents per day.

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So I hereby give you permission to spend a little bit more on salt. It will improve your cooking, just like upgrading to a good olive oil will improve your salads (and really, how much do you use?) If you don’t believe me, take this simple test: Taste a few grains of fleur de sel. Then taste a few grains of commercially-available fine table salt. I can almost guarantee that you’ll never use ordinary table salt again.

This is one of my favorite recipes for using fleur de sel, crispy Salt-Roasted Peanuts. These are terrific with cocktails or aperitifs, but I also like to enrobe them in bittersweet chocolate and if you’re making Hot Fudge Sundaes, they’re also dynamite sprinkled over the top.

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Salt-Roasted Peanuts

  • 2 cups (300 g) raw peanuts
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) light corn syrup, agave nectar, or rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) light brown sugar or cassonade
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with a silicone baking mat.

In a bowl, mix together the peanuts, corn syrup, and light brown sugar, until the peanuts are well-coated.

Sprinkle the salt over the peanuts and stir just a few times, but not enough to dissolve the salt.

Spread the peanuts evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring three times during baking, until the nuts are deep-golden brown and glazed.

Cool completely, then store in an airtight container immediately, to preserve their crispness.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups.

FAQ’s

I can’t find raw peanuts.

You can use roasted, unsalted peanuts, and reduce the baking time to 15 minutes. I buy raw peanuts in Asian markets.

Can I use other nuts?

I never have, but let me know how they turn out if you do.

What if I can’t get light corn syrup where I live?

Use glucose, available at professional pastry supply shops.

Can I use honey or golden syrup?

Yes, but they’ll be stickier and not as crisp. See the linked post under ‘corn syrup’.

Can I use another salt?

You can use any coarse sea salt, but choose one that’s light-tasting. I like Maldon salt from England very much, or you can use kosher salt.

29 comments

  • When I hit the picture of the salt in the bag, I knew I had joined the company of those with great taste. Each time I am in Paris I buy a couple of big bags at the Sunday market at Raspail…the use it judiciously and with pleasure, not know when I’ll be able to get more. And much less expensive that the fancy packaged variety at Dean and DeLucca. Thanks for sharing!

  • When I hit the picture of the salt in the bag, I knew I had joined the company of those with great taste. Each time I am in Paris I buy a couple of big bags at the Sunday market at Raspail…the use it judiciously and with pleasure, not know when I’ll be able to get more. And much less expensive that the fancy packaged variety at Dean and DeLucca. Thanks for sharing!

  • Brought myself a bag of good quality salt when I was in Noirmoutier – but will also try this one you suggested! Sounds devine.

    So you say theres nothing like a good quality salt…and you also say the same for olive oil. Living here in Paris, and shopping at Monoprix, I just buy the brand Lugget (I think its called?)…any suggestions of a better quality David?

  • Thanks for posting this! Interesting timing, too, as I’ve been on a weird salt kick, obsessing over all different kinds of salts and figuring out which to buy. This really helps, I’d been been trying to figure out whether those from Guerande or those from Camargue were better. And now I know! Sadly, I will have to buy here in the States, where it’s twice as much for half the amount, but it’s worth it. While I’m here, do you know if there’s a major difference between Le Paludier and M. Gilles Hervy, or am I just getting nitpicky now?

    (I’ve also been in a bit of a panic over the thought that the local market may have stopped carrying what I consider to be one of the greatest foods of all time: heavenly Le Marin butter, studded with salt from Guerande. But that’s another story.)

    One other question for you, if I may, since you are the chocolate expert: is fleur de sel, or a similar sea salt like Maldon, the best salt to sprinkle on chocolate?

    Thank you so much, for this and for all your wonderful posts, recipes, and books as well! I love your site.

  • “Double toothpicks”! How long has it been since I heard that grade school swearing?

    Your salty post brightened my morning. I love salted peanuts with chocolate, and another way I savor them is stirred into primo vanilla ice cream, a sort of take on butter pecan.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • I wonder if you have read Jeffrey Steingarten’s piece on salt? He is pretty dismissive of gourmet salts from what I recall.

    I have tried some better quality salts and,being English, use Maldon regularly. I think the texture has a lot to do with the final result. If you have smal flakes that melt in your mouth you get a different effect than a coarse ground salt.

    Also, worth mentioning the book ‘Salt: a World History’ by Mark Kurlansky.

  • This is a reply to Dan, above – I don’t know if we read the same Steingarten piece, but his “Salt Chic” in It Must Have Been Something I Ate is far from dismissive. He spends the entire piece trying to prove the “salt skeptics” wrong – altho he admits to both some Pyrrhic victories and occasional chagrin when he doesn’t get the results he hoped for. But he seems to have a long-standing love of gourmet salts, both for flavor (whether real or percieved) and for texture!

  • Hey Dave!

    I am curious to get your opinion about something. I was in Williams Sonoma for the first time last week, and I took note of a few different salts they carried (including a Fleur de Sel). I’ve never tried anything fancy when it comes to salt..so I am at a loss.

    Should I wait till I find something of a great quality that isn’t expensive, or should I try out a few of the specialty salts at stores like that? I wasnt sure if they were a rip off or not. Thanks :o)

  • I, too, thought I’d never make anything from the “French Laundry Cookbook,” but I was wrong. The lemon tart brulee is simple and wonderful (the crust has pine nuts in it!), and his marinade for short ribs is nothing short (excuse the pun) of a life-changing template. The idea is to cook the alcohol off the wine BEFORE you put the meat in to soak overnight. Keller notes that raw alcohol tends to “cook” the surface of meat, making it difficult unto impossible for marinade flavors to penetrate. I can confirm that he’s right. I now boil and flame any wine before I use it for a marinade, and it makes a HUGE difference.

