Iconic Peanut Dishes Around the World

Several peanut dishes with a strong cultural heritage

When you think about peanuts, several words may come to mind. You may think of them as crunchy, delicious, addicting, and other adjectives. After studying the cultural side of peanuts, I cannot avoid calling them versatile.

Peanuts add depth to West African stews, crunch to Southeast Asian salads, provide the base of classic South American sauces, or even sweet treats enjoyed across continents. Each culture infuses the peanut with its own unique flavors, creating dishes with a rich heritage.

Today, we are going to talk about some iconic dishes, desserts, and snacks that use peanuts as an important ingredient.

Please note: Due to image copyright restrictions, we were unable to include photos of every dish featured in this post. However, each dish we discuss has an external link to a recipe, where you can visualize it.

Africa

Throughout Africa, peanuts (often called groundnuts) are a significant part of the culinary tradition. They are used in several dishes, from hearty stews to sweet treats.

West Africa

It is impossible to ignore the aroma of roasted peanuts in West African markets and kitchens. This region’s cuisine bursts with bold flavors, and the peanut is a precious contributor. 

Maafe

Maafe is a famous West African peanut stew that originated in Mali and spread to other countries like Senegal and Gambia.

Maafe in a plate

This dish usually consists of meat, such as beef, lamb, chicken, or fish, simmered in a sauce made from peanuts or peanut butter, tomatoes, onions, and various spices. Vegetables such as sweet potatoes or carrots are sometimes added. 

Maafe recipe

Nkate Nkwan

Nkate Nkwan is a typical Ghanaian soup made from peanuts. It’s also known as groundnut soup or peanut butter soup. It consists of a tomato and onion base combined with a smooth peanut butter mixture. This combination creates a complex flavor, with the nutty and spicy notes being the most noticeable. 

Meat such as chicken, beef, or smoked turkey is often added and simmered until tender. Nkate Nkwan is typically served with rice balls called Omo Tuo, but can also be enjoyed with other staples like fufu. This nutritious soup is a beloved national dish in Ghana.

Nkate Nkwan recipe

Nkate Cake

Nkate Cake (also known as Nkatie cake, groundnut cakeKongodo, or Louga) is an iconic snack originating from Ghana that is also enjoyed in other West African countries like Equatorial Guinea and Senegal. 

This crunchy confection is enjoyed by both children and adults alike. Nkate Cake is sold as a street food or packaged snack known for its irresistible combination of caramelized sugar and roasted peanuts. Some variations may include a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness or use other nuts, such as cashews.

Nkate Cake recipe

Kuli-kuli

Kuli-kuli is another typical snack made primarily from peanuts. It was originally used by the Nupe people of Nigeria and the Dagbon people of Ghana. To make kuli-kuli, peanuts are roasted and ground into a paste called labu, which is then mixed with spices, salt, and sometimes ground pepper or sugar. The paste is shaped into various forms like balls or cylinders, and deep-fried until it hardens and becomes crunchy. 

Kuli-kuli is a snack enjoyed on its own or paired with other dishes, including garri (cassava flakes), fura, or koko. It is also sometimes ground and used as an ingredient in suya and kilishiKuli-kuli is sold in many West African shops.

Kuli-kuli recipe

East Africa

Moving to East Africa, they found many uses for peanuts; they’re transformed into curries, macaroons, sauces, and snacks. 

Sudanese Peanut Macaroons (Ful Sudani)

Ful Sudani are traditional Sudanese peanut macaroons made with just a few simple ingredients: roasted unsalted peanuts, egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla. The nuts are ground into a grainy texture and folded into a meringue-like mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar. 

In the end, you’ll get a unique cookie with a crisp exterior and slightly chewy interior. Naturally gluten-free and dairy-free, Ful Sudani is one of many examples of the importance of peanuts in Sudanese cuisine.

Ful Sudani recipe

Salata Aswad be Zabadi

Salata Aswad be Zabadi is a popular eggplant-based dip or salad from South Sudan. The name translates to “black salad with yogurt” in Arabic.

Roasted eggplant is blended with yogurt, peanut butter, tomato paste, and seasonings to create a slightly tangy dish. 

