In honor of Thanksgiving, I share this secret family recipe.


Like most families, we have recipes and cooking styles that have been handed down for generations. This particular recipe is one of our most treasured. While seemingly simple, it’s actually one of the most difficult to execute properly. Younger members of our family are supervised for years by our veteran cooks before they are allowed to take responsibility for bringing this dish to a family gathering.

I’ll never forget the time I was practicing the preparation of this dish with my grandmother and I repeatedly messed up the proportions, ever so slightly. Each time, we threw out everything we had worked so hard to prepare and started from scratch. At the time, I was embarrassed and frustrated and I may have even cried, but today I am grateful for her insistence on perfection. The hours we spent developing the nuance of this presentation have paid off. I think if you practice enough, you too will notice the difference.

The Recipe: Peanuts and Red Hots


12 oz Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts
6 oz Red Hots or Brach’s Cinnamon Imperials

As with any recipe, the fewer the number of ingredients, the more important their quality is. You can see this recipe benefits from better ingredients.


In a clean medium candy dish, place a layer of peanuts over the bottom of the dish. There should be more than a single layer of peanuts, but not quite a full double layer.

Next, place a layer of red hots over the peanuts. There should be slightly less than a full layer, as the red hots have a stronger flavor than the peanuts and will have a tendency to overpower the dish if not managed properly.

Continue layering peanuts and red hots accordingly until the dish is full. Keep a careful watch on the proportion of your ingredients and adjust as necessary. I aim for 5/8 or 9/16 peanuts and 3/8 or 7/16 red hots, depending on whether I’m in the mood for more or less red hot flavor. This should only make a difference in adding one or two red hots in each layer, so you shouldn’t have to adjust much depending on which you prefer.

Photo Credit: Matthew Ellis

Peanuts and Red Hots Photo Credit: Matthew Ellis

Additional Tips for Preparation:

Simpletons and hacks will simply dump half and half of any kind of peanut and cinnamon flavored candy into a bowl and mix it up a little with their fingers or, if you’re lucky, a spoon. These people should be flogged in a public square. They disrespect the traditions of my forefathers and should be punished accordingly. No, this delicate recipe should be prepared with love and careful attention.

I would encourage you to practice often before sharing this dish with others in public. It seems so simple, yet it will be immediately obvious if you’re preparation is not up to par. Don’t embarrass yourself. Take the time to practice and get it right. You’ll be glad you did!