Sichuan Peppercorn Peanuts – A Snack That Wants A Beer

Sichuan Peppercorn Peanuts

The idea for these came from a packaged Japanese snack that I find totally addictive. It is easy to make at home, and then you can adjust the ratio of heat, orange zest, salt, and the tongue-numbing zing of the Sichuan peppercorn to your own preference. These guys pretty much have “snack with a beer” written all over them. They would also be awesome tossed with crispy, pan-fried tofu for a spicy variation on kung pao.

Sichuan peppecorns are the seed hulls (pericarps) from a tree in the citrus family. They do have a citrusy flavor, but their most prominent feature is the way they shock your tongue kind of like licking a 9-volt battery, but in a good way. The quantity I’ve specified in the recipe isn’t large, feel free to amp it up if you find you like that zing.

You can grind the spices in a mortar and pestle, with an electric coffee grinder, or with a ceramic hand mill like this Hario model. The Hario is great because it lets you adjust the grind very precisely.

Sichuan Peppercorn Peanuts
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher
Yields 220 grams  / a small bowl; multiply as needed

  • 3.5 grams Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 grams coriander seed
  • 1 1/2 grams ancho chili powder (or chili powder of your choice)
  • 1 dried guajillo pepper
  • 9 grams orange zest (see below for preparation)
  • 35 grams neutral vegetable oil
  • 200 grams unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 to 2 grams fleur de sel, or, better, Himalayan sulfur salt, ground to a powder  (more to taste)
  1. Finely grind the Sichuan peppercorns and coriander seed and combine with the ancho powder. Remove the seeds and stem from the guajillo chili and cut it lengthwise into 2 strips, and then slice those crosswise into the thinnest threads you can manage. Add to the spices. 
  2. Cut strips of orange zest, being careful to avoid the pith, then use your knife to cut into threads similar to the chili threads. Add to the spices.
  3. Line a paper plate with towels. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spice mixture and cook until fragrant, but don’t allow to burn. Add the peanuts and cook, tossing frequently, for 2 more minutes. Remove to the paper towels, including all of the spices. Allow to drain for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl, toss with the salt, adjust seasoning, and serve (or they will keep for a few days).
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 in Appetizers, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

11 Responses to “Sichuan Peppercorn Peanuts – A Snack That Wants A Beer”

  1. Reply
    December 18, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I believe that Sichuan Peppercorns are from the mountain ash tree, or a close relative, and are related to something that native americans called “toothache plant”, because the buds, when chewed, tend to numb your mouth. I love this effect, but some folks find it weird and unpleasant. Above and beyond this effect is a kind of pungency that’s terrific. The one weird thing (given Sichuan food) is that Sichuan Peppercorns are not very “hot” (in the sense of “6-alarm chili”, or scoville units) — they’re more flavorful than hot. Of course, the other chili powder in this recipe addresses that.

    Recipe sounds terrific, as usual. Could be especially good in midsummer…

    • Reply
      December 18, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Quite right; and sometimes you’ll find them already ground and sold as “Prickly Ash Powder.” Which, I don’t know about you, but I find hilarious.

      • Reply
        December 18, 2012 at 11:41 am #

        One more thing: if you want that tingly-electric-numbing feeling, freshness is really important. If you live in New York or San Francisco or Seattle and get your peppercorns from a busy Asian grocery, they’ll be great. If you live in Providence, like me, you may find that all bags of peppercorns have dust on them. There’s still flavor, but none of the tingliness. For that, I need to go to a busier store, perhaps in Boston or New York.

  2. Reply
    December 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Merry Christmas! I made these and they are fun to eat but I must say the recipe is annoying. Really, 9 grams of zest? Who weights their zest or their oil for cooking. I can see it in baking but not here. Now that I have a 113 grams of these yummy tongue tingling little goodies, I will go look for more things to do with them!

    PS, I skipped all the salt and used salted nuts. I had them on hand! And I used a Puya chili pepper, very hot but I had them. It was to cold to go out.

  3. Reply
    January 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Mmmmmm. Those peanuts sound marvelous. I’ll bet they’d be wonderful chopped and sprinkled on a stir-fry. Have you tried them any way in addition to out-of-hand?

    I just recently discovered the beauty of Szechuan peppercorns. One of the wonderful things about them is that one can grind them and only one other spice, or maybe two, and get a tremendously nuanced, deep flavor. They have sweetness and spiciness and acid all in one place.

    • Reply
      January 11, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      I haven’t used those peanuts in a dish, but I t hink it is a fine idea!

  4. Reply
    January 27, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Wow. These are REALLY good. The blend of the citrus flavor of the orange zest and the salt and spicy stuff is addictive.

    Since not everyone has a gram scale lying around, and I’m pretty sure the amounts aren’t really critical for this, here’s a quick summary of what the amounts I measured looked like:

    2-3t Sichuan peppercorns
    2t coriander seed
    1t ancho chili powder
    1 dried guajillo pepper
    zest of half an orange [and the next time I make it, I might increase this to a whole orange]
    2T vegetable oil
    1.5 cups unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
    salt to taste (I used about 1/2t)

    [t = teaspoon; T = tablespoon]

    Maybe Michael will say that the difference between 34 and 36 g of vegetable oil makes a difference, but I have a hard time believing it, since probably 25g ended up on the paper towel. 🙂

    • Reply
      January 27, 2013 at 8:39 am #

      Thanks, Spike! I like that we are crowdsourcing the volume measurements!

      BTW I’m not claiming that the precision of working by weight is required for this recipe. I also find working by weight to be much cleaner because you don’t end up with as many measuring utensils to clean, faster because you just tare & pour, tare and pour, and great when you want to scale a recipe up or down. So much easier to do four times 150 grams then four times 1 & 2/3 cup. All that said, I know a lot of folks aren’t ready to make the switch, so I’ll try to make a habit of offering both when I have them.

  5. Reply
    Giri N
    February 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Just made these peanuts. I am addicted to Sichuan Peppercorns. I skipped the orange zest and added a bit of garlic powder. Just delicious.

    Gram weights were not a problem. I have this Mira Kitchen Scale from Amazon.

    Thank you for the recipe.

    • Reply
      February 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      Glad you like! That is the same scale that we recommend at ChefSteps for home use. Works great.

  6. Reply
    July 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    That’s weird – I saw these in a vending machine in Narita airport. They were really good. The Japanese have really cool snack machines. 20 years ago I was in Okinawa and that was the first time I every saw iced coffee – it was being dispensed in a can. Now, off course, we have iced coffee everywhere.

    Thank you for reminding me a out these nuts.


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