Why It Works
- Potato starch helps form a thick glaze that clings to the peanuts and produces a crispy coating.
- Double-roasting the peanuts eliminates their beany taste.
When it comes to roasted nuts, people's preferences fall into one of three categories: unsalted, salted, and what I call “extra”―nuts coated in sugar, spices, or chocolate. My husband, James, and I fall into different camps. I prefer lightly-salted nuts, whereas James clamors for almost any nut in the “extra” category, from chocolate-covered peanuts to butter toffee cashews. While I was developing this recipe for honey-roasted peanuts, he happily gobbled up batch after batch, regardless of whether or not the nuts were actually good. But, as I discovered, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to coating peanuts in honey and tossing them in a hot oven. The nuts will likely be delicious. So for this recipe, I decided to focus on dialing in the right proportions of ingredients and honing the execution.
Before I started testing, I picked up several different brands of honey-roasted peanuts and conducted a quick taste test. Surprisingly, I found that they all tasted wildly different from one another. One brand consisted of overly-roasted peanuts that had a bitter edge, another was dusted with too much salt, while the last had the most balanced salty-sweet coating. As a result, I decided to focus my testing on perfecting three factors: the peanuts, the coating, and the finish.
For the peanuts themselves, I baked off batches of honey-roasted peanuts that contained either raw peanuts or store-bought roasted peanuts. It’s important to note that the extent of the roast on store-bought roasted peanuts varies, from peanuts that are barely toasted to ones that are too dark. My testing showed that the raw peanuts, despite being subsequently cooked in the oven, retained a beany taste. On the other hand, the pre-roasted peanuts took on a slightly bitter aftertaste. Therefore, to guarantee well-roasted peanuts, I suggest starting with raw blanched peanuts and lightly roasting them in an oven.
As for the coating, there are several ways to approach this: You can make a glaze containing egg whites; mix up a glaze with honey, a fat like butter or oil, sugar, and flavorings; or simply coat the peanuts with warmed honey. I decided to test the first two methods side-by-side, since I knew I wanted more than just honey as a coating. I liked the crunchy, somewhat airy shell on the nuts with the egg white coating, yet it masked the honey flavor. I ended up going with a glaze made with honey, potato starch, butter, oil, vanilla extract, sugar, and salt, which gave the nuts a shiny, crisp coating that lets the honey flavor come through. The glaze is infinitely adaptable, so I encourage you to play around with it by adding spices and other ingredients to taste, such as cocoa powder, dried rosemary, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, or ground cinnamon.
Once cool, I simply toss the nuts in a sugar-salt mix before digging in. Whether you decide to serve these as a snack, a pre-dinner bite, or with a late afternoon drink, these honey-roasted peanuts are easy to eat by the handful.
- 1 pound raw blanched peanuts (3 cups; 450g)
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup (75g) sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided; for table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1/4 cup (80g) honey
- 2 tablespoons (24g) potato starch
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (177°C). Spread peanuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Decrease oven temperature to 300°F (148°C).
Meanwhile, stir together 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and set aside. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium saucepan or saucier, combine honey, potato starch, oil, butter, and vanilla extract, as well as remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a sturdy heat-resistant spatula, until dry ingredients have dissolved and mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Off-heat, add peanuts and stir to combine until peanuts are thoroughly coated in honey mixture.
Transfer honey-coated peanuts to prepared baking sheet, spreading them into an even layer. Bake peanuts until golden brown and toasted, about 25 minutes.
Immediately transfer peanuts to a large bowl and let cool completely, stirring and scraping every few minutes with a sturdy spatula or spoon to prevent the nuts from sticking to the bowl and to each other, about 30 minutes (peanuts will be sticky at first but will harden as they cool). Once cool, break up any remaining clumps. Add sugar-salt mixture and toss to coat. Serve.
Rimmed baking sheets, heat-resistant spatula.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Honey-roasted peanuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.