A peanut isn’t actually a nut, but a legume, the same as beans, peas and lentils. The part that we eat is the seed, which grows underground in its familiar hourglass shell. It has equal affinity for sweet and savory flavors, and is prevalent in many Asian and African cuisines. Peanuts can be substituted for any nut in salads, spreads and sauces. Peanut butter is also versatile—try a dollop in meat stews, stir-fry, oatmeal or salsa to add body and subtle sweetness.
Fun facts about peanuts
- About two-thirds of all “nuts” consumed in the U.S. are peanuts.
- Aztecs used peanut paste to provide relief for inflamed gums.
- Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter were both peanut farmers.
- The term “goober” derives from the Kongo word for peanut, nguba.
- Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
- About 80% of peanut butter sold in the U.S. is smooth.
“The challenge with pairing peanuts is…the assertive flavors that tend to accompany them, from spicy chile to grape jelly and everything in between,” says Erik Segelbaum, corporate wine director for STARR Restaurants in Philadelphia.
For salted, roasted peanuts, he recommends an oloroso Sherry: “The richness of flavor and slight salinity of oloroso is perfect.
“Savory peanut dishes usually have some spice,” he says. “A little sweetness always pairs well with spice. Try off-dry Riesling from the Pfalz or Mosel or Washington State. I love Côte Bonneville and Poet’s Leap.”
Even PB&J has its perfect pairing. “The sweet fruitiness of the jelly, and even the sweetness in the peanut butter, means that a dry wine won’t cut it,” says Segelbaum. “Ruby or vintage Port, or [fortified] wines like Banyuls, are the way to go. They have the texture, structure, sweetness and fruit profile that won’t easily be overpowered by jelly.”