Five Spice Peanuts

These peanuts make a wonderful accompaniment for cocktail hour and a great snack any time! I’ve tweaked a recipe for pecans to use more common Chinese ingredients, peanuts and five spice powder. But I’ve left in the butter – not very Chinese, but it really helps glue the spices to the nuts, and everything’s better with butter (or so they told us in culinary school)!

Five spice powder’s claim to fame is that it includes all 5 flavors found in Chinese cooking: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. You can make your own by combining equal parts whole Sichuan (or other) peppercorn, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel seed, and star anise. After toasting the spices lightly, grind in a mortar or with a coffee or spice grinder. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to mess with that, five-spice is also available pre-mixed in Asian markets and in some conventional groceries – try the Asian section first, then the baking/spice aisle.

This recipe will make a big bowlful, enough to serve 12 as an hors d’oeuvre.


  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 c raw, skinless peanuts


  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then add the sugar, five spice powder, and salt. Stir gently over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, but do not allow the mixture to caramelize.
  3. Pour the spice mixture over the nuts, mix thoroughly, then spread in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  4. Bake until crisp and golden, approximately 5-10 m, but check on them frequently because sugar can easily burn.
  5. Remove from the oven, cool slightly until you are able to separate the nuts with your hands. If you let them cool completely on the pan, you may have to pry them off with a spatula.
  6. Store in a tightly covered container away from light – these will last approximately 1 week in the pantry (if you don’t eat them all before that!)

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