Shell Yeah: Everything you wanted to know about the “caviar of the South”

Boiled peanuts are a Southern road-trip rite of passage

Photo by Iain Bagwell

It’s a Southern road-trip rite of passage: Veer off the highway and snag a bag of briny boiled peanuts scooped fresh at a roadside stand. Often referred to as the “caviar of the South,” boiled peanuts have remained a favorite snack for centuries; their familiar salty flavor and, well, mushiness, offer up a true taste of nostalgia.

  • Explorers and traders in the 17th and 18th centuries brought peanuts from South America to the rest of the world. Boiling the peanuts kept them from going bad during long voyages.
  • Boiled peanuts are the official snack of South Carolina, where they began showing up on the table at weddings and parties around the turn of the 20th century, as noted in the society pages of local newspapers.
  • Birmingham’s Alabama Peanut Company whips up fun flavors of the snack, including dill pickle–ranch, Old Bay and PBR, and Milo’s Sweet Tea.
  • Georgia native and country music legend Trisha Yearwood offers a nontraditional take with her recipe for boiled-peanut hummus, aka “Georgia Pate.” (Find the recipe on the Food Network website.)
  • Fill up on all-you-can-eat boiled peanuts, marvel at the world’s largest boiled peanut, and participate in the boiled peanut–eating contest at the Boiled Peanut Festival in Bluffton, South Carolina, in September.
  • Peanuts and baseball are a time-honored pairing. Order a classic boiled rendition at the Garden & Gun Club in the Battery Atlanta, adjacent to Truist Park, home of the World Champion Atlanta Braves.

This article appears in the Spring & Summer 2022 issue of Southbound.