Salata Aswad be Zabadi is typically served as a starter or side dish accompanied by flatbreads like kisranaan, or pita to scoop up the dip. This dish is an excellent example of the influence of Arab cuisine in South Sudan.

Salata Aswad be Zabadi recipe

Mchicha 

This is a widely consumed vegetable side dish in Tanzania made with leafy greens like spinach or amaranth cooked in a nutty sauce. The greens are simmered with onions, tomatoes, and sometimes hot peppers. After that, they are enriched with a generous amount of peanut butter and coconut milk to create a creamy curry. 

Mchicha is typically served alongside rice, ugali (cornmeal porridge), or other starchy dishes as part of a larger meal.

Mchicha recipe

Ogira

Kenyan cuisine features Ogira. To be more specific, it comes from the Luo community. To make Ogira, peanuts are roasted, then ground into a fine paste and mixed with milk or water to create a sauce seasoned with salt and sometimes sugar.

Ogira is typically served as an accompaniment to starchy dishes such as sweet potatoes, matoke (plantains), or ugali (cornmeal porridge)

Ogira video recipe

Kunde

Kunde is a Kenyan dish featuring black-eyed peas or cowpeas stewed in tomato and peanut sauce. The peas are simmered with sautéed onions, aromatic spices like coriander and turmeric, and ground peanuts (or peanut butter). The result is a protein-rich stew. 

Kunde is served over rice, and it’s known for being very satisfying, affordable, and nutritious. On top of that, it’s a vegan meal. The dish can be enhanced by adding leafy greens or diced squash for extra flavor and nutrients.

Kunde recipe

Southern Africa

Even though peanuts are not a prominent ingredient in the south of the African continent, they are still an iconic snack in one specific country, especially for children.

Grondboontjiebotter Koekies

Grondboontjiebotter Koekies, or peanut butter cookies, are a South African treat that are easy to make with simple ingredients. The dough is prepared by combining peanut butter, butter, sugar, an egg, and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy.

South African peanut butter cookies on a baking tray

Some recipes also incorporate crushed cookies or cookie crumbs into the dough for added texture and flavor. Baked until golden, these cookies are a cherished treat within South African households.

Grondboontjiebotter Koekies recipe

Note: We apologize, but this recipe was only available in Afrikaans. Make sure you translate the page.

Asia

In Asia, peanuts offer a feast for the senses. They play a different role in many recipes.

China

This country has profoundly incorporated peanuts into its kitchen and culture. Some dishes are known and eaten worldwide. 

Kung Pao Chicken 

This spicy stir-fry dish comes from Sichuan province. It’s recognized for its combination of diced chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and an intense hit of Sichuan peppercorns. 

An image of Kung Pao chicken on a plate

As it traverses regions, the heat varies, with most places serving milder takes on the original mouth-numbing recipe. Without a doubt, Kung Pao chicken has become a symbol of Westernized Chinese cuisine.

Kung Pao Chicken recipe

Dan Dan Noodles 

These offer a street food experience from the Sichuan province. The dish features thin wheat noodles with a spicy sauce made with ground pork, chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and peanuts.

The peanuts are usually finely chopped or ground and sprinkled on the dish. This adds the particular peanut flavor and crunch we all know to the slippery noodles. 

Dan Dan noodles are known for their complex interplay of flavors: spicy, savory, nutty, and numbing from the Sichuan peppercorns.

Dan Dan Noodles recipe

Spicy Peanuts

Grabbing a snack in China might mean reaching for spicy peanuts. These treats have a nice crunch and are many times enjoyed with Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, star anise, and other aromatics. 

A large plate full of spicy peanuts with Sichuan peppercorns

Spicy Peanuts recipe

Peanut Butter Buns

Chinese peanut butter buns, also known as Hua sheng jiang bao, are sweet steamed buns found in many Chinatown bakeries. They are soft and fluffy buns filled with creamy peanut butter.

These buns come in various shapes, depending on the bakery. They can also be made with other fillings. Some like them with fruit jam for a peanut butter and jelly variation.

Note: There are no available online recipes for this one.

