How the Peanut Pie Became a Southern Treasure

The peanut pie is just as enticing as a pecan pie, and the history is delicious. Do you have a favorite recipe for this Southern classic?

Maple Peanut Pie
Photo: Alison Miksch

Before the salted caramel craze, there was the peanut pie. Some say it's simply a poor man's version of pecan pie . Others say its salty-sweet punch was inspired by the flavor explosion of a now-vanishing gas station treat created by pouring a five-cent packet of salted peanuts into a bottle of ice-cold Coke.

Peanut Pie Variations

For our Georgia Peanut Pie with Coca-Cola Glaze , we embrace the legend of that Coca-Cola soaked peanut packet. This concoction is full of Southern nostalgia, and the pie filling is truly something to behold. Complete with a mixture of evaporated milk, sorghum, and butter, it's mouthwateringly sweet and creamy. It is sure to impress even the pickiest of dessert lovers.

We say peanut pie is crackerjack pie. It's at its finest made with roasted, meaty Virginia peanuts, the super-size Cadillac of peanuts grown in the sandy soil of Tidewater Virginia and North Carolina. The near century-old Virginia Diner , located a stone's throw from the country's first commercial peanut farm in Wakefield, Virginia, serves up a swoon-worthy peanut pie topped with a tender peanut-brittle-like veneer.

Our Peanut Butter Pie enriches the classic filling with peanut butter and cream cheese. Taking the decadence over the top means using chocolate wafer cookies as the crust. Our Test Kitchen pros note that gently folding whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture will help create the light, fluffy filling. Sprinkling the top of the finished pie with salty peanuts counter the sweetness and adds a nice crunch.

Peanut Pie's Sweet History

In the 1940s, a corn syrup advertisement claimed that peanut pie could "make even your deepest-dyed Yankee start complimenting you with a southern accent." Peanut pie became most popular in North Carolina and Virginia, tapping into the sweet and salty allure found in salted caramel and Crackerjacks. One might say that the Salted Nut Roll, originating out of Minneapolis in 1933, could be considered the Yankee counterpart.

The recipe's origins are simple: bake a pie crust filled with sugary syrup and a blanket of roasted and salted peanuts. In the years since the pie's inception, cooks have played with this basic outline , adding cayenne pepper for heat, chocolate chips to invoke a Reese's peanut butter cup, and vanilla extract or bourbon for a full-bodied, aromatic finish.

Secrets to a Dazzling Peanut Pie

There are just a handful of tips that will ensure your attempt at peanut pie is a win, and is close to the classic Southern recipe.

  1. No shame in the game: using Planter's dry roasted peanuts will work. You don't need a bag of peanuts with the shells still in tact.
  2. Blind bake your crust. To avoid a mushy result, don't forget to blind bake your crust first. And that will give you the opportunity to use those pie weights you have lingering in the cupboard.
  3. Do not use a substitute for corn syrup. This sweetener defines the original recipe and is needed for true authenticity.

This is not necessarily a tip, but we are almost certain that serving this pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream will result in a flavor pairing that resembles a Peanut Buster Parfait, a la Dairy Queen.

Dessert Success with Peanuts

While we're on the subject of peanuts, there are other choices in that flavor profile that make for a striking dessert option. Take a crack at some of these peanut-laced recipes:

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