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Why Did Southerners Put Peanuts in Coke Bottles?

Putting peanuts in Coke is a right of passage for kids growing up in the American south. Whether riding your bike down to the park, doing yard work, or just relaxing by the pool, this treat is everywhere. 

It seems like a strange combination, especially with their different flavor profiles. Yet, the peanuts and Coke combination is more popular than ever. 

Who was the first person to mix the two together, and what inspired them? We’ll dive into the lore of Southern foodways to get the answer. 

Let’s jump in!

Is Putting Peanuts in Your Coke a Southern Thing?

The seemingly strange combination of peanuts in Coke is easier to place than you might think. While Coke’s been sold in bottles since 1894, the first packages of shelled and salted peanuts appeared in the 1920s. So we have a pretty good idea of what happened. 

For day laborers in the South, the heat and humidity of the region were a serious problem. Whether they knew it or not, replacing more than just the water in sweat is vital in the heat. So how did peanuts in Coke become a thing? Well, it could be as easy as dirty hands. 

Workers usually didn’t have a place to wash up on hot days, and they weren’t about to get their peanuts dirty. So, instead of eating and drinking the two separately, they poured the bag of peanuts into the Coke. 

Another theory is that kids on the go needed a one-handed snack and beverage delivery system. Riding your bike with one hand and swigging on your Coke with peanuts in the other makes sense to us.

Why Would You Want to Put Peanuts in Coke?

The recipe is simple: a bag of salty peanuts and an ice-cold Coke. Drink down to the top of the label and then add peanuts. Besides convenience, mixing a salty snack and a sweet drink make a different kind of sense. 

Salt is a flavor enhancer, as we all know. You can get caramel, chocolate, and cookies with a little salt added to boost their deliciousness. For the adult palate, adding salt to sweets brings out the flavor. Coke and peanuts have a similar relationship. 

Nostalgia plays a role in the continued mixing of the two. Southern folks grew up with their grandparents sharing the concoction with them during the summer months. Connecting to the past is a powerful motivator.

Above all, it’s just darn good. 

Girl drinking Coke
Add a salty element to a sweet Coke by mixing in some peanuts.

What Do Peanuts in Coke Taste Like?

The flavors in Coke are a little mysterious because the original recipe is a closely guarded secret. Serious fans know that flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus, along with some acidic flavors, make Coke stand out. Adding a salty element brings out some of the sweetness in Coke and makes it sparkle. 

The combination of sweet and salty translates to other colas pretty well. Some folks have added peanuts to Pepsi, booze, and even Mountain Dew. Personal taste preferences vary, but there’s plenty of room for experimentation. Have at it!

Are Peanuts in Coke a Good Snack?

It’s no secret that drinking too much soda can cause obesity and diabetes. One twelve-ounce bottle of Coke packs thirty-five grams of sugar. That’s like eating seven teaspoons of sugar per bottle. Couple that with caffeine, which replaced cocaine in the original recipe, and you’ve got a recipe for potential problems. 

Coke is the worst offender in this recipe, but what about peanuts? 

Peanuts are relatively healthy. They come packed with protein and fat, both of which give you a feeling of being full. Even though more than half of their nutritional content comes from fat, peanuts don’t contribute to obesity. The opposite is true. They actually promote healthy eating in moderation. 

Peanuts in Coke are fine occasionally. Enjoy them at the ballpark, on the beach, or by the pool. Just not every day. 

Pro Tip: Would you buy this Rare 1970s Coca-Cola RV Hits the Market for $65k?

Coke being poured into a glass over ice
Peanuts, bourbon, and Coca-Cola make for the perfect refreshing cocktail.

The Cocktail Inspired by Peanuts in Coke

On a hot summer day, peanuts in Coke is a perfect afternoon treat. But there are ways to elevate the experience. 

If you want to explore a more adult version, add some smooth bourbon to the drink. Chill your bottles ahead of time, so you’re ready when the mood strikes you. When the time comes to mix your cocktail, sip down to the label, add peanuts and bourbon to the ice-cold bottle of Coke, and you’re good to go. 

What Are Some Other Unusual Southern Food Combinations?

Peanuts in Coke is far from the only unique food combination folks in the South enjoy. Something about the mix of cultures and a creative spirit brings out the best. Check out these other unusual combinations. 

Biscuits with chocolate gravy: We’ve all heard of the breakfast staple of biscuits and sausage gravy. But chocolate gravy? You’ll just have to give this one a try. 

Mayo and bean sandwiches: Yup. Baked beans and Duke’s mayo make a sweet and creamy sandwich that started as a way to save money and caught on in a big way. 

Kool-aid dill pickles: These neon-colored pickles are sold at gas stations in the South as a sweet, salty refresher on a hot day. For us, they hit just right on those humid Summer afternoons. 

Black pepper and cantaloupe: Tossing cantaloupe with olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper may seem strange to most folks. But the combination of heat, acid, and sweetness is the perfect compliment to the end of the day. 

Pro Tip: Coca-Cola has always been a trend setter. Read more about how Coca-Cola Created the Common Santa Claus Image.

Would You Try Peanuts in Coke?

You’re missing out if you’ve never had the pleasure of an ice-cold bottle of Coke with some salty peanuts. We can’t recommend the combination highly enough. For convenience, fun, and a piece of Southern heritage on your next trip, stop at the gas station and make this classic your new favorite. You won’t be sorry.

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