Suan La Fen

Back to the Sichuan province, Suan La Fen is a noodle soup renowned for its hot and sour flavors. Vinegar, chili oil, and chewy sweet potato noodles work in perfect harmony to create a tangy and spicy broth. While traditional toppings include fried soybeans, many people replace them with fried peanuts.

A bowl of Suan La Fen

This substitution brings a texture that goes very well with the soup’s broth. It’s a unique take on a classic dish that is growing in popularity and becoming something quite special.

Suan La Fen recipe

Southeast Asia

Peanuts are used in many Southeast Asian countries. Some dishes became so popular that they spread throughout the world. Nowadays, dishes such as Pad Thai are available in most shopping malls.

Satay

Satay, a skewered and grilled meat delight with a zesty peanut dipping sauce, is a culinary icon in Southeast Asia. The dish originated in Indonesia and rapidly became a favorite across Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Chicken skewers dipped in peanut sauce

Malaysian and Singaporean satay is served with pressed rice cakes called ketupat.

Satay Recipe

Sambal Ikan Bilis Dengan Kacang

Malaysia’s iconic sambal ikan bilis gets a delicious upgrade with the addition of peanuts!

In Sambal Ikan Bilis Dengan Kacang (anchovies with chili paste and peanuts), the salty crunch of fried anchovies and spicy sambal is beautifully complemented by the flavor and texture of peanuts.

This combination reached the iconic status in Malaysia and Indonesia.

People usually eat it as a side dish or use it to add extra savoriness to other dishes.

Sambal Ikan Bilis Dengan Kacang recipe

Gado-Gado

Gado-gado is an Indonesian salad consisting of boiled or blanched vegetables. Bean sprouts, carrots, green beans, and cabbage are some of the preferred options. Tofu, tempeh, and hard-boiled eggs are also added. Finally, the dish is tied together with a peanut sauce dressing that also includes garlic, chili, and spices. 

Gado-gado on a banana leaf

Gado-gado is versatile, with ingredients varying by region and season. It is served with rice cakes or crackers and garnished with fried shallots.

Gado-gado recipe

Pecel

Also from Indonesia, Pecel is a salad featuring blanched vegetables like bean sprouts, carrots, spinach, and cabbage. It’s topped with an aromatic roasted peanut sauce blended with palm sugar, chilies, and fragrant spices like galangal and kaffir lime leaf. Typically served with rice cakes (ketupat) or rice crackers, Pecel is a satisfying vegetarian meal and is a favorite throughout Indonesia.

It is believed to have originated in East Java but is now enjoyed throughout Indonesia. If you’re ever in the region, you may find it simply as Pecel, or enjoy variations like these:

  • Nasi Pecel: It means pecel served with steamed rice (nasi).
  • Pecel Madiun: This refers to the parcel that originates from the city of Madiun in East Java, which is one of the preferred versions of the dish.
Nasi Pecel on a banana leaf
Nasi Pecel
Pecel Madiun with peanut sauce on the side
Pecel Madiun

Pecel recipe

Pad Thai

This famous stir-fried rice noodle dish is originally from Thailand. It sometimes contains peanuts, which are crushed and thrown on top to add crunchiness and flavor.

Pad Thai with crushed peanuts on the side

Chicken Pad Thai recipe

Adobong Mani 

Adobong Mani is a traditional Filipino snack usually sold as street food. It’s made by frying raw peanuts in oil with lots of garlic until golden and aromatic. The nuts are then seasoned with salt and sometimes chili flakes for a spicy kick. 

A plate full of fried peanuts

This addictive street food is enjoyed as an appetizer or paired with a cold beer. In case you didn’t know, people from the Philippines love bold garlic flavors.

Adobong Mani recipe

Kare-Kare

The Filipino dish Kare-Kare has a special place in the culinary scene. It’s basically oxtail cooked in a creamy peanut sauce. 

It’s usually served with a variety of vegetables, such as eggplant, snake beans, and bok choy. Traditionally, it’s accompanied by a salty sautéed shrimp paste called bagoong.

Kare-Kare recipe

Mee Rebus

Let’s go back to noodles. After all, we are discussing the Asian continent, and we can’t stay away from this type of food for very long. Mee Rebus is a widely eaten noodle dish, especially in Malaysia and Singapore. It consists of noodles served in a gravy seasoned with spices and thickened with sweet potatoes. 

