The Best Ways To Utilize Peanuts In Cooking, According To Marcus Samuelsson - Exclusive

It's easy to get stuck in the rut of peanut butter and jelly. In the United States, many people don't think of peanut butter as good for much more than a sandwich or candy filling — but acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson is out to change that. He's so devoted to the legume that he partnered with the National Peanut Board to host an all-peanut pop-up menu.

With this unique challenge, Samuelsson found several unexpected ways that peanuts improve classic dishes. In an exclusive interview, he told us, "Putting peanut into the waffle gives you a whole other texture too, that makes the waffle both crispier but also creamier in a way." Peanut butter waffles became such a favorite of his that they may even stick around after the pop-up. "We're going to stay with that because that's something that we learned about: the versatility of peanuts and how crunchy they get, but also how creamy they can make a butter."

The peanut butter waffles were part of his take on chicken and waffles, and the peanuts don't stop there. "We fry our chicken and then we make a honey butter with peanuts as well," he said, "so you get that heat and then you get that beautiful boiled peanut effect into the sauce, and that gives you that crunchiness and delicious flavor." In fact, he explained that utilizing peanuts to add different flavors and textures — whether in buttery form or whole — is a better way to cook with them than simply using them as a side or accent flavor.

Inspiration all around

While adding peanuts to savory food in the United States isn't very common, it is found in cuisine worldwide, which Marcus Samuelsson uses as inspiration. "With peanuts, I think about food from Ghana, I think about southern food, but also Thailand and other places like that. Southeast Asia comes to mind." Relegating peanuts for use in just butter form limits their appeal. "You have to think broader," Samuelsson explained. 

He noted that peanuts should not be an afterthought but a true part of the dish, as they are in many countries. "In Ghana, it can be a chicken stew thickened with peanut butter. In Senegal, you have mafe. You have these great dishes where peanuts are not just a side or a snack. They're integrated into the sauce."

As he continues to be inspired, we may see more peanut-centered items on Samuelsson's menus. "As it relates, our pork ribs here, we're thinking about the barbecue sauce with peanuts, inspired a lot from Thailand and Southeast Asia. You get a great saute with a peanut dip sauce." It is clear that for Samuelsson, peanuts are more than just a snack or spread; their inclusion in a dish provides a crunch and creaminess that can't be beaten.

Marcus Bar & Grille pop-up runs from Tuesday, October 10 to Sunday, October 15. Reservations are available online.