    Now, go make that tart!

  • About the knife — how do you sharpen it? Do you have to use a waterstone? I bought a couple of nice Japanese knives, and a waterstone, but I’m too afraid I’ll ruin the knives to use it…..

  • hi david! i’ll be in paris late next month and plan to grab a bag or two of these salts. do you think i’ll have a problem with american customs?

  • i have made a variation of your candied peanuts with any nuts that have ventured too close to me- and they have all been lovely. also, sometimes i throw in black pepper or other spices. (simple syrup works if you dont have corn syrup.)

  • Where did you purchase the 250 gram bag of fleur de sel?

  • Marian: I second that thought! (Or third it…)

    Narelle & Peter: The brand I usually buy is the one in the pink container, as shown. Then I discovered the fleur de sel in the bag (shown) which I buy at Richard Lenoir, although I’ve seen it sold at Batignolles and someone mentioned Raspail (for slightly more €s, of course!)

    Bushpigeon: I was doing a demo and someone asked me “How do you keep your knives so sharp?”, and I gave them my secret…“I don’t let anyone else use them.”
    Have you checked the Calphalon’s web site? They perhaps have good advice there. Mine are too new to need sharpening.

    Anne: Salt is not a problem…so stock up!

    Kat: Thanks for the tips!

    J.Bo: Unfortunately my French Laundry cookbook was in those 2 big boxes of my favorite cookbooks that I shipped to myself in April…of 2004 (that I’m still waiting for…should I give up hope yet?….sniff..sniff…)

    Kudzu: Yes, salt and butterscotch or caramel are divine combos.

    Dan, Leah, & Alicat: I did read his article and he did notice a difference, but I always tell people not to really trust others and taste for yourself. If someone says a $20 bag of salt is good, does that mean it is? (Is it worth $20 to find out?) So only listen to me. : )
    I’ve tasted a lot of salts, and the only ‘fancy’ ones that I think are worth the extra money are fleur de sel from the Guérande, Maldon (which is about 1/2 the price), and like kosher salt great for, which is only available in the US so here I buy coarse sea salt. The smoked salts are kinda fun to try too. And Dan is probably right about salt; the texture makes a difference, which is why fine salt normally tastes too salty and acrid.

  • You might be reassured to know that there is no conclusive evidence in the medical literature of ANY conclusive association between low-salt diets and reduced cardiovascular disease in “the general population”. There is, in fact, some evidence of the reverse! There is some general info at

    http://www.saltinstitute.org/28.html

    And see the very latest in the American Journal of Medicine at

    http://www.amjmed.com/article/PIIS0002934305010466/abstract

    Pass the salted peanuts, please.

  • Boy was I sorry I didn’t buy that salt when you told me to :( Still looking for it befor I leave town…

  • TOF: Thanks, I’m aware that there’s medical evidence saying that salt doesn’t cause health problems (just as there’s a decent amount of evidence showing that eating a low-fat diet will lower your cholesterol…some feel that’s determined by your pancreas and genetics and has nothing to do with your diet.) But since I’m not a doctor, I never want to make any claims that may be good or bad for people’s health. Appreciate the links so that people can do some reading and make their own conclusions.

    (People should also read these things carefully, looking for who sponsors the studies. Often they’re funded by food companies who depend on sponsor dollars for research.)

  • david, you lucky devil. i would love to have that set of knives. but i would probably end up short a finger or two.

    i guess i really do need to sign up for that knife skills class at sur la table.

  • I make a similar snack, except it’s with walnuts, sometimes adding a pinch of cayenne. If I’m lucky (or, rather, motivated) I’ll toss them over some milk chocolate ice cream!

  • Ok, after work, I’m off to get some fleur de sel! I’m in love with salt and I can’t believe I have not incorporated this into my cooking sooner. Thanks for the push!

  • David,

    damn. Serves me right for posting without revisiting the piece first. Will re-read ASAP and see if I can improve my memory.

    dan

  • Hi David, What Einstein Told His Cook says that you probably can’t taste the additives in shaker salt because because it’s something like 1 out of 1,000 molecules. Oh well, I thought I could taste them. The book said that fleur de sel “tastes” better because of its shape and size. Once it’s dissolved, it makes no difference. Interesting! I love kosher salt and Bailene coarse sea salt (sprinkled on pan fried peppers). I’m not sure if I’ve had fleur de sel. Maybe I’ll spring by Sur la Table-I’m sure they have a sample.

  • You and TK are right. Knowing how to use salt is what makes a good cook, both in the savory and pastry kitchens. It’s pretty much as simple as that. For a cheaper alternative to Maldon and Fleur de Sel, I’ve recently become a fan of Portuguese Flor de Sal, which I can buy in bulk at our local co-op, Rainbow Grocery. Slow Food gave the Portuguese harvester of this fine salt some kind of award a few years back and Corby Kummer wrote a great article on it.

  • interesting..thanks David! :)

  • Hi David! I am indeed making a comment finally. This recipe for salt-roasted peanuts is going to be my surprise munchie visiting relatives this summer. It’s simple and sounds tasty, but we all know how nice it is to use a good finishing salt. When I returned from Paris early May, the main things I brought back were a bunch of scarves (of course) and a second suitcase filled mustards, salts, jams, miel — you get the picture. :-) Enjoy your blog a lot.

  • Ah, just discarded my entire supply of corn syrup.

  • Drool. Nothing like a big vat of fleur de sel to get me happy.

    I love how you say you only buy salt in Brittany. David, you do realize you have a blessed life.

  • hey! where in Richard Lenoir (e.g. shop name?) did you buy the fleur de sel? merci!

  • chenyze: Unfortunately my friend Régis no longer has his salt stand at the Richard Lenoir market. There is another fellow there that does on occasion.