Our star nut shines when making the gravy, which is enriched with peanut butter. The dish is garnished with tofu, hard-boiled eggs, and fried shallots.

Mee Rebus in a bowl

It’s worth noting that, while some variations of the dish use peanuts, some don’t include them at all.

Mee Rebus recipe

Nasi Lemak

Nasi lemak is a Malaysian dish consisting of coconut rice served with a selection of condiments.

Some of the most common include fried anchovies, fresh cucumber, hard-boiled eggs (or sunny side up), and a spicy sambal sauce.

Roasted peanuts are an essential component that adds a crunchy texture to complement the creamy rice. 

While the basic nasi lemak is on the light side, the dish is very versatile and can be served with a variety of options to make it a more filling meal.

Here are a few examples:

  • Beef rendang: A spicy, and tender dry beef curry that is slowly simmered in coconut milk and spices until the liquid evaporates. It’s a classic pairing with nasi lemak.
  • Fried chicken: Another common accompaniment, especially at hawker stalls and restaurants. Here is an image of how this specific variation looks like:
  • Curry: Some variations, especially in northwestern Peninsular Malaysia, incorporate curry with this dish.
  • Fried fish or squid: Seafood is also a popular addition, particularly at seafood outlets that serve nasi lemak.

Nasi Lemak recipe

Variations of Tahu Goreng

Tahu goreng, or fried tofu, is an Indonesian dish that shows the Chinese influence on the country’s cuisine. While basic tahu goreng does not include peanuts, three of its variations do. This makes them quite unique:

  • Tahu Telur (Tofu with Egg): This consists of fried tofu cubes mixed into a beaten egg mixture and fried again to create an omelet or tower-like shape. 

    It is served with a dressing made from ground peanuts, garlic, chili peppers, and sweet soy sauce.

    Garnishes like shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and fried shallots complete this East Javanese specialty.

    Tahu Telur recipe
  • Tahu Gunting (Scissor-Cut Tofu): Named after the scissors used to cut it, this Surabaya street food consists of fried tofu in a thick peanut sauce. This variation stands out for its sweet and spicy flavor profile. It’s usually enhanced with a touch of petis (shrimp paste).

    Tahu Gunting recipe
  • Kupat Tahu (Tofu with Rice Cakes): A popular version throughout Java, kupat tahu combines rice cakes (ketupat), bean sprouts, and fried tofu with a peanut sauce.

Kupat Tahu recipe

Tương đậu phộng

Tương đậu phộng is a Vietnamese dipping sauce well known for its nutty flavor. An approximate pronunciation would be “twung zow fuhng“. Its base is typically roasted peanuts, which are blended into a smooth paste. This paste is then enhanced with garlic, hoisin sauce, chili peppers, and sometimes sugar or even fish flavoring. 

Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut sauce on the side

It’s perfect for dipping spring rolls (gỏi cuốn), drizzling over noodles, or marinating grilled meats.

Tương đậu phộng recipe

India

In this Asian region, some dishes that use peanuts are very worth mentioning.

Peanut Chutney

It’s also known as groundnut chutney or palli chutney, and it is a prevalent condiment in South Indian cuisine, especially in Andhra Pradesh. It is made by grinding roasted peanuts with spices like chilies, garlic, and cumin seeds.

A bowl of peanut chutney

It is typically served alongside breakfast dishes; idlidosavada, and uttapam are some of the most common examples.

Peanut Chutney recipe

Peanut Curries

As I’m sure you know, curries are very popular in India, and peanuts made their way into them. These are a couple of them:

  • Shengdanyachi Amti: A traditional Maharashtrian peanut curry often prepared during Navratri and Ekadashi, which are fasting days. It’s made by roasting the nuts, grinding them into a powder, and then simmering with spices like cumin and green chilies, along with kokum for tanginess and jaggery for a hint of sweetness.
    Shengdanyachi Amti recipe
  • Capsicum Masala: A North Indian curry made with capsicum (bell peppers) simmered in a gravy of tomatoes, onions, and a paste of cashews and spices. It can be used in different recipes and pairs well with roti, chapati, or rice. Even though it’s not spicy, its rich flavor profile complements the natural sweetness of capsicum.
    Capsicum Masala recipe

The Americas

Recipes featuring peanuts are very common across the Americas. There is an amazing cultural heritage connected to the iconic legume in many American countries.

