How Adding Peanuts To Coca-Cola Became A Southern Thing

If you're not from the South (and even then, unless you're a keeper of the old school, nearly-forgotten delicacies), peanuts and Coca-Cola don't sound like they belong in the same container. Yet, as strange as it may sound to outsiders' ears, the tradition of mixing salty roasted peanuts and soda pop is actually a culinary oddity dating back at least a century in the South. Long before the of-the-moment TikTok trends like pickles and Dr. Pepper or soda spiked with coffee creamer, people were pouring salty nuts into their soda. As the peanuts make contact with the sugary beverage, they infuse their saltiness into the carbonated drink. With each refreshing sip, you're gifted with a mouthful of crunchy nuts and fizzy sweetness.

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If you're not one to balk at a little texture in your drink (boba tea, anyone?), or if you're someone who appreciates a classic sweet and salty combo, this culinary dinosaur might be one to bring out of the vaults and try for yourself. While its origin story is a little muddled with the passage of time, most food historians agree that this unique drink-slash-snack was born in the 1920s. At this time, Coca-Cola (which has been on the scene since the 1880s) and packaged shelled peanuts were inexpensive and easy to find in any typical Southern general store, so they were highly popular amongst blue-collar workers.

The snack likely has working class origins

The easy, satisfying snack of a cold Coke and a handful of roasted peanuts is a no-brainer for a road trip or a baseball game. The two are easy to pick up at any concession stand or gas station. But the impetus for combining the two into one creation might have been rooted in functionality and practicality.

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We all have our favorite on-the-go snacks that are easy to eat one-handed in the car, and Coca-Cola with peanuts might have been born out of similar necessity. Workers in the South in the 1920s needed a snack that provided calories and some nutrients while keeping them refreshed and hydrated. Food historians hypothesize that plunking nuts down into the bottle of the Coke created a drinkable, hands-off snack, one that workers with greasy or dirty hands (after working under the hood of a car, for example, or in a sooty coal mine) could enjoy on the job. 

Some think the combo caught on when workers purchased bottles of Coke from wagons that would pedal their fare around job sites — like early vending machines on wheels — offering the soda and nuts. Regardless of who first came up with the snack, the idea caught on. The largely blue-collar worker population who put this drink on the map struck gold with this sweet and salty combo, and it gained popularity as "the working man's strawberries and champagne" (per The Appalachian Storyteller).

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The salty and sweet combo is a time honored one

All you'll need to try out this historic snack for yourself is your favorite cola and a packet of peanuts — specifically the roasted and salted type. Ideally, you should get your hands on a good old-fashioned glass bottle of Coke made with real sugar. But if you prefer Diet Coke, you'll still achieve the same basic taste. Some fans even claim RC Cola, not Coke, is the optimal beverage. Pop open your soda, take some swigs to make room, and pour your roasted peanuts straight into the neck of the bottle. 

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While the flavors mix and mingle, the peanuts retain their crunchiness and shape. With each sip, you can slurp up a few of the crunchy bites along with the fizzy pop. While the mixing of textures is atypical, the flavor combo itself is as tried and true as it gets. There's no shortage of sweet and salty drinks and snacks, from salty margaritas to trail mixes or kettle corn. The salt livens up other flavors, making sweet foods more vibrant and adding pizzazz. The two opposing flavors found in this crunchy Coca-Cola play off each other for a more interesting flavor profile. 

You don't have to be Southern to know delicious. Reclaim a treat that shouldn't be lost to the history books, and pop open a bottle and toss in some peanuts for a treat that hits the spot, just as it did a hundred years ago. 

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