Looking back to George Washington Carver and his 105 uses of peanuts, innovation has long been part of peanuts’ legacy. For the record, peanuts were being ground into a primitive peanut butter as far back as the Aztec empire. More recently, modern brands have experimented with adding sweet or spicy flavorings; creating dill pickle in-shell peanuts; and launching frozen PB&J sandwiches and other frozen peanut butter snacks. 

The average American eats 7.4 pounds of peanuts each year and peanuts are staying relevant with younger generations as the favorite nut of millennials. But what are today’s trends with peanuts on menus and how can those ideas be adapted in prepared foods? Here are three key applications ripe for exploration:

Peanut Ingredients in Smoothies and RTD Beverages 

Smoothies continue their stronghold on QSR menus. And peanuts have seen 55% increase in this segment in the past three years, according to Mintel. In spring 2019, Planet Smoothie introduced a line of smoothies made with dragon fruit. The PB Dragon Fruit Riptide blends dragon fruit, bananas, peanut butter, strawberries, chia seeds, whole grain oats, and frozen yogurt. The dragon fruit lends an Instagram-worthy purple hue to the drink and peanut butter adds flavor and 8g of protein per serving to other healthy and trendy RTD ingredients.

Ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and smoothies hold great potential for use of numerous types of peanut ingredients to enhance nutritional content, textural diversity, and flavor experiences. Depending on a factory’s manufacturing and ingredient handling capabilities, peanut flour, peanut butter, and whole peanuts could be used in RTD beverage applications. As high protein and high fat diets gain more popularity, peanut ingredients allow for diversity of formulation where whey and other animal-based ingredients have held the spotlight for so long. 

In addition to the high protein, plant forward benefits of peanuts, use of peanut ingredients in beverages lends the ability to pair well with sweet, savory, and ethnic flavors where the beverage and smoothie space has been dominated by sweet flavor profiles.

Boiled Peanut Hummus

In the last 15 years, hummus has become a staple snack, condiment, and ingredient in the American diet known for its plant forward origins, protein content, and versatile base for flavors. As boiled peanuts have made it on more menus and gained attention from people outside of the South, it's a natural next step to experiment with boiled peanuts as the base for hummus. 

From a functionality standpoint, boiled peanuts can be an easy substitution for any other bean used in hummus as boiled peanuts have very similar textural characteristics to standard cooked/canned beans. By varying the boiling/cooking medium for the boiled peanuts, such as the addition of soy sauce or chili peppers, novel and diverse flavors can be infused into the entirety of the legume lending a deeper and more dynamic flavor profile compared to a post-cook flavor add-in to hummus.

The smooth and earthy characteristics of boiled peanut hummus are a pleasing balance for sweeter and sharper condiments. South Main Kitchen in Alpharetta, Ga., serves a boiled peanut hummus similarly to a charcuterie experience with seasonal fruit jam, compote and cheeses. Magnolia in Charleston, S.C., embraces the Southern connection of boiled peanuts and serves their hummus topped with pickled okra and hot pepper relish.

Pasta Made from Peanuts

Legume-based pasta is gaining traction in the market as a way to incorporate more protein and fiber in the diet.* Peanut flour can be used as a partial replacement to durum wheat flour in pasta to increase protein content and offer different flavor and texture attributes. 

The durum and peanut flours have nutritionally complementary proteins, yielding a product with improved protein quality (reference in article).  When incorporating peanut flour as a replacement to durum wheat, a hydrocolloid, such as carrageenan, should be used to improve dough binding properties and enhance the machinability of the dough.

Experimenting with usage rates, fat levels, and roast levels of peanut flour can impart different health and sensory characteristics directed at desired nutritional targets or flavor applications.

Chef Ian Boden of the The Shack in Staunton, Va., uses peanut flour in pasta to create a molé bolognese for his menu. 

“There’s traditionally some kind of nut product in a molé, so instead of adding the nuts to the molé itself, we incorporated peanut flour into our pasta,” says Boden. “I try to get classic peanut flavors and organize them differently.”

Peanuts not only provide many options for experimentation and innovation, but they also deliver on flavor and sustainability. Peanuts require fewer than five gallons of water to produce one ounce. As interest in plant-forward and plant-based eating patterns grows, George Washington Carver would be proud to see where the peanut goes next.

Co-written by Taylor Walker, director of brand integrity at CuliNex LLC. CuliNex, Tukwila, Wash., is a premier consulting firm providing product development and strategic business services for clean label food products Visit www.culinex.biz for details.

Co-written by Lauren Highfill Williams, director of communications for the National Peanut Board. Readers may contact her directly at lhwilliams@nationalpeanutboard.org.

*Reference Article: https://www.peanutscience.com/doi/pdf/10.3146/PS09-009.1, by University of Georgia Food Science and Technology Department

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