Mexico

Even though peanuts are originally from South America, they were made popular in Mexico by Spanish colonizers in this region. To this day, they remain an integral part of traditional dishes. 

Moles

Mole is a Mexican sauce celebrated in many regional variations, many of which include peanuts. It masterfully combines its nuttiness with the complex flavors of chiles, spices, and, in some cases, even chocolate. 

A large plate of mole poblano

Moles are featured in festive dishes and everyday meals alike. Many see enchiladas as a perfect combination. But they’re also commonly served over chicken, pork, fish, and vegetables.

Mole Sauce recipe

Pipián Sauce

Pipián is a traditional Mexican sauce that is closely related to mole. It has ancient origins in Aztec, Purepecha, and Mayan cuisines. It gets its distinctive earthy flavor from a base of ground pumpkin seeds (pepitas) combined with sesame seeds, peanuts, almonds, or other nuts. 

Dried chiles like anchoguajillo, and chipotle impart a warm spiciness. At the same time, herbs and spices such as epazote, cilantro, garlic, and cumin round out the complex flavor profile. Tomatillos or tomatoes are frequently added for tartness and body.

Chicken with Pipián sauce

The sauce is commonly served over chicken, pork, fish, and vegetables or used as a filling for tamales. This labor-intensive preparation is a cherished part of Mexico’s culinary heritage.

Pipián Sauce recipe

Mazapán de Cacahuate

Mazapán de Cacahuate is a Mexican candy made from just two ingredients: finely ground peanuts and powdered sugar. This crumbly confection has a unique melt-in-your-mouth texture. It was invented in 1942 by Jesús González in Guadalajara as an affordable alternative to traditional almond marzipan. 

Pieces of Mexican Marzapán de Cacahuate

Mazapán is so famous in Mexico that it even has a day dedicated to it: “Dia del Mazapán,” on January 12th. The most iconic brand is De La Rosa, known for their individually wrapped candy disks and for being the original. But mazapán is also easy to make at home and is a usual ingredient in drinks, desserts, and dishes. 

Marzapán de Cacahuate recipe

Note: We didn’t explore Central America in detail because peanuts are not a main ingredient in traditional dishes of the remaining countries, even though they are used in various ways.

South America

In South America, several countries use peanuts in classic dishes and also special occasions.

Paçoca de Amendoim

Paçoca de amendoim is a Brazilian candy made from just three ingredients – roasted peanuts, sugar, and salt. The name comes from the Tupi (indigenous) word “pa’soka“, meaning “to crumble”. Paçoca has a distinctively sandy and crumbly texture. Traditionally, the ingredients were pounded together in a mortar and pestle. However, nowadays, most recipes use a food processor to grind the peanuts. 

Pieces of the Brazilian sweet Paçoca de Amendoim

Paçoca is especially favored in southeastern Brazil during the festive Festa Junina (June Festival) but is enjoyed year-round. Along with other sweets and snacks, it’s considered a must-have for the holiday. It’s often served alongside coffee or crumbled over ice cream. 

Paçoca de Amendoim recipe

Salsa de Maní

Over in Ecuador, Salsa de Maní is a distinctive sauce. Roasted peanuts are blended with milk, bread, onions, garlic, cumin, achiote (annatto), and sometimes chili peppers. The bread and milk give it a smooth consistency, while the spices add depth and warmth. 

Salsa de Maní is an accompaniment to many traditional Ecuadorian dishes. It is most famously served over llapingachos, fried potato cakes stuffed with cheese. It’s also used as a dip for French fries (papas fritas) and fried plantains, poured over grilled meats, or mixed into rice dishes. 

Today, Salsa de Maní remains a beloved part of Ecuador’s culinary heritage. Its popularity has also spread to neighboring Colombia and Peru.

