Ever since Robin and I developed our Five-Spice Roast Pork dish for The Lazy Gourmet (p.126) I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Chinese five-spice powder, an intriguing and hard-to-describe spice blend made of (most commonly) cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorns. While it’s usually used in savory meat, seafood, or vegetable dishes, five-spice powder’s rich, warm flavor is strangely irresistible on the sweeter side, too. A quick Googling of “five-spice desserts” might surprise you with results like Chinese Five-Spiced Chocolate Cupcakes and Five-Spice Sweet Potato Pie.
Reader Mandy, who commented on my Ten Favorite Homemade Holiday Food Gifts (That Aren’t Cookies) post, mentioned some five-spice nuts that she’d made as a holiday gift and I thought that sounded pretty great. While Mandy used pistachios, I decided that a huge batch of sweet and salty five-spice peanuts would be a perfect inexpensive finger food for the housewarming party I was in the midst of planning. (And when I say huge I mean huge. If I believed in astrology I would blame my Cancerian nature for always, but always, overcooking. Luckily, the six pounds of spiced nuts and seven pounds of pickled carrots that are still sitting in my fridge are freaking delicious and will stay good for weeks to come.)
p.s. I’ve been eating these crunchy sweet treats by the handful, as a snack, but I bet they’d be great tossed into an Asian-style salad or mixed into rice.
Chinese Five-Spice is a blend made of (most commonly) cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel, and Szechuan peppercorns. These peanuts make a great party snack, plus they’ll keep well in a tightly-sealed container on your countertop for a few days, or more. Store them the fridge for even longer preservation.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups raw, shelled, unsalted peanuts
- Set a large baking sheet or dish out on the counter before you begin.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When butter begins to bubble (but before it burns) add five-spice powder, sugar, and salt. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Add the peanuts, stirring frequently until they begin to turn a light brown (4 to 5 minutes).
- Spread the peanuts out in a single layer in the baking dish. Let cool to room temperature. If they’ve stuck together, just give them a stir to break them apart.