Sugar coated candied peanuts – or caramelized peanuts, as many call them – are a popular snack food in many countries, and no wonder! They're crunchy, sweet, and very satisfying, especially when freshly made.
In Morocco, caramelized peanuts are sold as a snack food by street vendors and small shops which also offer roasted hummus, nuts, sunflower seeds, and other treats. In Ramadan, a vendor who sells candied peanuts near my home after night prayers makes them on the spot from his cart; he likes to add a little orange flower water or rose water for a unique touch.
Snacks such as these are often purchased in very small quantities in Morocco; the handful of nuts is carried home, sometimes still warm, in cones or packets quickly fashioned from scraps of paper. Sometimes the paper scraps are pages which have been torn from discarded school notebooks or workbooks, and on more than one occasion we've challenged our kids to some of the exercises found on those papers.
In the absence of Moroccan snack vendors, you'll be pleased to know that caramelized peanuts are fairly easy to make at home. The only trick to success is to be patient and work over a low heat to avoid burning the sugar as it caramelizes.
- 2 cups (about 250 g or 8 oz.) raw peanuts (with skin)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- Optional: Pinch or two of coarse salt
- Optional: splash of orange flower water (or rose water)
- Line a large baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
- Combine the peanuts, sugar, and water in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens into a syrup.
- Continue cooking and stirring for about 10 minutes, or until the liquids evaporate and a sandy-textured sugar mixture coats the peanuts.
- Lower the heat a bit and continue stirring as the excess sugar in the pan begins to melt. This will take several minutes. Once the syrup begins to form, it will change in color from clear to golden to amber. Stir constantly, and be careful that the heat is not so high as to burn or darken the syrup too much.
- When the syrup is a light-to-medium amber color and the sugary coating on the peanuts has glazed, remove the skillet from the heat. Sprinkle the salt (and orange flower water, if using) over the peanuts and stir.
- Turn the peanuts out onto your prepared pan and quickly spread them in a single layer. Allow them to cool and harden before serving.
- Be sure the caramelized peanuts are completely cool before storing in an airtight container.