Salsa de Maní recipe

Mamba

In Haiti, Mamba turns up the heat as a spicy peanut butter infused with fiery Scotch Bonnet or habanero peppers. This creamy spread is a staple condiment, traditionally made by grinding roasted peanuts with peppers, salt, and sugar using a mortar and pestle. 

The spice level varies by region, with northern Haiti’s Mamba purportedly blended six times for a smoother consistency compared to the south’s four-times blended, chunkier version. Haitians love slathering Mamba on cassava crackers or bread for a snack with a kick.

Mamba recipe

United States

The peanut’s journey across the USA is a story of innovation, necessity, and cultural exchange.

Peanut butter 

This is the quintessential American spread. Peanut butter was first patented in the United States in the late 19th century. Its rise to fame came during the Great Depression when it provided an affordable source of protein. The iconic peanut butter and jelly sandwich won hearts with its simple and satisfying combination.

A bowl of peanut butter

Its iconic status endures, with the average American consuming an average of four pounds annually. It can be used in sandwiches, cookies, sauces, and some dishes.

Peanut Brittle

The crunch of peanut brittle has become a part of American celebrations, particularly during the festive season. It dates back to the 19th century, but the exact origin is debated. 

Broken pieces of peanut brittle

The magic happens when you combine caramelized sugar with roasted peanuts. The special texture we all know is achieved through a carefully timed cooking process.

Peanut Brittle recipe

Boiled Peanuts

Moving South, boiled peanuts are a cherished snack from the cuisine of South Carolina, Georgia, and other Southern states. You can actually read everything about the Southern tradition of boiling peanuts in the blog post we wrote about it, including the proper way to prepare it.

Peanut Soup

This is a creamy soup made with ground peanuts, although peanut butter is also used today. It’s combined with chicken stock, vegetables, and spices. In the United States, it is considered a Southern specialty, particularly associated with Virginia. 

Southern style peanut soup

The original version was the African soup we discussed at the beginning. It traveled to the USA with enslaved Africans. The soup’s history in America dates back to the early 1700s, but it gained popularity in the early 20th century as peanuts became more widely available. 

George Washington Carver, famous for his peanut research, is believed to have had the largest collection of peanut soup recipes. Today, this dish is served in many Southern restaurants and is a staple in Colonial Williamsburg. 

Virginia Peanut Soup recipe

Europe

In Europe, peanuts are widely consumed in pubs, but they have found their way into other treats.

Pindasaus

This is a well-known Dutch-Indonesian sauce. Pindasaus, which literally means “peanut sauce” in Dutch, Pindasaus is also known as Satésaus

It has its origins in Indonesian cuisine, where peanut sauce is widely used in dishes we discussed earlier, like Satay, Gado-gado, and Pecel

In the Netherlands, Pindasaus is mostly eaten with fries (Patatje Oorlog or “war fries“), meat dishes, and fried snacks. 

A small bowl of pindasaus next to chicken skewers and french fries

Dutch versions usually start with peanut butter as a base, mixed with other ingredients. Sambal (Indonesian chili paste), garlic, ginger, coconut milk, and kecap manis provide the right balance of flavors and consistency.

Pindasaus recipe

Crêpes au Beurre de Cacahuète

Crêpes au Beurre de Cacahuète (Peanut Butter Crêpes) are a traditional French street food and snack. It’s a simple dish, which is part of its appeal. These crêpes are thin and delicate and filled with a generous spread of peanut butter. Common pairings include bananas, chocolate, and jams.

French pancakes with peanut butter

Crêpes au Beurre de Cacahuète recipe

Note: Even though you can find similar recipes in English, the original version was only available in French. In case you don’t “parlez Français,” make sure your translation extension is ready to work.

Conclusion

Peanuts are culinary chameleons that have adapted to flavors and traditions in many countries. They gave their unique touch to fiery sauces, hearty stews, candy, street food, and the list goes on. They conquered every continent and transformed dishes and cultures along the way.

Their adaptability is the key to their global success. It has allowed peanuts to thrive and become icons across nations, cultures, and culinary styles.

As our tastes evolve, you can be sure the peanut will keep pace. I have no doubts it will find new delicious ways to surprise us. 

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