Peanuts and peanut butter have always been among my very favorite foods and for a time, nearly my entire source of sustenance! I was recently invited by The Peanut Institute to learn more about the nutrition, agriculture and recent research surrounding this delicious legume. Below are a few highlights as well as the peanut-inspired recipe that I developed.
First the highlights:
From a plant perspective, peanuts are unique because they grow as a legume (in a pod, underground) but they have a nutrient profile that more closely matches tree nuts. Peanuts are a sustainable crop, requiring just 3 gallons of water to grow 1 ounce of edible peanuts. In contrast, almonds require 28 gallons of water per ounce!
Peanuts are nutrient-dense and possess fiber and heart-healthy fat. As a legume, they edge out tree nuts in protein content. Peanuts are an excellent source of niacin, vitamin E, manganese and molybdenum and a good source of protein, biotin, magnesium and copper. Peanuts fit into a number of healthy eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet as well as the MIND diet.
Food Allergy Prevention
You read that right – introducing peanuts early in life (4 to 11 months of age) actually decreases the chances of developing a peanut allergy by as much as 86%! In cultures where peanut products are a common weaning food, the incidence of peanut allergy is vastly reduced compared to countries where peanut protein is avoided in infancy. Early introduction is considered safe and effective for most babies but discuss with your pediatrician if you have a strong family history of peanut allergy or your infant has moderate to severe eczema.
Peanuts and peanut butter can be enjoyed at every meal and snack. A serving is ¼ cup of peanuts (about a handful) or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. In addition, peanut oil is a great choice for cooking and protein-rich peanut powder is delicious in hot cereals, smoothies, and as a component of breading. If you are looking for inspiration, access some great from The Peanut Institute.
My Recipe Inspiration
Growing up with a father who loved to make all kinds of wonderful Greek dishes, I learned to love delicious, healthy, well-prepared Greek food. But it is actually rare to find peanuts in Greek cuisine. Greece produces a variety of tree nuts and their native food fare often features almonds, walnuts and pine nuts.
I was interested in how peanuts would work in Greek cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the peanuts worked in my version of a Greek lemon sauce. The sauce can be used in a variety of ways, including a topping for fish or chicken and also a dipping sauce for prawns, vegetables or pita chips. In this recipe, I carried the lemon and peanut flavor throughout both the fish and the sauce.
Pair this dish with a fresh, traditional Greek cucumber/tomato salad!
Lemony Greek Peanut Sauce
Served on Fried Peanut-Powered Fish
1 c. unsalted dry roasted peanuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. peanut oil
½ c. vegetable broth
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Lightly sauté minced garlic in peanut oil. Set aside. In a food processor, pulse the peanuts until they are crumbly. Gradually add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and puree until smooth.
Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Yield: 1.25 cups (10 servings)
Vegan and Gluten free
Fried Peanut-Powered Fish
2 lbs. fresh or frozen cod fillets (or other mild white fish)
2 eggs, whipped
½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. panko crumbs
½ c. peanut powder
1 tbsp. lemon zest (divided)
½ c. peanut oil
Fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
If using frozen fish fillets, defrost ahead of time and if needed, cut into 6 portions. Combine panko, peanut powder and 1 tsp. of lemon zest and place on a plate. Use a separate plate for the whole wheat pastry flour. Lightly season the fish fillets with Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper. Dip in whole wheat pastry flour, then whipped eggs, then panko/peanut powder mixture.
Pour peanut oil into a skillet and heat on medium heat to 350°F. Add breaded fish and fry for 2-4 minutes per side until golden brown.
Top each portion with Lemony Greek Peanut Sauce, remaining zest and fresh parsley.
Disclosure: I attended an event in Napa, California sponsored by The Peanut Institute in April 2022.