The beloved Japanese peanut is covered in a delicious wheat flour dough, deep fried or fried, and features an array of flavors (like soy sauce and wasabi). Since they're deep-fried, this snack has left many wondering, “Are Japanese peanuts good for you?” and “What are Japanese peanuts?” Luckily, peanuts are chock full of vitamins and minerals, making them a relatively healthy snack.
Below, we dive into Japanese peanuts further, including what makes them different than regular peanuts, how they were invented (did you know they're actually from Mexico?), and what to pair with this delicious snack.
What’s the Difference between Japanese Peanuts and Regular Peanuts?
Head to any grocery store, and you'll find a selection of sweet and salty peanut options. Generally, the peanuts in the stores are roasted and covered in salt, other seasonings, or a sweet sugary coating. As mentioned, you'll find Japanese-style peanuts coated in a wheat flour batter and deep-fried before flavoring is added. Additionally, you'll notice the seasoning is quite different on Japanese peanuts, with typical flavors like soy sauce.
Traditional Japanese peanuts have a sweet, salty, umami flavor, while regular roasted peanuts are often kept simple with a sprinkle of salt. Another major difference is the crunch factor. Since Japanese peanuts are fried, they are much crunchier than regular peanuts.
History of Japanese Peanuts
Even though Japanese peanuts are a beloved snack in Japan, they were invented in Mexico. You can thank Yoshigei Nakatani, a Japanese immigrant living in Mexico, for this snack invention. Nakatani was already a skilled candy maker before he left Japan. After immigrating and marrying a Mexican woman, he utilized his previous skills and started creating candy in Mexico.
Initially, he began creating muegano, a Mexican sweet treat made with fried dough stuck together with caramel. Eventually, he shifted to oranda, a crispy Asian treat made with candied nuts and beans. He wanted to bring in Japanese flavors to honor his home country. So, he began experimenting with typical Japanese ingredients, such as rice flour.
These experiments led to him creating Japanese peanuts, which he then sold wholesale for about 20 years. Eventually, he opened his own factory and named it Nipon. You'll still find Japanese peanuts available in Mexico today, though you'll likely see them referred to as cacahuates Japonese (Japanese peanuts in Spanish).
How are Japanese Peanuts Made?
So, how are Japanese peanuts made? The peanuts are deshelled, then roasted or toasted, depending on the brand. They're covered in a soy sauce, sugar, wheat flour, and rice flour coating. This seasoning is slightly different than the original Japanese peanuts recipe, as it was challenging to source rice flour in the mid-1900s in Mexico.
Then, these Japanese nuts (also known as cracker nuts) are fried or deep-fried. Some peanuts are tossed in another flour to create fun, bright colors. This method creates a thin yet crunchy exterior with a complex flavor. As mentioned, Japanese peanuts are sweet, salty, and umami-rich.
Are Japanese Peanuts Healthy?
Japanese peanuts are still considered healthy even with a sweet, fried coating. They have a significant amount of protein in them, along with the above-mentioned essential vitamins and minerals.
Some of the nutrients you’ll find in peanuts include vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorous. Many of these nutrients can help you keep your immune system up while helping you stay full (fiber + protein).
Compared to other snacks, the calories are relatively low per serving of Japanese peanuts. Each serving comes in at about 150 calories (depending on the brand and flavoring).
Will Japanese Peanuts Make You Gain Weight?
Of course, too much of a good thing can cause weight gain. Like most nuts, Japanese peanuts have a good amount of fat. Though the calories of Japanese peanuts are lower than some other snack foods, their calories are higher than a handful of regular peanuts (or other nuts). So, it's best to enjoy them in moderation.
Since their coating typically includes sugar, they can raise your blood sugar. If you’re concerned about this, it may be best to avoid this snack. Or, enjoy regular peanuts, which don't have a salty/sugary coating.
Of course, eating too many can also cause your sodium levels to be high. While they don't have an uber-high salt content (about 50mg of salt per serving, depending on the brand), eating a few servings daily can quickly add up in the salt department.
Japanese Peanut Flavors
Japanese peanuts stand out as one of the top Japanese snacks because there is a lot of flavor variation. So you can easily find an option that fits your tastebuds. Below are a few flavor options you'll find on the market.
- Nori (seaweed)
- Nori wasabi
- Gup shup (fiery flavor)
Expect most Japanese peanut flavors to fall into the following categories: savory, umami, or spicy.
What to Serve With Japanese Peanuts
One of the best parts of eating Japanese peanuts is finding fun drinks, sauces, and food pairings! Typically, Japanese peanuts are eaten on the go or with a cold glass of beer. However, you can easily turn them into Japanese tea snacks by serving them alongside a cup of Organic Hojicha Tea.
You can also find new snack pairings by testing Japanese-style peanuts with items you receive in a monthly Bokksu subscription. The snack pairing options are endless!